Trust and Trustworthiness

Russell Sage Foundation
Free sample

What does it mean to "trust?" What makes us feel secure enough to place our confidence—even at times our welfare—in the hands of other people? Is it possible to "trust" an institution? What exactly do people mean when they claim to "distrust" their governments? As difficult as it may be to define, trust is essential to the formation and maintenance of a civil society. In Trust and Trustworthiness political scientist Russell Hardin addresses the standard theories of trust and articulates his own new and compelling idea: that much of what we call trust can be best described as "encapsulated interest." Research into the roles of trust in our society has offered a broad range of often conflicting theories. Some theorists maintain that trust is a social virtue that cannot be reduced to strategic self-interest; others claim that trusting another person is ultimately a rational calculation based on information about that person and his or her incentives and motivations. Hardin argues that we place our trust in persons whom we believe to have strong reasons to act in our best interests. He claims that we are correct when we assume that the main incentive of those whom we trust is to maintain a relationship with us—whether it be for reasons of economic benefit or for love and friendship. Hardin articulates his theory using examples from a broad array of personal and social relationships, paying particular attention to explanations of the development of trusting relationships. He also examines trustworthiness and seeks to understand why people may behave in ways that violate their own self-interest in order to honor commitments they have made to others. The book also draws important distinctions between vernacular uses of "trust" and "trustworthiness," contrasting, for example, the type of trust (or distrust) we place in individuals with the trust we place in institutions Trust and Trustworthiness represents the culmination of important new research into the roles of trust in our society; it offers a challenging new voice in the current discourse about the origins of cooperative behavior and its consequences for social and civic life. A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Series on Trust
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About the author

RUSSELL HARDIN is professor of politics at New York University and professor of political science at Stanford University.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Russell Sage Foundation
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Published on
Mar 21, 2002
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9781610442718
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / General
Political Science / History & Theory
Social Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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In a book that challenges the most widely held ideas of why individuals engage in collective conflict, Russell Hardin offers a timely, crucial explanation of group action in its most destructive forms. Contrary to those observers who attribute group violence to irrationality, primordial instinct, or complex psychology, Hardin uncovers a systematic exploitation of self-interest in the underpinnings of group identification and collective violence. Using examples from Mafia vendettas to ethnic violence in places such as Bosnia and Rwanda, he describes the social and economic circumstances that set this violence into motion. Hardin explains why hatred alone does not necessarily start wars but how leaders cultivate it to mobilize their people. He also reveals the thinking behind the preemptive strikes that contribute to much of the violence between groups, identifies the dangers of "particularist" communitarianism, and argues for government structures to prevent any ethnic or other group from having too much sway.

Exploring conflict between groups such as Serbs and Croats, Hutu and Tutsi, Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants, Hardin vividly illustrates the danger that arises when individual and group interests merge. In these examples, groups of people have been governed by movements that managed to reflect their members' personal interests--mainly by striving for political and economic advances at the expense of other groups and by closing themselves off from society at large. The author concludes that we make a better and safer world if we design our social institutions to facilitate individual efforts to achieve personal goals than if we concentrate on the ethnic political makeup of our respective societies.

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