Does Trust have a History?
Title: Does Trust have a History?
Author: FREVERT, Ute
Series/Report no.: EUI MWP LS; 2009/01
Authors like Francis Fukuyama or Robert Putnam claim that modern societies suffer from a decline of trust. On the other hand political scientists like Margaret Levi or Susan Stokes and sociologists like Karen Cook contend that as nice as trust might be, we can easily do without it. Especially in political life, distrust, vigilance and scepticism seem to be healthier and more fruitful than trust and modern societies do not depend on trusting relations but on well-functioning institutions. There are social and cultural differences in the amount and quality of trust, as well as historical differences that directly relate to different stages of economic, social and political development. These differences can be connected to other developments such as the growth of government control, the rise of trans-local or even transnational networks of information gathering and monitoring, higher mobility rates and the like. Modern politics rely heavily on institutionalized mechanisms of trust and distrust. At the same time, though, these mechanisms tend to root out the emotional substance of trust. Although many efforts were made during the late 19th and 20th centuries to extend trust to institutions, this somehow failed. People find it hard to trust governments, parties, courts, insurance companies. On the other hand, they trust the head of the government, local or national party leaders, judges or CEOs. As much as modern politics show a strong trend towards a more impersonal, bureaucratic approach citizens use trust to reintroduce emotional bonds.
Subject: Trust; Distrust; Institutions; Civil Society; Fear; Politics; History
Type of Access: openAccess