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Whom Can We Trust?

Whom Can We Trust?: How Groups, Networks, and Institutions Make Trust Possible

Karen S. Cook
Margaret Levi
Russell Hardin
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Whom Can We Trust?
    Book Description:

    Conventional wisdom holds that trust is essential for cooperation between individuals and institutions—such as community organizations, banks, and local governments. Not necessarily so, according to editors Karen Cook, Margaret Levi, and Russell Hardin. Cooperation thrives under a variety of circumstances. Whom Can We Trust? examines the conditions that promote or constrain trust and advances our understanding of how cooperation really works. From interpersonal and intergroup relations to large-scale organizations, Whom Can We Trust? uses empirical research to show that the need for trust and trustworthiness as prerequisites to cooperation varies widely. Part I addresses the sources of group-based trust. One chapter focuses on the assumption—versus the reality—of trust among coethnics in Uganda. Another examines the effects of social-network position on trust and trustworthiness in urban Ghana and rural Kenya. And a third demonstrates how cooperation evolves in groups where reciprocity is the social norm. Part II asks whether there is a causal relationship between institutions and feelings of trust in individuals. What does—and doesn’t—promote trust between doctors and patients in a managed-care setting? How do poverty and mistrust figure into the relations between inner city residents and their local leaders? Part III reveals how institutions and networks create environments for trust and cooperation. Chapters in this section look at trust as credit-worthiness and the history of borrowing and lending in the Anglo-American commercial world; the influence of the perceived legitimacy of local courts in the Philippines on the trust relations between citizens and the government; and the key role of skepticism, not necessarily trust, in a well-developed democratic society. Whom Can We Trust? unravels the intertwined functions of trust and cooperation in diverse cultural, economic, and social settings. The book provides a bold new way of thinking about how trust develops, the real limitations of trust, and when trust may not even be necessary for forging cooperation.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-607-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. About the Authors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    As matthew cleary and Susan Stokes have noted (2006), the Russell Sage Foundation Trust Project has produced three key innovations: the change in focus from trust to trustworthiness (Hardin 2002; Cook, Hardin, and Levi 2005), the recognition that trust is only one of many potential sources of cooperative behavior (Cook, Hardin, and Levi 2005), and the reminder that in many strategic situations actors are better served by skepticism or a healthy level of distrust than trust (Braithwaite and Levi 1998; Cleary and Stokes 2006; Cook, Hardin, and Levi 2005). The chapters in this volume develop these themes by exploring them...


    • Chapter 1 Group-Based Trust
      (pp. 17-41)
      Margaret Foddy and Toshio Yamagishi

      The concept of trust and, in particular, trust in strangers has attracted increasing attention in social psychology and related disciplines (Buskens and Raub 2002; Cook 2001; Fukuyama 1995; Gambetta 1988; Hollis 1998; Kramer 1999; Kramer and Tyler 1996; Ostrom 1998; Riegelsberger, Sasse, and McCarthy 2003; Yamagishi and Yamagishi 1994; Tyler 2001; Tyler and Huo 2002). In part, this reflects the emergence of new forms of social and economic relationships made possible through electronic communication, such as the Internet and virtual organizations (Braithwaite and Levi 1998; Kollock 1997; Kramer 1999; McKenna and Bargh 2000; Smith and Kollock 1999; Tyler and Huo...

    • Chapter 2 Coethnicity and Trust
      (pp. 42-64)
      James Habyarimana, Macartan Humphreys, Daniel N. Posner and Jeremy M. Weinstein

      Scholarship on trust emphasizes the beliefs individuals hold about actions that others will take.¹ In such accounts, trust is a belief that the other person will take an action in one’s own interest, perhaps in response to a trusting action. It is a belief that the other is trustworthy. But where do these beliefs come from? Why are some people trusted in this way and others not?

      We examine one of the many answers that have been offered to this question: people are more likely to trust someone from the same ethnic group. This assumption can be found throughout the...

    • Chapter 3 Social Networks and Trust in Cross-Cultural Economic Experiments
      (pp. 65-90)
      Abigail Barr, Jean Ensminger and Jeffrey C. Johnson

      In this chapter, we present two datasets from Africa, one rural and one urban, in which we examine the correlates of individual-level demographics and trusting and trustworthy behavior in economic experiments. We use a slightly modified version of the Joyce Berg, John Dickhaut, and Kevin McCabe investment game (1995). Our primary original contribution is to include in these demographics data on each individual’s standing in their social network (compare Alesina and La Ferrara 2002; Anderson, Mellor, and Milyo 2005a, 2005b; Bouckaert and Dhaene 2003; Burns 2004; Chaudhury and Gangadharan 2003; Croson and Buchan 1999; DeBruine 2002; Eckel and Wilson 2003,...

    • Chapter 4 Trust and Reciprocity as Foundations for Cooperation
      (pp. 91-124)
      James Walker and Elinor Ostrom

      Numerous experimental studies conducted over the past several decades have demonstrated that individuals’ decisions, in a variety of social dilemma situations, reflect complex and diverse motivations beyond simple self-income maximization (see research summarized in Camerer 2003; Camerer and Fehr 2006; Ostrom and Walker 2003). This research, replicated across multiple cultures, has led to a wide variety of models designed to reflect rich and complex social preferences. Central to many of them, and the primary focus of this chapter, is the interaction between trust and reciprocity as necessary foundations for the evolution of cooperative solutions to social dilemmas (chapter 1, this...


    • Chapter 5 Institutions and Midlevel Explanations of Trust
      (pp. 127-148)
      Henry Farrell

      The last fifteen years have seen an explosion in research on trust, but there are still important gaps in our understanding of its sources and consequences.¹ In particular, we know relatively little about the relationship between trust and the other sources of cooperation that social scientists have identified, most prominently institutions, the sets of rules that shape the behavior of communities of actors by providing individuals with information about the likely social consequences of their actions. How do we map out the relationship between midlevel phenomena, such as institutional rules, and micro-level expectations, such as those involved in trust?


    • Chapter 6 Trust in Managed Care Settings
      (pp. 149-181)
      Irena Stepanikova, Karen S. Cook, David Thom, Roderick Kramer and Stefanie Mollborn

      As henry farrell argues in the previous chapter, individuals’ trust or distrust of each other is not grounded solely in personal relationships. Often it stems from broader social knowledge about how individuals occupying various structural positions are supposed to interact under certain circumstances. Farrell refers to these structural positions asclassesand explains thatclass-based trustis often anchored in norms, rules, and other forms of social knowledge embodied in institutions, which govern innumerable interactions in modern societies. In this chapter, we explore how managed care institutions shape and constrain the perspectives on patient-physician trust among practicing physicians. Structural and...

    • Chapter 7 Neighborhood Networks and Processes of Trust
      (pp. 182-216)
      Robert J. Sampson and Corina Graif

      Trust is widely thought to promote a variety of positive societal outcomes (Alesina and La Ferrara 2002; Fukuyama 1995; Knack and Keefer 1997), helping explain why reports of its decline set off alarms (for example, Paxton 1999; Putnam 2000). Much of the attention has centered on generalized trust in others as a proxy for harmonious societal functioning. In one of the best-known trends, a number of surveys reveal a long downward trajectory of Americans’ trust in fellow citizens. Leading scholars have pointed to the decline in generalized trust as evidence that social capital is eroding and causally linked to a...


    • Chapter 8 Trust and Credit
      (pp. 219-248)
      Bruce G. Carruthers

      Many social interactions pose the issue of how much one person trusts another, but few seem to offer the clarity and ubiquity of credit transactions.¹ For many centuries and in almost all parts of the world, market exchanges have been accomplished on the basis of credit. Typically, this has meant that a seller extends credit to a buyer, who receives goods and gives in exchange a promise to pay in the future rather than cash. The two sides of the transaction occur at different times, and in the interim one party has extended credit to the other. For example, if...

    • Chapter 9 The Role of Trust in the Long-Run Development of French Financial Markets
      (pp. 249-285)
      Philip T. Hoffman, Gilles Postel-Vinay and Jean-Laurent Rosenthal

      Using historical data, we test whether social capital generates trust in past financial markets and whether the effects of trust persist across time. The evidence for the tests comes from 108 credit markets in France over nearly two centuries. We find that social capital had no significant effect on trust in these credit markets and that this trust must have changed over time. The implication is that trust in financial markets is an intermediate variable that evolves rather quickly so long as societies are not pathological.

      Trust, it has long been argued, can facilitate economic transactions that make people better...

    • Chapter 10 Proxies and Experience as Bases of Trust in Courts
      (pp. 286-307)
      Gabriella R. Montinola

      Earlier chapters in this volume examine how individuals determine who is trustworthy. In this chapter, I focus on the bases of evaluations of institutions rather than coethnics or potential debtors, and examine how individuals determine whether government institutions are trustworthy.

      Most work on trust in government centers on the conditions that promote high levels of trust rather than the bases under which judgments of trustworthiness are derived. But work on the sources of trust in government provides insight into the bases of trust evaluations of government institutions (for a comprehensive survey of the trust literature, see Levi and Stoker 2000)....

    • Chapter 11 Trust and Democracy in Comparative Perspective
      (pp. 308-338)
      Matthew R. Cleary and Susan C. Stokes

      Social scientists have become obsessed with trust. Interpersonal, social, political, institutional, intra-elite, generalized, network-specific, vertical, horizontal, or however the termtrustis qualified, recent scholarship has lamented the lack of it, advocated for more of it, and (where it can be found) given it credit for any number of positive social outcomes. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the study of democracy, broadly conceived. Trust is said to facilitate transitions to democracy, to help consolidate democratic regimes once they exist, and to “make democracy work”—to improve the quality of democratic governance in some tangible sense. And, it follows,...

  9. Index
    (pp. 339-348)