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Keywords:

  • cultural capital;
  • development;
  • Ecuador;
  • indigenous organizations;
  • social capital

ABSTRACT. This article examines the formation of social capital—defined as the norms of trust and reciprocity integral to social relations—and the ways in which it may help rural people's organizations gain access to rights and resources. The formation of social capital must be viewed within the context of the symbolic systems, or cultural capital, that imbues social relations with meaning. The concept of social capital provides a valuable conceptual framework for analyzing the multiscale processes of environmental management, rural development, and resource conflicts with which many rural social movements are involved. The role played by social capital is illustrated through a detailed case study of an indigenous political and cultural organization in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The organizational history of a lowland Quichua federation and the successes and problems it has had in managing development projects and achieving political objectives provide insight into the importance of social capital in the development of the region.