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Trust: A Concept Too Many

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  • Guinnane Timothy W.

Abstract

Research on "trust" now forms a prominent part of the research agenda in history and the social sciences. Although this research has generated useful insights, the idea of trust has been used so widely and loosely that it risks creating more confusion than clarity. This essay argues that to the extent that scholars have a clear idea of what trust actually means, the concept is, at least for economic questions, superfluous: the useful parts of the idea of trust are implicit in older notions of information and the ability to impose sanctions. I trust you in a transaction because of what I know about you, and because of what I can have done to you should you cheat me. This observation does not obviate what many scholars intend, which is to embed economic action within a framework that recognizes informal institutions and social ties. I illustrate the argument using three examples drawn from an area where trust has been seen as critical: credit for poor people.

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File URL: http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/jbwg.2005.46.issue-1/jbwg.2005.46.1.77/jbwg.2005.46.1.77.xml?format=INT
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte / Economic History Yearbook.

Volume (Year): 46 (2005)
Issue (Month): 1 (June)
Pages: 77-92

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Handle: RePEc:bpj:jbwige:v:46:y:2005:i:1:p:77-92:n:9

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References

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  1. Williamson, Oliver E, 1993. "Calculativeness, Trust, and Economic Organization," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 453-86, April.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Christian Bjørnskov & Gert Svendsen, 2013. "Does social trust determine the size of the welfare state? Evidence using historical identification," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 157(1), pages 269-286, October.
  2. Ann Owen & Julio Videras, 2009. "Reconsidering social capital: a latent class approach," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 555-582, December.
  3. Bjørnskov, Christian, 2006. "The Determinants of Trust," Ratio Working Papers 86, The Ratio Institute.
  4. Marcus Noland, 2005. "Affinity and International Trade," Working Paper Series WP05-3, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  5. Becchetti, Leonardo & Conzo, Pierluigi, 2011. "Enhancing capabilities through credit access: Creditworthiness as a signal of trustworthiness under asymmetric information," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(3-4), pages 265-278, April.
  6. Knowles, Stephen, 2006. "Is Social Capital Part of the Institutions Continuum and is it a Deep Determinant of Development?," Working Paper Series RP2006/25, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  7. Guillaume Daudin, 2006. "Paying Transaction Costs," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2006-14, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
  8. Wahl, Fabian, 2012. "Why it matters what people think: Beliefs, legal origins and the deep roots of trust," FZID Discussion Papers 52-2012, University of Hohenheim, Center for Research on Innovation and Services (FZID).
  9. Alvin Etang & David Fielding & Stephen Knowles, 2008. "Survey Trust, Experimental Trust and ROSCA Membership in Rural Cameroon," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 4408, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
  10. Christian Bjørnskov & Kim Sønderskov, 2013. "Is Social Capital a Good Concept?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 114(3), pages 1225-1242, December.
  11. Guillaume Daudin, 2006. "Paying transaction costs," Sciences Po publications n°2006-14, Sciences Po.
  12. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/942 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. Fenske, James, 2010. "Institutions in African history and development: A review essay," MPRA Paper 23120, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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