The experience of trust : It's content and basis

Book chapter


Barbalet, Jack. (2019). The experience of trust : It's content and basis. In In Sasaki, Masamichi (Ed.). Trust in contemporary society pp. 11-30 Brill. https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004390430_003
AuthorsBarbalet, Jack
EditorsSasaki, Masamichi
Abstract

[Extract] The idea that trust is a perennial and core concern within social relations between persons is supported in commentaries by the frequently quoted statement, first published in 1900, that ‘Without the general trust that people have in each other, society itself would disintegrate’ (Simmel 1978: 178–79). The context of this statement is a discussion of the relationship between persons and a particular social artifact, namely money. Simmel’s proposition claims that the social effectiveness of money cannot be based on ‘rational proof or personal observation’ but rather must be founded on ‘trust’. Indeed, at the time of Simmel’s writing the term ‘trust’ typically referred to a form of corporate governance, as when property is held in trust, and the relationship indicated by Simmel would have been better translated as ‘confidence’ rather than ‘trust’. Indeed, to draw on sources such as Simmel – who was writing at the turn of the twentieth century – masks the fact that social science research interest in trust is relatively recent, beginning in the late 1970s.

This last proposition is supported by the findings of a Google Scholar search for the term ‘trust’ by decade from 1900, which reveals that up to 1950 the scholarly literature on trust predominantly refers not to interpersonal relations of support and cooperation, as the term is widely understood today, but rather to corporate trusts and anti-trust legislative measures. This pattern begins to change, however, from the 1950s through to the 1970s when a different understanding of trust emerges in the scholarly literature through the publications of social psychologists interested in interpersonal trust (Rotter 1967) and pursuing such themes as trust and suspicion (Deutsch 1958), trust and surveillance (Strickland 1958), trust and the F-scale (Deutsch 1960), and so on, reflecting the concerns and dispositions of the post-World War ii period. During the following decade, 1970–80, management researchers began to turn their attention to trust. A landmark text of this literature is Zand (1972), whose focus on ‘Trust and Managerial Problem Solving’ raised problems that continue to occupy the management literature. It is only by the 1980s that trust becomes established as a theme firmly located in sociological research, encouraged by Luhmann’s (1979) essay and Barber’s (1983) short monograph, and marked by the revisions presented by Lewis and Weigert (1985) among others. From this time a number of key sociological monographs on trust began to appear, the most notable including Misztal (1996), Seligman (1997), Sztompka (1999) and Möllering (2006).

In addition to the relative recentness of sociological interest in trust is the growing intensity of that interest. Scholarly and research outputs on trust have increased at expanding rates from 1900 to the present time. This is partly a result of the increase in the numbers of disciplines that have turned to treating the problem of trust as they conceive it. Up until the 1950s economists and legal researchers were practically alone in their interest in corporate trusts, and during the 1950s and 1960s psychologists began to turn their attention to interpersonal trust, as noted above, joined by management researchers in the 1970s and researchers in both of these disciplines were joined in their respective publications on social trust by sociologists from the 1980s. But the growth in the rate of English-language publications on trust reflects not only expanding disciplinary interests but growing research activity within all of these disciplines, but especially in business studies and sociology. The figures in Table 1.1 reveal a notable growth in publications on trust from the decade beginning in 1960 and a quantum leap from 1990. The data in this table is less important than the trend it reveals.

Page range11-30
Year2019
Book titleTrust in contemporary society
PublisherBrill
Place of publicationUnited States
SeriesInternational comparative social studies
ISBN9789004390430
9789004348806
9789004452541
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004390430_003
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Open
Publication dates
Online2019
Publication process dates
Deposited06 Dec 2021
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