Contemporary Political Theory

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 385–404 | Cite as

Shared Public Culture: A Reliable Source of Trust

  • Patti Tamara Lenard
Article

Abstract

Trust is a central element of any well-functioning democracy, and the fact that it is widely reported to be on the wane is a worrisome phenomenon of contemporary politics. It is therefore critical that political and social philosophers focus on efforts by which to rebuild trust relations. I argue that a shared public culture is up to the task of trust-building, for three reasons. First, a shared public culture gives citizens an insight into the motivations that inspire fellow citizens to action. Second, a shared public culture serves to generate both positive and negative sanctions, an understanding of which helps citizens to predict how their fellow citizens will behave. Third, a shared public culture generates a sense that we belong together. There are, of course, many communities that can reasonably be interpreted as having a shared public culture, even though they are characterized by low levels of trust. This observation leads me to suggest two features that a shared public culture must have in order to facilitate the emergence of trust relations: citizens must be willing to cooperate and they must be willing to submit to common institutions that will be responsible for coordinating this large-scale cooperation. If these conditions are fulfilled, a shared public culture will serve as a reliable source of trust relations.

Keywords

trust public culture democracy cooperation David Miller Arash Abizadeh 

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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan Ltd 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patti Tamara Lenard
    • 1
  1. 1.Committee on Degrees in Social Studies, Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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