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Family Business and Social Capital

Edited by Ritch L. Sorenson

The chapters in this cutting edge book comprise scholarly work on social capital in family business along with chapters written by family business owners and advisors. Topics covered include social capital as it relates to governance, trust, family and business identity, communication, family councils, work–family balance, and the use of advisors and continuing education to build social capital. Novel in its approach of integrating the voices of scholars, business families, and advisors, this book is useful not only for business research and classroom use, but also for business families and their advisors.
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Chapter 9: Family rituals and communication: the construction of family identity and social capital

Carol J. Bruess


The idea of ritual often conjures images of religious or anthropological practices; in early studies, ritual did frequently imply magic, myth, or taboo. However, family ritual as central in constructing family social capital refers to all acts of communication – from the routine family dinner to the celebratory family holiday traditions – which pay homage to something that is sacred, such as a person, relationship, object, or event. As “symbolically significant” interactions, rituals become important places where family “business” is indeed accomplished, including the work of keeping in touch, updating each other on daily events, sharing fleeting (or ongoing) emotions, creating and perpetuating family identity, expressing positive or negative regard, touching base, planning, organizing, coordinating schedules, and transmitting family values between generations, among multiple other functions. Family rituals, from the mundane to the celebratory, reflect the dynamic lives of twenty-first-century families. Rituals are particularly important for family members who also share a business. In many ways, family identity is expressed in family communicative and ritual activity. Family identity – those beliefs, values, norms, rules, and expectations shared among members – is also sustained by family rituals.

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