Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Social Capital
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Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Social Capital

Edited by Yaojun Li

Social capital is fundamentally concerned with resources in social relations. This Handbook brings together leading scholars from around the world to address important questions on the determinants, manifestations and consequences of social capital. Combining cutting-edge theory and appropriate data and methods, it presents a challenge to both social capital researchers interested in explaining social inequality and to policy-makers with responsibility for designing effective measures for enhancing social cohesion.
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Chapter 4: The roots of trust

Eric M. Uslaner


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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