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Trust in Society

Trust in Society

Karen S. Cook EDITOR
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Trust in Society
    Book Description:

    Trust plays a pervasive role in social affairs, even sustaining acts of cooperation among strangers who have no control over each other's actions. But the full importance of trust is rarely acknowledged until it begins to break down, threatening the stability of social relationships once taken for granted.Trust in Societyuses the tools of experimental psychology, sociology, political science, and economics to shed light on the many functions trust performs in social and political life. The authors discuss different ways of conceptualizing trust and investigate the empirical effects of trust in a variety of social settings, from the local and personal to the national and institutional.

    Drawing on experimental findings, this book examines how people decide whom to trust, and how a person proves his own trustworthiness to others. Placing trust in a person can be seen as a strategic act, a moral response, or even an expression of social solidarity. People often assume that strangers are trustworthy on the basis of crude social affinities, such as a shared race, religion, or hometown. Likewise, new immigrants are often able to draw heavily upon the trust of prior arrivals-frequently kin-to obtain work and start-up capital.

    Trust in Societyexplains how trust is fostered among members of voluntary associations-such as soccer clubs, choirs, and church groups-and asks whether this trust spills over into other civic activities of wider benefit to society. The book also scrutinizes the relationship between trust and formal regulatory institutions, such as the law, that either substitute for trust when it is absent, or protect people from the worst consequences of trust when it is misplaced. Moreover, psychological research reveals how compliance with the law depends more on public trust in the motives of the police and courts than on fear of punishment.

    The contributors to this volume demonstrate the growing analytical sophistication of trust research and its wide-ranging explanatory power. In the interests of analytical rigor, the social sciences all too often assume that people act as atomistic individuals without regard to the interests of others.Trust in Societydemonstrates how we can think rigorously and analytically about the many aspects of social life that cannot be explained in those terms.

    A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Series on Trust

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-132-2
    Subjects: Political Science, Psychology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Trust in Society
    (pp. xi-xxviii)
    Karen S. Cook

    We are concerned as a nation about declining trust in doctors, lawyers, merchants, and priests, as well as in politicians, teachers, and scientists. Recent explorations of the topic of trust extend over a wide range of phenomena, including trust in teams, families, organizations, the professions, and various other social, political, and economic institutions. The chapters of this volume were written by scholars from a variety of disciplines who were brought together at a conference in Seattle and subsequently at various workshops in New York City to begin to identify the fundamental concerns of both the social scientists writing about trust...


    • Chapter 1 Conceptions and Explanations of Trust
      (pp. 3-39)
      Russell Hardin

      In modal trust relationships, the trusted party has an incentive to be trustworthy, an incentive grounded in the value of maintaining the relationship into the future. That is,my trust of you is encapsulated in your interest in fulfilling the trust. It is this fact that makes my trust more than merely expectations about your behavior. My expectations are grounded in an understanding (perhaps mistaken) of your interests specifically with respect to me. Although one might object superficially to bringing interests into trusting relationships, such as those between close relatives or friends, they are clearly there much, and perhaps most,...

    • Chapter 2 Solving the Problem of Trust
      (pp. 40-88)
      Carol A. Heimer

      People seeking medical care or engaging in sexual relations often are intensely aware of their vulnerability and very uncertain about the wisdom of trusting others (on medical care, see Barber 1983, Freidson 1970/1988, Heimer and Staffen 1998, and Rothman 1991; on sexuality, see Blumstein and Schwartz 1983, Heimer 1985, 220–26, Horowitz 1983, and Vaughan 1986). For a woman wishing to terminate a pregnancy, the ordinary trust problems of medical care and sexual relations are multiplied when abortion is illegal. A pregnant woman has only a few weeks to make a decision, obtain whatever funds are necessary, and locate someone...

    • Chapter 3 Trust as a Form of Shallow Morality
      (pp. 89-118)
      David M. Messick and Roderick M. Kramer

      In this chapter, we consider trust as a type of social dilemma. By providing some background on principles that apply to these types of decisions, we can identify classes of variables that should be relevant. However, behavior is notoriously context-dependent—details matter—making it necessary to examine the proximal, simple, and heuristic features of situations that manifest the more general principles.

      What is trust? Let us start by offering three illustrations.

      1. Late on a cold snowy night, a stranger rings your doorbell and explains that he and his wife—who is in the car around the comer, were on their...


    • Chapter 4 Trust as a Form of Social Intelligence
      (pp. 121-147)
      Toshio Yamagishi

      One of the strongest expressions of generalized distrust—that is, distrust of human nature in general—can be found in the Japanese proverb “It’s best to regard everyone as a thief” (hito wo mitara dorobo to omoe). An expression of the other extreme, generalized trust, can also be found in another Japanese proverb, “You will never meet a devil as you walk through the world” (wataru seken ni oni ha nai). In nine experiments, I asked 539 students in four Japanese colleges about these proverbs in postexperimental questionnaires and found that the majority considered those who believe the former proverb...

    • Chapter 5 Trust in Signs
      (pp. 148-184)
      Michael Bacharach and Diego Gambetta

      In this chapter we embark on a reorientation of the theory of trust. The first four steps establish a new theoretical framework for determining when trust and its fulfillment are to be expected. The fifth step lies partly in the future and will implement this theoretical framework by setting out the detailed structure of the semiotics of trust, which we initiate in the last section of this essay.

      In the first section we first define “trust” as a particular belief, which arises in games with a certain payoff structure. We then identify the source of the primary problem of trust—...

    • Chapter 6 Reputations, Trust, and the Principal Agent Problem
      (pp. 185-201)
      Jean Ensminger

      Is trust purely strategic? Or does trust begin precisely where the ability to make rational calculations leaves off? There is much disagreement in the trust literature over even this fundamental distinction despite a recent explosion of interest in the concept of trust among social scientists. Why should this concept be of interest to economists? It has been suggested that trust can substitute for monitoring in agency situations, and even more broadly it has been argued that a failure of trust significantly reduces the gains of economic cooperation (Putnam 1992). In this chapter I consider a case of extreme trusting behavior...

    • Chapter 7 Clubs and Congregations: The Benefits of Joining an Association
      (pp. 202-244)
      Dietlind Stolle

      The social capital school has proposed that one of the important mechanisms for generating good democratic outcomes is participation in networks of voluntary associations (Putnam 1993, 1995a, 1995b). In his study of Italy, Robert Putnam regards the density of membership in associations as one indicator of regional social capital, showing powerfully the effects of different levels of membership density on several societal outcomes and on the effectiveness of government performance (Putnam 1993; see also Case and Katz 1991; Fukuyama 1995; Granovetter 1985; Hagan, Merkens, and Boehnke 1995; Jencks and Peterson 1991; Knack and Keefer 1997).

      Networks of civic engagement, norms...

    • Chapter 8 Patterns of Social Trust in Western Europe and Their Genesis
      (pp. 245-282)
      Gerry Mackie

      Machiavelli (c. 1519/1970, 160–64) thought that it was impossible for a corrupt people either to create or to maintain a free government (except in the rare happenstance that a good prince leads them to good customs). Constitutional features suited for an uncorrupted people are not suited to a corrupted people; political institutions should be designed to vary by political culture, to use today’s terminology. Among its other virtues, republican Rome enjoyed a high level of social trust; the Senate, for example, so trusted the goodness of the plebs that it entertained an edict that individuals voluntarily return one-tenth of...


    • Chapter 9 Why Do People Rely on Others? Social Identity and the Social Aspects of Trust
      (pp. 285-306)
      Tom R. Tyler

      The concept of trust has emerged as a central issue in recent discussions of the organizational dynamics of groups ranging from work organizations to political and social systems (Braithwaite and Levi 1998; Tyler and Kramer 1996). In this discussion I focus on one issue concerning the role of trust in such group dynamics—the importance of trust in the authority relations of groups, organizations, and societies. My particular concern is with the influence of trust on the willingness of the people within groups, organizations, or societies to defer to group authorities, follow organizational rules, and, when encouraged to do so...

    • Chapter 10 Why Is Trust Necessary in Organizations? The Moral Hazard of Profit Maximization
      (pp. 307-331)
      Gary Miller

      Why should trust be of concern to the managers or employees of an organization? Or why should trust be of interest to social scientists trying to understand behavior in the organization? In a business firm, for example, the purpose of the organization is to generate money that is then divided among various stakeholders subject to the terms of the various contracts; surely the motivations for participation are simply economic, and we need merely understand, in a manner customary to economists, the self-interested behaviors elicited by the incentive systems created by those contracts. If so, then “trust” is either an irrelevancy,...

    • Chapter 11 Trust in Social Structures: Hobbes and Coase Meet Repeated Games
      (pp. 332-353)
      Robert Gibbons

      In one of the classic passages in social science, Thomas Hobbes argues that without a state, life would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” so people should create a state powerful enough to punish malefactors (Hobbes 1991, 89). Three centuries later Ronald Coase (1937) makes a similar claim, arguing that where the price system performs poorly enough, transactions should be conducted inside firms, so that bosses (rather than prices) can direct workers’ actions. Both Hobbes and Coase advocate horse races: comparative analyses of alternative institutions in a given environment.

      For Hobbes the environment is the “state of nature,” now...

    • Chapter 12 Social Norms and the Rule of Law: Fostering Trust in a Socially Diverse Society
      (pp. 354-373)
      Jack Knight

      Sometimes alone, sometimes with the related concepts of social capital and community, trust is regularly invoked to explain various forms of social cooperation in political and economic life. Although, as with many such ideas, those who invoke it do not all share the same meaning of the concept, they do, with few exceptions, posit trust as an unquestioned good, a necessary condition for a healthy and productive society. Russell Hardin’s contribution to this volume systematically sets out the array of conceptions of trust to be found in the recent debates. In this chapter I focus on one such conception, a...

    • Chapter 13 Trust in Ethnic Ties: Social Capital and Immigrants
      (pp. 374-392)
      Victor Nee and Jimy Sanders

      The United States is experiencing a revival of mass immigration on a scale that approaches the migration from Europe of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The new immigrants come overwhelmingly from Asia and Latin America. As in the earlier high-volume immigration from Europe, today’s immigrants rely heavily on ethnic ties to organize chain migration that links distant towns and villages to immigrant enclaves in the United States and to firms in the enclave economy and beyond in the open economy. Ethnic ties assume such a central role in the incorporation of immigrants that this form of social capital...

  8. Index
    (pp. 393-403)