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130 LETTERS IN CANADA 1998 within the discipline of philosophy, the articles are written in a clear maImer that is accessible to a diverse audience, including those working in grassroots movements and in activist communities who otherwise may look sceptically upon academic writing on violence against women. The authors provide lucid and concise explanations of theoretical underpinnings , and most articles include case studies which are illuminating and grounding while avoiding the sensationalism that examples of violence against women can sometimes evoke. (NANCY NYQU1ST POTTER) Trudy Govier. Social Trust and Human Communities McGill-Queen's University Press 1997. xii, 290. $55.00, $19ยท95 Social Trust and Human Communities is Trudy Govier's contribution to the burgeoning literature of communitarianism - that strange mish-mash of social democratic and social conservative political thought - and suffers from the common limitations of that genre. Govier sets out to show that 'trust is the glue of social life,' and to call for 'a sense of social trust, a sense that we can work with others, who will do their part to participate and take projects forward,' since only in 'solidarity' can we 'make a difference' in 'solving our problems.' While this seems laudable enough, the problems with Govier's account of trust are evident by the end ofher first, definitional, chapter. She neglects to draw any clear distinction between the habitual, customary, taken-forgrantedness of ordinary life - where we just assume that 'things' will 'work' - and the deliberate, calculated act of will where we rationally choose, on the basis of inadequate evidence, to show trust. This equivocation creates serious problems when we look at the institutional life of 'human communities.' She briefly considers a variety of ,mstitutions,notably consumer relations, as examples of 'trusting strangers.' But, how much trust does this really involve? If I'm buying something, certainly I am trusting that itwill work - or, more accurately, I am assuming this - but, standing behind my assumption is the law. 'Society is, after all, policed and regulated.' This is trust? The basis of law - of 'regulation' and 'policing' - is the coercive power of the State. Govier repeatedly inveighs against Hobbes and the 'realist' account of politics. Yet, the State as a mechanism of coercion has no justification save the Hobbesian one. Indeed, in other contexts, Govier seems to recognize this. Concerning professionals, she notes that 'the alternative to an ethic of trust is "a minirnalistic and legalistic ethic which is no ethic at all but merely a relationship of mutual self-defense.'" Similarly, conSidering trust in international relations, she argues convincingly that 'From the lack of central governmentwe cannotJogically infer [the absence of operativelegal or moral norms] unless we assume that only an effective central government can establish order' - which, of course, she does not. HUMANITIES 131 Govier's unwillingness to distinguish convention from trust raises a further, particularlyproblematic, issue. If 'trust' depends on a sense ofwhat 'most people' do, of what 'people like us' do, and if, in the case of strangers, the decision to 'trust' must depend upon 'rough generalizations,' then this so-called 'trust' can only serve as an apology for all kinds of discrimination and persecution against those deemed to be outside of 'most people.' Her only response is to call this'sad.' As is common in communitarianwritings, Govier's explicitenemy is'cynicism .' Yet, the failings of her account make clear the truth of cynicism. Convention is not trust. It requires no act of will. It is unthinking, parochial, complacent. It is precisely the recognition that 'most people' will always be merely conventional, with all the hypocrisy that entails, that justifies the cynic. 'Things' may 'work/ but they are not 'all right after all.' It is the cynic's trust that people will keep doing what they have been doing, no matter what the consequences, and that 'reforms' will systematically avoid addressing the real bases of conflict, that gives the cynic 'no confidence in the possibility of [meaningful] change.' Indeed, it is precisely through his or her cynicism that the cynic expresses 'solidarity with suffering humanity .' Perhaps it is only the cynic, who knows that our institutions are based on distrust, who is trying to be, as Govier advises, 'more trustworthy...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 130-131
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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