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The Use and Abuse of Trust: Social Capital and its Deployment by Early Modern Guilds

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  • Sheilagh Ogilvie

Abstract

Guilds are social scientists’ favoured historical example of institutions generating a ‘social capital’ of trust that benefited entire economies. This article considers this view in the light of empirical findings for early modern Europe. It draws the distinction between a ‘particularized’ trust in persons of known attributes and a ‘generalized’ trust that applies even to strangers. This is paralleled by the distinction between a ‘differential’ trust in institutions that enforce the rights of certain groups and a ‘uniform’ trust in impartial institutions that enforce the rights of all. Guilds had the potential to generate the particularized and differential trust to solve market failures relating to product quality, training, and innovation, although the empirical findings suggest that they often failed to fulfil this potential. Guilds also had the potential to abuse their trust, and the empirical findings show that they indeed manipulated their social capital of shared norms, common information, mutual sanctions, and collective political action to benefit their members at others’ expense, blocking the spread of generalized and uniform trust. Counter to the assumptions of social capital theory, the example of pre-industrial guilds suggests that the particularized and differential trust fostered by associative institutions do not favour but hinder the generalized and uniform trust fostered by impartial institutions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 1302.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_1302

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Cited by:
  1. repec:got:cegedp:59 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Guinnane, Timothy W. & Ogilvie, Sheilagh, 2008. "Institutions and Demographic Responses to Shocks: Wurttemberg, 1634-1870," Working Papers 44, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  3. Raphaelle Schwarzberg, 2010. "Becoming a London goldsmith in the seventeenth century: social capital and mobility of apprentices and masters of the guild," Economic History Working Papers 28446, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  4. Graf Lambsdorff, Johann & Nell, Mathias, 2005. "Let them take gifts, and cheat those who seek influence," Passauer Diskussionspapiere, Volkswirtschaftliche Reihe V-41-05, University of Passau, Faculty of Business and Economics.
  5. Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2007. "'Whatever Is, Is Right'?, Economic Institutions in Pre-Industrial Europe (Tawney Lecture 2006)," CESifo Working Paper Series 2066, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. Tracy Dennison & Sheilagh Ogilvie, 2013. "Does the European Marriage Pattern Explain Economic Growth," CESifo Working Paper Series 4244, CESifo Group Munich.
  7. Lambsdorff, Johann Graf & Frank, Björn, 2010. "Bribing versus gift-giving - An experiment," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 347-357, June.
  8. Mathias Nell, 2009. "Contracts obtained by means of bribery: should they be void or valid?," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 27(2), pages 159-176, April.
  9. Lambsdorff, Johann Graf & Frank, Björn, 2011. "Corrupt reciprocity - Experimental evidence on a men's game," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 116-125, June.
  10. Sriya Iyer & Michael Kitson & Bernard Toh, 2005. "Social capital, economic growth and regional development," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(8), pages 1015-1040.
  11. Lambsdorff, Johann & Nell, Mathias, 2007. "Fighting corruption with asymmetric penalties and leniency," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 59, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
  12. Klein, Alexander & Ogilvie, Sheilagh, 2013. "Occupational Structure in the Czech Lands Under the Second Serfdom," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 176, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).

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