Edited by Yaojun Li
Chapter 5: Social connectedness and generalized trust: a longitudinal perspective
Social, or ‘generalized’ trust relates to beliefs held by individuals in a given society about the moral orientation and incentive structure of a diffuse, unknown ‘other’ (Delhey and Newton, 2005). This type of ‘thin’ or ‘horizontal’ trust must be differentiated from the instrumental, ‘strategic’ trust we invest in family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and institutions that are known to us (Hardin, 1999; Putnam, 2000; Uslaner, 2002). While strategic trust is developed over time through direct personal experience, social trust is more akin to a core value or belief; an abstract evaluation of the moral standards of the society in which we live (Delhey and Newton, 2003). To the extent that individuals within a society are inclined to make positive evaluations of the trustworthiness of their fellow citizens, various normatively benign consequences may be expected to follow at both the individual and societal levels. This is because social trust is postulated to facilitate cooperative behaviour in the absence of information about the trustworthiness of the ‘other’. This type of diffuse trust, it is argued, reduces social and economic transaction costs by lowering the need for contracts, legal and regulatory frameworks, and other forms of coercive authority (Hardin, 1999; Luhmann, 1979). It has been posited as the key mechanism through which disconnected individuals with divergent preferences can overcome collective action problems (Arrow, 1974; Fukayama, 1995; Parsons, 1937).
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