(January 2010) The Concept of "" excessive -Trust Societies"" and its Affect on Planning and Development

The Concept of "" excessive -Trust Societies"" and its Affect on Planning and Development image

The Concept of " excessive -Trust Societies" and its Affect on Planning and Development

David Bornstein

The concept of trust is widely used in various disciplines such as economic, sociology, philosophy and psychology due to its contribution in shaping society and its central institutions. Scholars argue that the functioning of societies and economies rise with the degree of trust (Bourdieu, 1986; Coleman, 1988; Putnam, 1995; Fukuyama, 2000). Conversely, trusting implies that the truster puts herself in a position of risk since the trustee maintains the option to betray and deceive the truster (Baier, 1986). In other words, where there is more trust there is a potential for greater risk. Economists and trust researchers often ignore the latter distinction while focusing on the benefits of trust.

For example, comparative studies examining trust from a multinational perspective provide empirical evidence of the positive correlation between the level of trust and economic growth. According to these studies, countries with high levels of interpersonal trust and social capital are characterized by prosperous economies and  income equality (La Porta et al., 1996; Knack and Keefer, 1997). In contrast, several recent studies undermine these claims by providing evidence that the correlation between trust and economic growth is either negative or non-existent. For example, Roth (2009) finds that while in some countries (particularly developing economies) the correlation between the change in trust levels and the change in economic growth is positive, in other countries (mostly developed economies) the correlation is, in fact, negative.

Recognizing the paradoxical notion that trust is both essential and perilous for society's functioning and development, I will develop a new concept to which I refer as 'Societies of Excessive-Trust'. The main hypothesis of this research is that the highest levels of trust (i.e. excessive-trust) might harm social functioning and economic development. I will define the term, the conditions and the different forms of 'excessive-trust' with an aim of examining the influence of this state on societies' development and economic growth. In addition I intend to propose an extension of the theory that deals with the relation between trust and growth by exploring additional aspects affected by the degree of trust such as social and environmental development.

With the objective of defining 'societies of excessive-trust', I will analyze trust measures collected from 40 countries by using the "World Values Survey" data. I intend to compare these measures with economic parameters such as income, production and consumption, growth indices such as GDP, and environmental indices such as the Ecological Footprint index. Since trust is crucial for society, identifying states of excessive-trust is an essential step in the road of locating sustainable levels of trust.


The Concept of "" excessive -Trust Societies"" and its Affect on Planning and Development by David Bornstein is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Israel License.