Shared Public Culture: A Reliable Source of Trust
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.
Keywordstrust public culture democracy cooperation David Miller Arash Abizadeh
I would like to thank David Miller. Zofia Stemplowska, and Jacob J. Krich, Avia Pasternak, the members of the Nuffield Political Theory Workshop, as well as the two anonymous reviewers for this journal for helpful comments on earlier versions of this essay.
- Alesina, A. and La Ferrara, E. (2000) ‘Who trusts others?’, Center for Economic Policy Research Working Paper. http://www.cepr.org.
- Andrain, C.F. and Smith, J.T. (2006) ‘Political Democracy, Trust and Social Justice, Hanover: Northeastern University Press, 231pp.Google Scholar
- Baier, A. (1995) ‘Moral Prejudices, Cambridge, MA: 384pp.Google Scholar
- Brewer, M.B. and Schneider, S.K. (1990) ‘Social Identity and Social Dilemmas: A Double-edged Sword’, in D. Abrams and M.A. Hogg (eds.) Social Identity Theory: Constructive and Critical Advances, New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, pp. 169–184.Google Scholar
- Briscoe, S. (2005) ‘Is the public able to trust the officials?’ Financial Times (London), 26 March.Google Scholar
- Coleman, J. (1990) Foundations of Social Theory, Cambridge. MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Cook, K.S. and Cooper, R.M. (2003) ‘Experimental Studies of Cooperation, Trust and Social Exchange’, in E. Ostrom and J. Walker (eds.) Trust and Reciprocity, New York: Russell Sage Foundation, pp. 209–244.Google Scholar
- Gambetta, D. (ed.) (1988) Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Henrich, J. et al. (2001) ‘Economic man in cross-cultural perspective: behavioral experiments in fifteen small-scale societies’ Working Paper # 01-11-063, Santa Fe Institute. http://www.santafe.edu/sfi/publications/Working-Papers/01-11-063.pdf.
- Lenard, P. (2007) ‘Trust your compatriots, but count your change’, Political Studies (forthcoming).Google Scholar
- Luhmann, N. (1982) Trust and Power, Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 228pp.Google Scholar
- Macedo, S. (1999) Distrust and Diversity: Civic Education in a Multicultural Democracy, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 343pp.Google Scholar
- Mackie, G. (2001) ‘Patterns of Social Trust in Western Europe and Their Genesis’, in K. Cook (ed.) Trust in Society, New York: Russell Sage, pp. 245–282.Google Scholar
- Macwhirter, I. (2005) ‘It's a sad day for democracy when you cannot trust the PM’, The Herald (Glasgow), 2 March.Google Scholar
- Mill, J.S. (1991) ‘On representative government’, in J. Gray (ed.) On Liberty and Other Essays, Oxford: Oxford University Press, (originally published 1861).Google Scholar
- Miller, D. (1995) On Nationality, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 224pp.Google Scholar
- Nye, J. (ed.) (1997a) Why People Don’t Trust Government, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 352pp.Google Scholar
- Tyler, T. and Degoey, P. (1996) ‘Trust in Organizational Authorities: The Influence of Motive Attributes on Willingness to Accept Decisions’, in R.M. Kramer and T.R. Tyler (eds.) Trust in Organizations, London: Sage Publications, pp. 331–355.Google Scholar