Understanding Trust from the Perspective of Sociological Neoinstitutionalism: The Interplay of Institutions and Agency

MPIfG Discussion Paper 05/13

32 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2009

Date Written: December 7, 2005

Abstract

This paper builds on the idea that trust is a matter of embedded agency where trustors and trustees, as actors, interpret the social context in which they are embedded. Insofar as this context is institutionalized, trust may be quite ‘normal’ and achieved fairly easily by reference to institutionalized rules, roles and routines. However, trust always remains ambivalent and ultimately dependent on the actor’s leap of faith based on interpretation. Moreover, actors organize and enact the contexts they refer to. In this respect, trust is to be seen as an idiosyncratic accomplishment, actively constituted in more or less institutionalized contexts. It is therefore a fi rst aim of this paper to provide strong conceptual support for the idea that trust can be based on institutions. However, it needs to be recognized as well that institutions become an object of trust once trustors are assumed to rely on them. A closer examination of this issue is the second aim of this paper. Moreover, institutional theory nowadays discusses questions of institutional change, institutionalization processes and the role of agency. Rather than being passive trustors who draw on institutions if and when they are established and reliable, actors are directly involved in the constitution of trust within and beyond the institutional context in which they find themselves. A third aim of this paper is therefore to explore the new concept of ‘active trust’.

Keywords: agency, institutions, trust

JEL Classification: A14, M00

Suggested Citation

Moellering, Guido, Understanding Trust from the Perspective of Sociological Neoinstitutionalism: The Interplay of Institutions and Agency (December 7, 2005). MPIfG Discussion Paper 05/13, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1456838 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1456838

Guido Moellering (Contact Author)

Witten/Herdecke University ( email )

Alfred-Herrhausen-Str. 50
Witten, 58448
Germany
+49-2302-926-501 (Phone)
+49-2302-926-587 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://reinhard-mohn-institut.de/

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