Handbooks of Research Methods and Applications series
Edited by Yaojun Li
Chapter 4: The roots of trust
Trust is a concept that is generally seen as at the heart of social capital. However, more effort has been spent using the concept than understanding its meanings. There are common (mis-) understandings that trust depends upon interactions with people you know personally, that it is fragile, that it depends upon reciprocity, and that it is the foundation of much that is good within and across societies. And there is also a widespread argument that trust is difficult to measure – and that the existing measures are poor. The most common view of trust is that it rests upon information and experience. Claus Offe (1999: 56; cf. Putnam, 1993: 170) states: ‘Trust in persons results from past experience with concrete persons.’ Russell Hardin (2002: 13) goes even further: ‘my trust of you must be grounded in expectations that are particular to you, not merely in generalized expectations’. Hardin’s (2002: 55–6) view is that trustworthiness is more important than trust. There is also a widespread perception that trust is fragile (Coleman, 1990: 310; Dasgupta, 1988: 50). It is easily broken. If I give my trust to you – say I loan you $10 – and you don’t pay me back, my faith in you will be shattered. Trust is thus a three-way relationship, between two people and some objective: A trusts B to do X (Hardin, 1992: 154).
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