Trust in Transitions

Dominika Latusek
Kyklos: International Review for the Social Sciences

In this article we examine the link between relational trust and general trust in the context of large‐scale social and economic transformations such as those that have occurred in Poland and Russia. We argue that trust plays an important role in interpersonal relationships, but in more impersonal dealings, as in economic life, reliable and impartial institutions that create binding rules and ensure their enforcement are more important. These provide a stable framework for exchange and make it safe for people to take risks involving others they do not know directly. Relational trust, however, may be critical in situations in which institutions are weak or corrupt. And, even if economic relationships are constrained by carefully devised contracts, there remains residual uncertainty that can be resolved only by relying on trust.. If networks involving trust relationships are the dominant means for engaging in exchange, however, exchange is limited to those whom one knows personally or is linked to through close ties, and opportunities for broader exchange are constrained, which may retard the transition to a more open economy.