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Handbook of Trust Research

Edited by Reinhard Bachmann and Akbar Zaheer

The Handbook of Trust Research presents a timely and comprehensive account of the most important work undertaken in this lively and emerging field over the past ten to fifteen years. Presenting a broad range of approaches to issues on trust, the Handbook features 22 articles from a variety of disciplines on the study of trust in both organizational and societal contexts. With contributions from some of the most eminent names in the field of trust research, this international collaboration is an imaginative and informative reference tool to aid research in this engaging area for years to come.
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Chapter 21: How Can Systems Trust Systems? A Structuration Perspective on Trust-Building in Inter-Organizational Relations

Jörg Sydow


21 How can systems trust systems? A structuration perspective on trust-building in interorganizational relations Jörg Sydow Introduction: towards a realistic perspective on trust Trust, in persons as well as in social systems, is generally regarded as economically most valuable. While only a very few voices question the overall beneficial value of trust (e.g. Kern 1998; Jeffries and Reed 2000; Langfred 2004), most think that trust in persons, organizations and institutions saves on transaction costs (e.g. Ring 1997; Zaheer et al. 1998; Dyer and Chu 2003). Even more importantly, trust can be used as an ‘organizing principle’ (McEvily et al. 2003) in order to cope with interdependence and uncertainties within and between modern organizations. As such trust is considered to enable strategic actions that would not be possible otherwise because it ‘bridges’ risks (Luhmann 1979). This enabling effect of trust, which ultimately requires a ‘leap of faith’ from the trustor (Lewis and Weigert 1985; Möllering 2006), is particularly obvious when knowledgesharing becomes possible and a relation-specific investment that would not be feasible otherwise emerges as economically attractive. As a consequence, trust is sometimes even considered as one of the foundations of organizational competitive advantage (Barney and Hansen 1994). Trust, then, is an attribute of an organization rather than of an individual. Prevailing theories of trust take this into account. Some of them even explain how trust in social systems emerges but all fail to explain how, as always required in cooperative inter-organizational relationships, systems can...

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