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Whom Can We Trust?

How Groups, Networks, and Institutions Make Trust Possible

Karen S. Cook, Margaret Levi, Russell Hardin

Publication Year: 2009

Conventional wisdom holds that trust is essential for cooperation between individuals and institutions—such as community organizations, banks, and local governments. Not necessarily so, according to editors Karen Cook, Margaret Levi, and Russell Hardin. Cooperation thrives under a variety of circumstances. Whom Can We Trust? examines the conditions that promote or constrain trust and advances our understanding of how cooperation really works. From interpersonal and intergroup relations to large-scale organizations, Whom Can We Trust? uses empirical research to show that the need for trust and trustworthiness as prerequisites to cooperation varies widely. Part I addresses the sources of group-based trust. One chapter focuses on the assumption—versus the reality—of trust among coethnics in Uganda. Another examines the effects of social-network position on trust and trustworthiness in urban Ghana and rural Kenya. And a third demonstrates how cooperation evolves in groups where reciprocity is the social norm. Part II asks whether there is a causal relationship between institutions and feelings of trust in individuals. What does—and doesn’t—promote trust between doctors and patients in a managed-care setting? How do poverty and mistrust figure into the relations between inner city residents and their local leaders? Part III reveals how institutions and networks create environments for trust and cooperation. Chapters in this section look at trust as credit-worthiness and the history of borrowing and lending in the Anglo-American commercial world; the influence of the perceived legitimacy of local courts in the Philippines on the trust relations between citizens and the government; and the key role of skepticism, not necessarily trust, in a well-developed democratic society. Whom Can We Trust? unravels the intertwined functions of trust and cooperation in diverse cultural, economic, and social settings. The book provides a bold new way of thinking about how trust develops, the real limitations of trust, and when trust may not even be necessary for forging cooperation.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Series: Russell Sage Foundation Series on Trust

Title page

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pp. vi-vii

About the Authors

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Renewed interest in understanding the role of trust in society over the past few decades has been inspired by several major works in sociology, political science, and history. Diego Gambetta’s 1988 edited volume was an interdisciplinary effort to explore the meaning ...

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pp. 1-14

As Matthew Cleary and Susan Stokes have noted (2006), the Russell Sage Foundation Trust Project has produced three key innovations: the change in focus from trust to trustworthiness (Hardin 2002; Cook, Hardin, and Levi 2005), the recognition that trust is only one of ...


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Chapter 1. Group-Based Trust

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pp. 17-41

The concept of trust and, in particular, trust in strangers has attracted increasing attention in social psychology and related disciplines (Buskens and Raub 2002; Cook 2001; Fukuyama 1995; Gambetta 1988; Hollis 1998; Kramer 1999; Kramer and Tyler 1996; Ostrom 1998 ...

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Chapter 2. Coethnicity and Trust

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pp. 42-64

Scholarship on trust emphasizes the beliefs individuals hold about actions that others will take.1 In such accounts, trust is a belief that the other person will take an action in one’s own interest, perhaps in response to a trusting action. It is a belief that the other is trustworthy. But ...

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Chapter 3. Social Networks and Trust in Cross-Cultural Economic Experiments

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pp. 65-90

In this chapter, we present two datasets from Africa, one rural and one urban, in which we examine the correlates of individual-level demographics and trusting and trustworthy behavior in economic experiments. We use a slightly modified version of the Joyce Berg, John Dickhaut, ...

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Chapter 4. Trust and Reciprocity as Foundations for Cooperation

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pp. 91-124

Numerous experimental studies conducted over the past several decades have demonstrated that individuals’ decisions, in a variety of social dilemma situations, reflect complex and diverse motivations beyond simple self-income maximization (see research summarized ...


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Chapter 5. Institutions and Midlevel Explanations of Trust

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pp. 127-148

The last fifteen years have seen an explosion in research on trust, but there are still important gaps in our understanding of its sources and consequences.1 In particular, we know relatively little about the relationship between trust and the other sources of cooperation ...

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Chapter 6. Trust in Managed Care Settings

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pp. 149-181

As Henry Farrell argues in the previous chapter, individuals’ trust or distrust of each other is not grounded solely in personal relationships. Often it stems from broader social knowledge about how individuals occupying various structural positions are supposed to ...

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Chapter 7. Neighborhood Networks and Processes of Trust

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pp. 182-215

Trust is widely thought to promote a variety of positive societal outcomes (Alesina and La Ferrara 2002; Fukuyama 1995; Knack and Keefer 1997), helping explain why reports of its decline set off alarms (for example, Paxton 1999; Putnam 2000). Much of the attention has centered ...


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Chapter 8. Trust and Credit

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pp. 219-248

Many social interactions pose the issue of how much one person trusts another, but few seem to offer the clarity and ubiquity of credit transactions.1 For many centuries and in almost all parts of the world, market exchanges have been accomplished on the basis of credit. Typically, this has meant ...

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Chapter 9. The Role of Trust in the Long-Run Development of French Financial Markets

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pp. 249-285

Using historical data, we test whether social capital generates trust in past financial markets and whether the effects of trust persist across time. The evidence for the tests comes from 108 credit markets in France over nearly two centuries. We find that social capital ...

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Chapter 10. Proxies and Experience as Bases of Trust in Courts

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pp. 286-307

Earlier chapters in this volume examine how individuals determine who is trustworthy. In this chapter, I focus on the bases of evaluations of institutions rather than coethnics or potential debtors, and examine how individuals determine whether government institutions are ...

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Chapter 11. Trust and Democracy in Comparative Perspective

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pp. 308-338

Social scientists have become obsessed with trust. Interpersonal, social, political, institutional, intra-elite, generalized, network-specific, vertical, horizontal, or however the term trust is qualified, recent scholarship has lamented the lack of it, advocated for more of it, and ...


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pp. 309-348

E-ISBN-13: 9781610446075
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871543158

Page Count: 360
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Russell Sage Foundation Series on Trust