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Cook, KS and Gerbasi, AM (2009) Trust In: The Oxford Handbook of Analytical Sociology. Oxford Handbooks (10). Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199215362

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During the past two decades trust has become a major object of study in the social sciences. Several writers have proposed various reasons for this focus of study. Sztompka (2006: 905–6) has recently identified two: (1) a shift in the social sciences from a major focus on the macro-societal level to closer analysis of the ‘microfoundations of social life’, and (2) ‘the changing quality of social structures and social processes in . . . later modernity’. Among the changes he lists as most relevant are: the shift to democracy in many sectors of the world and the concomitant increased role of human agency, globalization and the attendant uncertainty inherent in the ‘unfamiliar, non-transparent and distant’ linkages it entails, as well as increasingly rapid social change. Under such uncertainty, he argues, trust becomes problematic in ways unprecedented in human history, increasingly important in people’s everyday lives and thus to sociologists as a ‘hot’ topic of study. Others have echoed similar themes in their discussions of the rise of interest in the role of trust in society and in social life (e.g. Luhman 1979, 1988; Fukuyama 1995; Uslaner 1998, 2002; Putnam 2000; Warren 2006). Some of the macro-social factors that create conditions of uncertainty and an expansion of the types of risk individuals face include migration to urban centers, immigration, rapid social change, increasing inequality, political and economic transitions, violence, civil war, terrorist activity, and other forms of political unrest. In this chapter we address the question: What role does trust play as a determinant of cooperative behavior in social relations and social organizations, under what conditions? We argue that: (1) trust is only one mechanism by which we motivate cooperation and manage social order (there are significant alternatives, oftenmore important than trust—especially under increased uncertainty and risk), and (2) the role of trust in society has been radically oversold as a necessary and wholly positive force. Like social capital, it can lead to negative consequences that have been overlooked in current research. In fact, there are many situations in which distrust (not trust) is merited—thus it can’t be simply ‘good’ to trust or even generally good for a society to be more trusting despite macro-level claims by some authors to this effect (e.g. Fukuyama 1995).

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects : Economics
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Hospitality and Tourism Management
Authors :
Cook, KS
Gerbasi, AM
Editors :
Hedstrom, P
Bearman, P
Date : 16 July 2009
DOI : 10.13140/2.1.4620.3840
Copyright Disclaimer : © Oxford University Press 2009
Related URLs :
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 06 Sep 2016 10:14
Last Modified : 31 Oct 2017 18:40

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