chapter  8
17 Pages

Institutional Trust and Confidence: A Journey into a Conceptual Quagmire

ByDaniel Metlay

What are we to make of the recent explosion of academic research focusing on trust relationships? At the very least, these studies signal that trust plays a number of central roles in the civic culture. For example, trust seems to influence how individuals perceive technological risks (Flynn et al 1992); it appears to catalyse regional economic development (Putnam 1993); it likely provides a ‘lubricant’ for interactions within organizations (Meyerson et al. 1996); and it probably is linked to the level of political legitimacy enjoyed by democratic regimes (Inglehart 1990). But, at the same time, the notion of trust comes in so many flavours, packages, and subspecies that it seems to have been swallowed up in a conceptual quagmire. Scholars have presented us with ‘calculus-based trust’, ‘knowledge-based trust’, and ‘identification-based trust’ (Lewicki and Bunker 1996). They have argued about ‘characteristic-based trust’, ‘process-based trust’, and ‘institutional-based trust’ (Zucker 1986).