Sociological Perspectives on Trust

Jessica Santana
Routledge Press

In this chapter, we explore a more sociological perspective on trust and why trust matters in society. In much of the research on trust the emphasis is on psychological approaches in which trust is viewed fundamentally as a characteristic of an individual’s willingness to accept vulnerability or to take risks on others. Thus, we begin by defining trust – an exercise not without contention. We then describe recent characterizations of trust in the social science literature as an element of social capital (based on Putnam’s work) and as an important facilitator of economic development (based on the work of Fukuyama). We focus on trust as relational, a significant aspect of social relations, whether embedded in networks, organizations or institutions. We close with a note on the value of distrust in society and how it can shore up democratic institutions if well placed.