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Moral canals: trust and social capital in the work of Hume, Smith and Genovesi

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  • Bruni, Luigino
  • Sugden, Robert

Abstract

It is a truism that a market economy cannot function without trust. We must be able to rely on other people to respect our property rights, and on our trading partners to keep their promises. The theory of economics is incomplete unless it can explain why economic agents often trust one another, and why that trust is often repaid. There is a long history of work in economics and philosophy which tries to explain the kinds of reasoning that people use when they engage in practices of trust: this work develops theories of trust. A related tradition in economics, sociology and political science investigates the kinds of social institution that reproduce whatever habits, dispositions or modes of reasoning are involved in acts of trust: this work develops theories of social capital. A recurring question in these literatures is whether a society which organizes its economic life through markets is capable of reproducing the trust on which those markets depend. In this paper, we look at these themes in relation to the writings of three eighteenth-century philosopher-economists: David Hume, Adam Smith, and Antonio Genovesi.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal Economics and Philosophy.

Volume (Year): 16 (2000)
Issue (Month): 01 (April)
Pages: 21-45

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Handle: RePEc:cup:ecnphi:v:16:y:2000:i:01:p:21-45_00

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Cited by:
  1. Fabio Sabatini & Angelo Antoci & Mauro Sodini, 2009. "The Fragility of Social Capital," Working Papers 2009.16, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  2. V. Pelligra, 2006. "Trust Responsiveness: On the Dynamics of Fiduciary Interactions," Working Paper CRENoS 200615, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.
  3. Michel Zouboulakis, 2010. "Trustworthiness as a Moral Determinant of Economic Activity: Lessons from the Classics," Forum for Social Economics, Springer, vol. 39(3), pages 209-221, October.
  4. Migheli, Matteo, 2009. "Assessing trust through social capital? A possible experimental answer," POLIS Working Papers 119, Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice - POLIS.
  5. Özcan, Burcu & Bjørnskov, Christian, 2011. "Social trust and human development," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 753-762.
  6. Corazzini, Luca & Grazzi, Matteo & Nicolini, Marcella, 2007. "Social capital and Growth in Brazilian Municipalities," Papers DYNREG15, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  7. Guido van Hofwegen & Gertjan A. Becx & Joep A. van den Broek & Niek B.J. Koning, 2007. "Unraveling the unsustainability spiral in sub-Saharan Africa: an agent based modelling approach," Interdisciplinary Description of Complex Systems - scientific journal, Croatian Interdisciplinary Society Provider Homepage: http://indecs.eu, vol. 5(2), pages 112-137.
  8. Berggren, Niclas & Jordahl, Henrik, 2005. "Free to Trust? Economic Freedom and Social Capital," Ratio Working Papers 64, The Ratio Institute.
  9. Zamagni, Stefano, 2000. "Economic reductionism as a hindrance to the analysis of structural change: scattered notes," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 11(1-2), pages 197-208, July.

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