chapter  1
13 Pages

Social Trust and Culture in Risk Management

ByTimothy C Earle, George Cvetkovich

We have argued in a variety of reports over the past few years (Gvetkovich and Earle, 1992; Earle and Cvetkovich, 1994a, b, c; Earle and Cvetkovich, 1994b; Earle and Cvetkovich, 1994c), and in a recent monograph (Earle and Cvetkovich, 1995), that the development of useful ways of understanding social trust has been retarded by an all-but-universal acceptance of a dominant traditional interpretation. According to that tradition, social trust is a rational process based on competence and responsibility. Further, social trust tradition­ ally is empirically-based, requiring evidence of competence and responsibility. In our critique of traditional social trust (Earle and Cvetkovich, 1995) we maintain that a basic function of social trust is the reduction of cognitive complexity. Because it is empirically-based, the traditional account of social trust increases complexity instead of supplying simplicity. We also argue that social trust must accommodate cultural variation. But traditional social trust is itself culture-specific, recognizing only competence and responsibility as legitimate bases. We conclude that, due to these and other flaws, the traditional interpretation acts to undermine social trust and to generate its functional equivalent, social distrust.