In This Article Trust

  • Introduction
  • Book Series and Handbooks
  • Data Sources
  • Journals
  • Classic Works and General Statements
  • Theories of Trust and Trustworthiness
  • Survey Measures
  • Experimental Measures
  • Micro-Level Dynamics
  • Macro-Level Dynamics
  • General Trust
  • Interorganizational Networks and Alliances
  • Economic Institutions
  • Political Institutions

Sociology Trust
Karen Cook, Bogdan State
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0062


Trust is a recurrent theme in social science literature. In the past four decades it has become the focus of a great deal of empirical work in efforts to identify its causes and effects in social life. Several key book-length monographs and edited collections seem to have stimulated the growth of research and writing on trust in the social sciences. Among these volumes were the 1988 volume edited by Diego Gambetta, Trust: Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations and the widely circulated book by Frances Fukuyama, Trust: Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity, published in 1995. A number of themes in these two volumes set the agenda for subsequent research including efforts to understand the linkages between trust and economic development, an agenda that Robert Putnam, a political scientist, took up as he put the thesis of declining civic participation at the center of criticisms of modern societies. For Putnam the core claim was one of the demise of social capital, which included declining social trust. We discuss the literature that focuses specifically on trust at various levels of analysis (interpersonal, organizational, interorganizational and institutional), but we separate this discussion from the more general category of work on social capital, originally defined by Putnam as encompassing networks, norms, and trust. The field of trust research is truly interdisciplinary with contributions from philosophy and all of the social sciences, especially psychology, political science, sociology and, more recently, behavioral economics and anthropology. There is no distinctive sociological perspective on trust, but sociologists are more likely to focus on interpersonal trust, organizational trust, and institutional trust. Cook, et al. 2007 presents one sociological perspective on relational trust focusing on trust at the interpersonal level and arguing that it is much more difficult to trust organizations and large-scale institutions such as government given the knowledge that would be required to trust an entity of this size. In this review we cover many of the important papers that have set the research agenda concerning the role of trust in society. No single discipline can claim to have covered this topic in its entirety.

Book Series and Handbooks

The Russell Sage Foundation book series on trust co-edited by Karen S. Cook, Russell Hardin, and Margaret Levi includes a number of influential books in many different domains by key authors who have conducted empirical work on trust at different levels of analysis, as well as several major theoretical treatments of the topic. The books in this series, many the result of workshops over the past decade, are referenced at the Russell Sage Foundation. The Handbook of Trust Research (Bachmann and Zaheer 2006) is one of the first handbooks to summarize research over fifteen years on trust, especially the work focused on organizations and management. Besides the Russell Sage Foundation book series there are no handbooks that cover the breadth of work that has been done on trust. The only exception is the handbook on trust research listed below that covers the field of organizational trust.

  • Bachmann, Reinhard, and Akbar Zaheer, eds. 2006. Handbook of trust research. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

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    Summarizes key theoretical conceptualizations and empirical studies of many investigators primarily from business schools in the United States and Europe. It brings together work that focuses on management and leadership in increasingly nonhierarchical settings. It also examines the role of trust in organizational processes as well as in interorganizational relationships in a global context, and discusses the role of trust in the economy more generally.

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