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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 22: Trust and/or Power: Towards a Sociological Theory of Organizational Relationships

Reinhard Bachmann


Reinhard Bachmann 1. Introduction This chapter deals with trust and power as mechanisms to coordinate expectations between social actors. It will be shown that trust is an effective means to control social relationships between individual and organizational actors. Depending on different forms of trust and power, which are largely determined by the institutional business environment in which relationships are embedded, both mechanisms engage in different combinations with one another. Each of these combinations has their specific consequences with regard to the level of trust that will prevail in business relationships. This chapter will proceed as follows: first, the nature of trust as a social phenomenon will be examined (Section 2). Then (Section 3), the insights gained through this analysis will be transferred to relationships between business organizations which are viewed as a specific type of social exchange. In the next section of this chapter (Section 4), power will be introduced and analysed as a ‘combinable functional equivalent’ to trust that is equally effective in coordinating expectations and controlling relationships, both at the general level of social exchange and at the level of economic relationships between firms. Following from this step of the argument, the intricate interlinkages between ‘interactional’ forms of trust and power, on the one hand, and ‘institutional-based’ forms of trust and power, on the other hand, will be analysed (Section 5). This will be the central part of the theoretical argument presented in this chapter. Here, it will be argued that in...

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