Social and Legal TrustThe Case of Africa
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This essay examines the common empirical connection between trust in people in general (social trust) and trust in the courts and the police (so-called legal trust). In much of the world there is a strong correlation between social trust and legal trust, which is sometimes interpreted as a causal connection from legal trust to social trust. But in many African countries, the correlation breaks down. We hypothesize that this is because many citizens of African countries do not see legal officials as representative of the general public, as illustrated by variation in legal trust with the form of colonialism some African countries endured, French Colonialism in particular. This result suggests that social and legal trust are connected only when legal officials are seen as representative of most members of society. Our interpretation suggests that legal trust is a function of social trust, but not necessarily the other way around.