Guanxi, social capital theory and beyond: toward a globalized social science


  • I wish to thank Professor Jack Barbalet, of Hong Kong Baptist University, for his comments on an earlier draft of this paper. I also thank Professor Greg Noble of the University of Western Sydney for his comments on a PhD thesis chapter which contained some ideas developed in the present article. I also acknowledge the helpful comments of three anonymous reviewers.

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Western theoretical traditions can benefit from systematic engagement with non-Western concepts: This is shown through an analysis of the Chinese concept guanxi. After considering the general nature of guanxi, including its possible association with corrupt practices and its particular cultural characteristics, the paper goes on to identify the elements of its general form which have universal representation. The possibility of conceiving guanxi as a variant form of social capital is explored. This shows the way in which both the expressive and instrumentalized forms of guanxi indicate otherwise neglected aspects of social and economic relationships not always recognized and addressed by analogous terms current in social theory but which are none the less important for its advancement.