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    Sociopedia.isa 2013 The Author(s)

    2013 ISA (Editorial Arrangement of sociopedia.isa)



    As a concept in political sociology, trust finds its pri-mary expression in the social capital literature. On theother hand, contemporary political research more

    often refers to the category of trust in the wider con-text of democratic convergence at the EuropeanUnion level, in particular, analysing transformation,consolidation and the quality of democracy in post-communist societies. In fact, the focus on the notionof trust marks the turning point from institutional-level explanations to individual-level analysis. This isvery important and innovative, keeping in mind that20 years after the fall of communism it is increasinglydifficult to add to the theoretical debate about thisregion. Carothers (2002) points out that most post-communist research is elite- and institutions-based

    and lacks insight into sociocultural dimensions thatare the preconditions to democratization in theregion. Taking this into consideration, the presentarticle aims at analysing specifically the bottom-updimension of democracy, that is, political and socialtrust, applying their different conceptualizations aswell as the comparative approach of trust in matureand post-communist democracies.

    Let me briefly note that in this article I consider

    only EU countries that are acknowledged as estab-lished democracies. Special focus will be placed on thetransformation of trust during the communist regime

    and the post-communist phase, theoretically assertingthe shifts within social as well as political trust.

    The early stage of the post-communist transforma-tion (until the countries were invited to negotiate onEU membership in 19978) was the most chaotic,turbulent and institutionally unstable. I argue that thedestructive influence on trust during post-commu-nism and the early transformation period is unchang-ing and long-lasting. The argument is based oncontemporary studies that show that former commu-nist countries tend to be characterized by low levels ofgeneralized and political trust (Bdescu and Uslaner,

    2003; Howard, 2003; Kornai et al., 2004; Mierina,2011; Mishler and Rose, 2001; Sztompka, 1999; il-iukait et al., 2006). The World Values Survey data(20057), for instance, indicate that in the recentperiod in most post-communist societies between 18and 24% of respondents agreed that most peoplecould be trusted. These levels are depressingly low, ifwe compare them with some of the Western countries(for instance, in the Netherlands generalized trust is at

    Trust in mature and post-communist democracies

    Teodora Gaidyt VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    abstract This article aims to analyse and theorize the peculiarities of trust in mature and post-communist democracies. First, the article conceptualizes the notion of trust as interpreted by the cultur-alist and rationalist approaches, and systemizes it into a more coherent theoretical framework. Second,social and political trust are discussed and the relationship between these is analysed. Third, the dialecticsof political trust and liberalism is tackled. Finally, trust in the communist regime and aftermath is exam-ined. The main argument is that, at the societal level, social trust in post-communist societies is limitedto particularized trust; it is more family-centred as compared to the wider radius of generalized trust inmature democracies. Meanwhile political trust in post-communist societies is less self-reflexive, since,

    unlike in the older democratic societies, it has evolved in counterpose to fear, rather than to risk.

    keywords fear u generalized trust u institutionalized distrust u institutionalized trust u particularizedtrust u political trust u post-communism u risk

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    the level of 56%). More importantly, as Mierina(2011: 138) observes in her doctoral research, thelevels of generalized trust are unchanging and do notreflect the rapid political transformation. Even moreshocking is the fact that in some countries, like

    Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, the level ofgeneralized trust has even been decreasing over time,compared with the immediate aftermath of commu-nism. The studies also prove that these low levels ofsocial trust are matched by political distrust, alien-ation, inefficacy, scepticism and passivity.

    For theoretical reasons, I approach the post-com-munist region as a complex political category, view-ing post-communism as a certain stage in thetransformation to democracy (Valantiejus, 2012).On the one hand, it can be treated as a methodolog-ically synthesized category which deals with a set ofproblems common to the new democracies. On theother hand, it must be acknowledged that post-com-munist countries are diverse with regard to the qual-ity of democracy and institutional development. Intheir analyses of post-communist transformation,scholars argue that former communist countries suchas Estonia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic showattributes of established democracies and are aheadof other countries in terms of institutional perform-ance, efficiently functioning capitalism and demo-cratic culture (Norkus, 2008). However, the moreproblematic cultural peculiarities, including thesense of trust discussed in this article, are still appar-

    ent in all post-communist societies.Below, I first conceptualize trust as a sociological

    category in political science, distinguishing the mainelements of and approaches to trust. Second, I definethe different forms of trust, in particular, social andpolitical trust, its origin and relationship withdemocracy and causality. Third, I briefly discuss thedialectics of trust and liberal democracy, examiningthe nature of trust in mature, or older, democracies.Finally, I focus on trust in regard to the communistlegacy and regime transformation in post-commu-nist societies. My argument is that the traditions of

    liberal democracy and politically institutionalizedmechanisms of distrust (which is the controversialbasis of the liberal system) stimulate a generalized(and moralistic) type of trust which sustains a good-will approach and cooperation at the societal level.Meanwhile, the communist legacy and post-commu-nist transformation have endowed society with a par-ticularized trust, which is both prerequisite and aconsequence of inefficacy, corruption and inequality,thus limiting and perverting democracy in post-communist societies.

    Conceptualization of trust

    The notion of trustSince trust is a very abstract and rather ambiguousnotion, several theoretical frameworks and

    approaches to conceptualizing trust have beendeveloped. Among the many typologies used, we canidentify a key distinction regarding the notion oftrust: trust as an inborn or inherited (cultural) traitderiving from a very early socialization phase versustrust as a rational response that is learned with a setof normative rules.

    According to the first approach, trust as adisposition would seem to hinge on emotions, self-perceptions, as well as ideals and values pursued insocial relations (Wolfe, 1976); and it is as much aninterpretation of oneself as of the other (Frederiksen,

    2011: 8). This approach sees trust as an inevitableand natural feature of every human, which derivesfrom interactions with and interdependence amongother humans in society. We create ourselves ashuman beings through communication andinteraction, and trust is a vital prerequisite of beingsocial (Markova, 2004: 34). In accordance with thisapproach, we cannot merely exist and survive in asociety without a minimum level of trust. As thefamous German sociologist Georg Simmel states,trust is an essential feeling for society to function (in

    Wolff, 1950). Trust facilitates behaviour and actions,as it organizes our choices according to certain habits

    and cultural norms we are used to and do not needto reflect upon all the time. In other words, trusthelps us to leap from ignorance to certain knowledge(Luhmann, 1979; Mllering, 2001).

    The second approach would suggest that trust ismore of a rational choiceand it is highly motivated bythe rationality of maximizing utility (Coleman,1990; Misztal, 1996). Placing trust is making a betabout the future, uncertain actions of others that arealways associated with risk (Kollock, 1994: 317). Ifwe define trust as a bet, we believe that placing trustin someone means expecting particular results from

    him/her though we cannot really control or predicthis/her actions (Sztompka, 1999: 31). In this sense,the risk would be realized if the persons we trustbehaved contrary to our expectations. Thus trustbecomes a cognitive response, because the individualthinks about the risk in the situation (Kee and Knox,1970). In contrast, trust as an inborn trait ofpersonality refers to the inclination towards generaltrust in people, despite the risk it may bring (Hardin,2006: 17).

    Following the rational choice approach, we areinclined to take risks and place trust only if theperson we are dealing with is perceived astrustworthy. Kollock (1994: 31819) maintains that

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    to be trustworthy means to become committed toparticular exchange partners, and this commitmentcan be treated as a response to the possible risk oftrust. Thus placing trust as making a bet is groundedin the anticipation of mutual utility. It implies a

    certain level of predictability of social actions: whenwe trust someone, we organize our actions accordingto the most probable utility-based behaviour of otheractors. This idea is reminiscent of the Pareto-optimum situation of the Prisoners Dilemma ingame theory: the actor is led to trust the other actorpresuming that in the future, the latter will beinterested in further cooperation (reciprocity).Therefore the mechanism of trust enables confidencein mutual utility in situations where mutual utilitycannot be immediately or simultaneously realized.Putnam (1993) describes this situation as a short-

    term altruism based on long-term self-interest.One may argue that in this sense, trust itself is notsomething very rational, even if we can define it inrational terms, but it is essential for rationaldecision-making to function.

    Despite the different approaches towards trust, itis impossible to clearly distinguish the nature oftrust, defining trust as a rational or an inborn, moraltrait, when we take into account any socialinteraction. These dimensions are usuallyunderpinned within trust. On the one hand, trustmay include a rational and moral basis at one andthe same time, while the weight of these dimensions

    may vary depending on different situations: in somesituations, it is rationality that becomes adeterminant of trust, and in other situations it ismorality. At the same time, different people mayemphasize different natures of trust as well.

    Forms of trust: social (generalized) trustand political/institutional trustTheoretically, trust can be separated into severalforms referring to different foundations andfunctions of trust. Conceptually, we can talk of social

    trustas trust in people or interpersonal relations, andinstitutional trust as trust in state institutions(institutions and rules as well as politicians, politicalregimes and political and economic systems). Inacademic writing, social trust and institutional trustare sometimes conflated within the more abstractnotion ofpolitical trust (Heywood and Wood, 2011:148).

    In this article, I refer to political trust asinstitutional trust in the more concrete sense ofparticular institutional arrangements and particularpoliticians that represent those institutions. Socialtrust, on the other hand, is trust in other citizens asfellows members of the community one belongs to.

    When talking about social trust, most scholarsemphasize the specific dimension of generalizedtrust. Usually generalized trust is measured by thequestion that first appeared in a study in postwarGermany in 1948: Generally speaking, would you

    say that most people can be trusted or that you cantbe too careful in dealing with people? Indeed, theaim of this question is to measure the level of trustbetween strangers and not particularly withinspecific groups (Delhey and Newton, 2005: 311).

    Generalized trust is a very relevant category inmodern, individualized communities as well as indemocratic political systems, because it allows othermembers of the pluralist community to be seen asfellow citizens rather than enemies. Uslaner (2001)argues that generalized trust indeed is moremoralistic and less conceived as a rational response.

    It is faith in people we dont actually know and itdoes not always depend upon our life experiences. Itis also not necessarily related to the expectedreciprocity. Coleman (1990) also supports this ideaby saying that in modern societies generalized trustcannot be entirely a rational account of humanbehaviour, because in diverse communities there areno common norms concerning trust. Thus trustbecomes less rational and more emotional,perceptive or moral, appealing to the regular honestbehaviour of the trustee. It is a belief in the goodwillof the others (Seligman, 1997). Contrary togeneralized trust, we can talk about particularized, or

    intra-group trust, which is mainly reciprocal, moreegoistic, strategic, emerges in particular groups andusually does not extend beyond the boundaries ofthe group.

    Why is generalized trust important fordemocracies? It has been argued (Mishler and Rose,2005; Newton, 1999; Putnam, 1993; Rose et al.,1998; Sztompka, 1999; Uslaner, 2003, 2008) that indemocracy, generalized trust encourages thetolerance for pluralism and a variety of lifestyleswhich is necessary for the implementation offundamental human rights and freedoms in

    democratic regimes. Moreover, generalized trustallows for peaceful conflict resolution, compromiseand consensus, because when people trust eachother, they are committed to the same democraticvalues and principles (Misztal, 1996; iliukait,2005: 87). Where generalized trust persists it is morelikely that citizens will obey laws and rules and notabuse the rights of other people. Finally, it is alsomore likely that a society with higher levels of trustwill reject any undemocratic alternatives (Rose et al.,1998). In fact, this insight is very important whentalking about the consolidation of democracy.Mishler and Rose (2005: 1053) suggest that from acultural perspective, distrust in society and

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    democratic institutions not only undermines theirlegitimacy, but also threatens to increase support forundemocratic regimes.

    It is widely theorized that generalized trust is afundamental prerequisite of civic engagement and

    collective action. We live in a differentiated society,but despite our differences, we are obliged to sharethe same democratic values that inspire us to keep awatch on political institutions. To ensure civicengagement and a common purpose of maintainingdemocracy, we need at least a minimum level of trustin each other. Comparing various societies,Fukuyama suggests that societies differ in regard togeneralized trust. He explains this by using themetaphor of a trust radius. According to Fukuyama(1995), generalized trust means a spill-over of trustfrom a concentrated trust radius within family circles

    to the more abstract level of society and people weare not familiar with. He acknowledges that in somecultures, the radius of trust is much wider than inothers.

    When we talk about trust as a moral value, wecannot avoid discussion about the relationshipbetween social (generalized type of it) and politicaltrust. Many authors believe that social trust andpolitical trust are mutually reinforcing (Burt, 2001;Putnam, 1993; Sztompka, 1999). Some authors(Sztompka, 1999; Warren, 1999) even think thatpolitical trust indeed provides an impulse for socialtrust to emerge. It is argued that trust in a certain

    system as a set of values empowers us to trust citizensof this system as we all belong to the same setting ofnormative rules and general morality. Newton(1999: 16970) assumes that trust in politicalinstitutions, as the background to good governance,may create a capacity for trust (with someinstitutional precautions included) and positivelycontributes to generalized trust. Farrell and Knight(2003) suggest that institutions create rules andsanctions for people to behave in a trustworthymanner, thereby fostering trust. Similarly, Levi(1996: 51) argues, governments provide more than

    the backdrop for facilitating trust among citizens;governments also influence civic behaviour to theextent they elicit trust or distrust towardsthemselves. We can also talk about the positive effectof social trust on political trust. As Putnam (2000)observes, if people are willing to trust strangers, theywill also trust politicians and political institutions.

    The strong link between social and political trustgleans some criticism as well. For instance,institutional theories argue that social trust hasnothing to do with political trust and the latterdepends on citizens evaluations of the political andeconomic performance of the regime (Mishler andRose, 2005). On the other hand, the conceptual

    separation of social and political trust is based on theresults of short-term considerations and thus lacksmore convincing arguments.

    The proponents of the first approach say that thelink between social and political trust is a long-term

    result and outcome of liberalization of the politicalsystem. Because of the different political processes,trust in mature and in post-communist countries hasdeveloped along different trajectories. Paradoxically,the institutionalized distrust in liberal societies set upthe potential for generalized trust, and, vice versa,institutionalized trust in communist societiesinstilled narrow and particularized (in-group) trust.These processes are explained in the sections below.

    The dialectics of trust and liberal

    democracyIn liberal political thinking, trust is a fairly contro-versial notion (Hardin, 2006; Rosanvallon, 2008;

    Warren, 1999). Although sociological theoriesapproach trust and democracy as mutually support-ive, according to liberal philosophy, the roots of theliberal system lie, in fact, in distrust. French philoso-pher Pierre Rosanvallon (2008) maintains that dis-trust is a natural and legitimate component ofdemocracy, and it functions as a protective mecha-nism, obliging society to control the democraticprocesses alongside the formal rules.

    Historically, the institutionalization of distrust inthe political system is tightly related to economic lib-eralism and, of course, the ideas of Adam Smith. TheUS Constitution (1787) has institutionalized dis-trust primarily in the realm of economics: it inscribesprotective mechanisms on behalf of economic liber-ties against the intervention of the state in economicrelations. These mechanisms have been transferredto the more abstract sphere of politics, first of all, bymeans of the concept of the division of powers,which means that institutions competing with eachother for power will restrain each others possibilities

    for systemic usurpation. Moreover, distrust is alsoinstitutionalized through additional safeguards: amulti-party system, election rules, the right to com-petition, monitoring and regulation of the time spanand periodicity of terms of office (Benn and Peters,1959: 281). In other words, democracy is enshrinedhere as enlightened suspicion that replaces blind trust(Harrison and Innes, 2003: 180).

    However, the constitutional rules and formalsafeguard mechanisms alone are not sufficient toavoid the abuse of power by institutions. Permanentdistrust in the political system expressed by criticalcitizens in society becomes one of the fundamentaldimensions for democracy to truly work. This

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    ensures precaution, and results in the legitimacy ofthe institutional system. Hardin (2006: 152)acknowledges that distrust is among the principalpreconditions for modern democracy: the powerinequality between state institutions and society is

    too immoderate, yet we have no alternatives to theseinstitutions; consequently, we are dependent onthem. Institutionalized distrust creates the back-ground for implicating many agencies of accounta-bility in the system that may enforcetrustworthiness. These agencies (courts, police, con-trollers, examination boards, etc.) put pressure onpersons, institutions or systems that are our targets oftrust (Sztompka, 1999: 47). Their main function isto keep the regime accountable. But enforcementagencies must be trustworthy themselves. If citizensdo not trust these agencies, they will not trust theirofficials to fulfil their duties (Dasgupta, 1988: 50).

    It should be noted that, in legal terms, institu-tionalized political distrust is not the same as per-ceived political distrust in concrete politicalinstitutions. To avoid confusion, it is expedient todifferentiate betweenformaland substantialpoliticaldistrust. Formal political (dis)trust would beexpressed in relation to concrete political institu-tions. Meanwhile substantial political distrust refersto the permanent distrust in institutional politics/thesystem as such, keeping in mind that those institu-tions dispose of a larger share of power than societyat large. Hence, in this liberal thinking, political par-

    ticipation voting, writing petitions, demonstra-tions, boycotts is the expression of substantialpolitical distrust. We participate in elections in orderto control the powers of institutions and express oursubstantial distrust of them. The more social trustpersists in the society, the greater the need for thesociety to participate in the control of institutional-ized power, in other words, to expose substantialinstitutionalized political distrust.

    Exposing substantial institutionalized distrustdoes not mean that we need to feel formal institu-tional distrust at the same time: on the contrary, gen-

    eralized trust, which is one of the prerequisites ofsubstantial institutionalized distrust, together maystrenghen formal trust in political institutions/politi-cians, while it also functions as a safeguard, a precau-tion against the possible usurpation of power byinstitutions.

    In what way is institutionalized distrust related togeneralized trust? Warren (2001) thinks that the lib-eral tradition and permanent accountability of gov-ernment are one of the main prerequisites ofgeneralized trust. The different ways of expressingvigilance towards political institutions and systemsendow peoples actions with self-confidence, a senseof responsibility and common optimism. Efficiency

    in controlling institutions and maintaining safe-guards motivates us to behave honestly, as we wouldexpect honesty from others. Talking about reciprocalhonesty, Uslaner (2001: 6) refers to the Golden Rule,that you do unto others as you would have them do

    unto you. This rule becomes a foundation formoralistic or generalized trust.

    Trust and post-communism

    The dialectic of trust becomes even more controver-sial when speaking about post-communist societies.In post-communist countries, liberal democracy isnot the naturally evolved form of the political sys-tem; therefore, paraphrasing Rosanvallon, institu-tionalized distrust is not an aspect of the politicalconsciousness of the citizenry of these societies. Onthe contrary, post-communist societies are used to anenforced institutionalized trust as a projection ofthe relationship between the communist governmentand the society. It does not inspire activism on thepart of society, or efforts to control the powers of thepolitical system. Consequently, imposed (andforced) institutionalized trust did not create the con-ditions for generalized trust to emerge. Instead, post-communist societies are comprised of fragmentedcircles of particularized trust.

    In order to conceptualize the transformation oftrust in a wider political and cultural context, it is

    expedient to deconstruct the category of trust takinginto account the pre-communist past, communistlegacies and the transformation phase.

    The pre-communist phaseHistorically, all post-communist nations were underthe rule of despotic governments, which createdpolitical distrust in alien rule and social distrustbetween individuals due to a hierarchical model ofsociety where powerful elites exploited theuneducated peasants and slaves (North, 1981).

    Although after the First World War, the newly

    established nation-states began to develop their(pseudo)democratic systems (with reservations general and equal elections, electoral competitionand peaceful change of governing parties), thisprocess did not reach the consolidation phase anddid not become the only game in town. Societiesremained mostly traditional; most people continuedto live in rural areas, on semi-subsistence farms (inagricultural economies). As Kochanowicz (2004)points out, in such traditional agrarian societies, thenumber of social contacts was limited; trust waslimited to the circle of people with whom one wasfamiliar, while foreigners and strangers weredistrusted. Moreover, since farmers lived in

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    peculiar specifics in regard to trust. Communismcontributed to a more pragmatic, calculated sub-stance ofparticularizedtrust, but not a real, goodwillbased generalized trust. Following Fukuyama, thetrust radius was limited only to the family circle and

    did not spill over to generalized trust. We might saythat at the societal level trust was pragmatic and self-ish, in the sense that it was related to expectations forthe self; this trust also involved a higher perceptionof risk of social action, as it was connected with fearand low trustworthiness of unfamiliar people. Incontrast, in democratic systems, generalized trustoriginates in the spill-over of real trust from familycircles and is consequently related more to the per-ceived notion and benefits of the common good,which is at the core of social capital. During thecommunist regime, political trust was (officially)declared as a necessity of political and social life; itwas imposed from above and placed in opposition tofear. Ultimately, in the political realm, trust did nottranslate into a notion or feeling of any sort. Therewas no conscious trustworthiness of the subject;therefore, the capacity to build trust in political insti-tutions could not evolve among the citizens.

    The transformation phaseDespite the short period of so-called partialsolidarity immediately preceding and following theproclamation of political independence and freeelections in post-communist societies, the antinomy

    of trust and fear remained and was even exacerbateddue to the traumatic processes during the earlytransformation. The expectations of citizens werenot rewarded by quick results and desired politicaloutcomes; the brief successes of private business wereoften overturned by economic set-backs, corruptionand bribery, since ghost of the old regime stillremained omnipresent during the transformationprocess. Although political and economic reformstook place rapidly, cultural patterns, identities,values and attitudes did not undergo any suddenchange and remained reserved, based on suspicion

    and passivity.In the early period of transformation, trustamong society members became much riskier, infact, because of the unstable institutional, economicand social conditions. Economically speaking, theprojection of trust anticipated much too high a costnot only because of specific cultural legacies but alsodue to a lack of legal mechanisms that couldcompensate for associated risks. In the first decadesof the transition, the system was heavily corrupt;consequently, legal enforcement of laws and justicewas weak. Courts were not functioning properly,political institutions seemed to be nominal andsubordinated to certain clans and cliques.

    Communist political capital and politics-based socialrelations were actually transformed into economiccapital during the early years of transition; this wasmade possible by the unfair mechanisms ofprivatization, which benefited the old nomenklatura

    (Howard, 2003). As a result, some of the oldCommunist Party members became businessmen ormanagers of state-owned companies, some of themremained in politics, and these relationships basedon the communist legacy created the background forthe establishment of influential oligarchic clans inmost of the post-communist societies. Alongside thedecadent reputation of political, economic and socialstructures, these new informal political andeconomic clans also decreased the reputation of thepolitical system and promoted distrust(Kochanowicz, 2004: 79).

    Similarly, Sztompka (2004) emphasizes the long-lasting trauma of the social and cultural changes: theprevious despotic government and the rapidpolitical, economic and social reforms underminedtrust both as a common action and as anorganizational ability. These basic aspects of trusttransformation have conditioned, according toSztompka (1997), the formation of a specific culturein the post-communist region a culture of suspicion,or culture of cynicism, as he calls it (he actuallyborrows this term from Stivers, 1994). Like theculture of trust, the culture of suspicion is also aproduct of institutional and national narratives, and

    it affects relationships at the political, economic andsocial levels. At the political level, the culture ofsuspicion results in distrust in formal institutionsand lack of motivation to engage with the politicalsystem by any means of political participation. It alsomeans a growing gap between political elites andcitizens, the state and the society, as the latter haveno motivation or feel powerless to control theactions of the former. At the economic level theculture of suspicion materializes in corruption,bribery and the shadow economy, since people, ifthey want to achieve their goals, do not trust legal

    institutions and do not trust other individuals to dotheir duties without any favour (bribe). At thesocietal level, suspicion only strengthensparticularized trust, or limited trust in ones family orgroup.

    As mentioned before, the mainstream of culturaltheories emphasizes the modern substance of trust,creating an antinomy between trust and risk. Risk, infact, is a self-reflexive notion, since one decides onthe trustworthiness of another subject: whether it isexpedient to take risks and what gains or losses trustmight produce (Coleman, 1990). In the communistregime and later on in post-communist societies, thisantinomy between trust and risk makes little sense.

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    The communist regime and the so-calledtrustworthiness of the communist regime weregrounded in the mechanisms of coercion, terror andfear. The unstable post-communist institutionalarrangements also deeply contributed to fear. The

    unpredictability of the situation did not allow forany reasonably based evaluation of trustworthiness,which is why it precluded any making of bets.Therefore, while trust in democracy is opposite torisk as a self-reflexive notion (which also includesresponsibility for ones decisions), under post-communist conditions, trust comes in opposition to

    fear, which we cannot control. In this sense, trust isno longer a rational response. Trust becomes not afree choice, but more a voluntary or forcedcompliance. The dimension of fear utterly erases realtrust, as well as precludes common social interaction.

    Together with the loss of human dignity, it bringsabout passivity, non-involvement and non-communication (Markova, 2004: 8). Consequently,trust in post-communist societies is barely associatedwith social commitment or a goodwill attitude. Incomparison, in old democracies, politicalparticipation is largely based on communitynetworks and a common sense notion ofresponsibility for social/political actions (thoughthese networks, according to Putnam and Norris, arealso waning). Meanwhile in post-communistdemocracies, the lack of a generalized trust or even adistrust, intolerance, disinterest or suspicion towards

    society makes political participation apathetic andlacking vibrancy, since common political action isnot supported at the societal level.

    Empirical evidenceTo support the theoretical points above, I refer to thefew empirical studies on trust in post-communistsocieties. As was mentioned in the introduction, themost comprehensive research on trust in post-communist societies has been done by Mierina(2011). She draws on World Values Survey data(20057), which shows that only one-quarter of

    respondents in post-communist societies tend totrust people in general: 22.2% in Bulgaria, 19% inPoland, 20.3% in Romania and 18.1% in Slovenia,for example. It is worth noting that during thedemocratization period, in some countriesgeneralized trust actually went down: in Bulgariafrom 30.4% (1993) to 22.2% (2007), in the CzechRepublic from 30.2% (1993) to 23.9% (2001), inEstonia from 27.6% (1993) to 23.9% (2001), inLithuania from 30.8% (1993) to 24.9% (2001).

    In another study, Undiscovered Power: Map of theCivil Society in Lithuania, iliukait et al. (2006:234) claim to have found a significant differencebetween generalized trust and particularized trust in

    Lithuania. Referring to the results of the fieldwork(Lithuanian Values 2005), the study indicates thatout of 1010 respondents only 7.2% express trust instrangers (people whom the respondents have notmet before). In comparison, about 75% of

    respondents trust people they actually know, 59%place trust in neighbours, 84% trust in relatives andalmost 98% trust in their family. The numbersillustrate that most people display a particularizedtrust and rely on the close-knit ties with family andfriends which existed in communist societies. Similarfindings were also discussed by Bdescu (2003) andVasilache (2010) in Romania.

    When talking about generalized trust in formercommunist countries, Vasilache (2010: 12) noticesthat in Romania this type of trust significantlycorrelates with compliance (the importance of doing

    what one is told and following rules) and lesssignificantly with tolerance (the importance ofunderstanding different people). This evidence-based insight matches the theoretical premise that inpost-communist societies trust is related to fear andless to risk. However, lacking more empiricallybacked evidence in other post-communist societies,this paradox of trust still remains a subject forfurther research.

    Finally, the recent empirical studies prove that thelow levels of generalized trust are accompanied bydistrust towards political institutions. According tothe Standard Eurobarometer Study (2012), only a

    few respondents express some level of trust inpolitical parties (14% in Bulgaria, 8% in the CzechRepublic, 16% in Estonia, 6% in Latvia, 13% inLithuania, 9% in Romania and Slovenia). Theparliament is trusted by one-fifth of the respondentson average, varying from 9% in the Czech Republicto 30% in Slovakia. On the other hand, almost allpost-communist societies are distinguished by acomparatively high level of trust in the president,varying from 30% in Bulgaria to around 70% inPoland and Lithuania. The scholars propose thatthese tendencies illustrate a longing for authoritarian

    (or strong hand) politics and a willingness bysociety to follow strong leaders (Ramonait, 2006;Rose, 2001; Sztompka, 1999).

    To sum up, in his comprehensive studies on post-communist countries, Uslaner (2003, 2008) hasgathered empirical evidence to show that the generalclimate of political distrust and atomized (in-group)societal trust in former communist countries istightly related to corruption, inequality andexpectations for the future. His longitudinal findingsshow that in almost all post-communist societiesgeneralized trust significantly correlates withperceived corruption of politicians and the shadoweconomy/inequality. The results of the research

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    disclose that the more the system is perceived asunequal, the less generalized trust exists in thesociety. Uslaner explains this by saying that a sense ofinequality diminishes a feeling of control and thisdrives down generalized trust in people. When

    lacking trust in the system and in the people around,individuals often see only one way of achieving theirgoals bribery and corruption. Consequently, a highlevel of corruption leads to a higher economicinequality (Uslaner, 2008: 11). Obviously, theseprocesses create a long lasting vicious circle, which isvery damaging to the quality of post-communistdemocracy.

    Future research

    When referring to the present research on trust, westill do not have a comprehensive picture, showinghow various forms of trust should be studied. Futurestudies should set up a clear definition and opera-tionalization of generalized and particularized trust.The latter form of trust is still generic and is meas-ured by a mix of different questions across the vari-ous studies (for instance, the questions refer to trustin family members, neighbours, trust in people youknow or have ever met, trust in people of same eth-nicity, religion, age and so on). These questionsclearly display certain levels of particularized trust,but it is unclear how these aspects are related to (or

    contradict) generalized trust. The task to systemizethe measurement of particularized trust is obviouslya challenging one, as the operationalization, on theone hand, should encompass the different facets ofparticularized trust, and, on the other hand, relate toits common characteristics.

    Another obvious gap in the current research ontrust is the lack of longitudinal research on the com-munist and post-communist years. Admittedly,although in many countries the data on trust underthe communist regime are very limited or not avail-able at all, some rare information for a few countries

    does exist. Comprehensive longitudinal analysis ofthe post-communist countries would provide a bet-ter insight in trust transformation and the perverseeffects of communism as the contextual factor ingeneralized and particularized trust.

    The value of studies of trust in post-communistsocieties would be undoubtedly generated by quali-tative data, showing how trust in particular was andis related to fear and risk in different situations at theindividual level. Such qualitative research might helpto reveal the perceptions of trust among different agegroups and whether the impact of communism ontrust is stronger for older citizens than for the youngwho were socialized after the democratic transition.

    The comparative perspective in studies of trust inboth post-communist and mature democracies isanother insufficiently researched and under-theo-rized field. First, the operationalizations of trust arestill vague and might be less reliable in terms of

    applying it to different contexts (the problem isalready discussed in the literature, see e.g. Bdescu,2003). It is still not clear whether the question posedof generalized trust (Generally speaking, would yousay that most people can be trusted or that you cantbe too careful in dealing with people?) is understoodequally in post-communist and mature democraciesand also across different post-communist countries.The connections between the operationalization andthe content of trust would be better revealed bycross-national qualitative research in the formercommunist countries.

    Second, the research on the relationship betweensocial and political trust is underdeveloped. Somestudies suggest that social trust promotes politicaltrust, while other studies are more critical of thispoint (Mishler and Rose, 2005). Thorough compar-ative research is needed for more evidence-basedarguments, taking into account both post-commu-nist and mature democracies and testing the tenden-cies of a mutual relationship between social andpolitical trust over the decades. In this sense it is alsoimportant to separate institutionally recognizeddemocracies (for instance, EU countries) from otherso-called democracies with adjectives or semi-

    authoritarian regimes (e.g. Russia), in order to con-trol variables indicating the institutional settings.The argument that political trust is not related tosocial trust in the semi-authoritarian or authoritari-an countries does not lead to the general conclusionsthat this relationship is not correlative (people inthese societies might not always be honest in answer-ing the surveys), so more accurate methodology fortesting trust is needed in future research.


    The present article aimed at analysing the notion oftrust from different theoretical perspectives and atexamining the trajectories of trust transformation inmature and post-communist societies. The theoreti-cal conceptualization of trust displayed competingapproaches towards trust, emphasizing a rational, orcultural, moral side of trust. The variety of suggestedinsights into trust might be useful in defining differ-ent forms of trust: generalized and particularizedtrust at the societal level and political (institutional)trust. The article argues that generalized trust restson a moralistic foundation, although it also includessome rational elements. Particularized trust, on the

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    Gaidyt Trust

    other hand, has less of a moralistic approach andscatters society into atomized, egocentric circles. Thegeneralized type of social trust is tightly related topolitical trust, which emerges in contemporary soci-ety as a result of the institutionalized distrust charac-

    terizing the liberal tradition.To sum up the theoretical considerations on trustin post-communist societies, several remarks shouldbe made. First, scholars analysing communistregimes and their aftermath suggest that social trustin post-communist democracies lacks attitudesbased on goodwill and mostly relies on particular-ized trust. Due to the communist experience, socialtrust became limited to a strategically egoistic atti-tude in order to satisfy ones own needs, even if byillegal methods. This perception is gradually trans-formed into the subconscious; the notion of socialtrust becomes pervasive, and robustly attached tofear. Trust in strangers is decisively set apart fromtrust in family. On the contrary, although socialtrust in Western modernized societies is also relatedto rational choice, civil society, with its perception ofthe common good and common action, alsorequires a non-rational dimension of trust, morespecifically, a moralistic and generalized type oftrust.

    Second, political trust in post-communist soci-eties is weakly associated with self-reflexivity due tothe damaged perception of trustworthiness and theantinomy between trust and fear, but less with risk.

    The exposure to fear restrains post-communist citi-zens from active political engagement, promptspolitical alienation and perverts the statesocietyrelationship. Escalation of fear weakens citizens vig-ilance towards the political system, the politicalinstitutions and rules. It erases the natural willing-ness of society to use institutionalized levers toexpose the substantivepolitical distrust and therebysustain the constitutionally prescribed mechanismsof the liberal democratic regime.


    This article is the updated version of the authors articleTrust: The notion and its transformation in mature andpost-communist democracies, published in LithuanianForeign Policy Review2012: 27 : 35 60.

    Annotated further reading

    Bdescu G and Uslaner EM (eds) (2003) Social Capitaland the Transition to Democracy. London: Routledge.This edited collection presents research on how post-

    communist countries are adopting the Western

    models of society. The concepts of social capital andtrust have been used to explain civic engagement,support for democracy and the democratizationprocesses in general. The theoretical analysis is sup-ported by detailed case studies.

    Fukuyama F (1995) The Social Virtues and the Creationof Prosperity. London: Penguin.This seminal work provides the key insights on trustas a cultural feature. Taking into account culturaland civilizational patterns of societies, trust isassessed as an underlying principle that fosters orrestrains social and economic prosperity.

    Hardin R (2006) Trust. Cambridge: Polity Press.This key book conceptualizes trust in contemporarysociety and politics. Trust is examined from variousperspectives, taking into account wide-rangingaspects of public life. The author also focuses on thephenomenon of distrust in government, as the essen-tial feature of the liberal system.

    Kornai J, Rothstein B and Rose-Ackerman S (2004)Creating Social Trust: Problems of Post-SocialistTransition. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.The study focuses on the process of development oftrust in post-communist countries. The scholarsexamine barriers of trust, analysing the interactionsof individuals and their social, political and econom-ic environments. Taking into the consideration thehistorical circumstances, the interpretations of thecausality of illegal organizations (like the mafia) andtrust are presented.

    Markova I (ed.) (2004) Trust and Democratic Transitionin Post-Communist Europe. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press.This book is concerned with theoretical and empiri-cal analyses of trust and distrust in post-communistEurope. The notion of trust is conceptualized andreconstructed in accordance with the communistlegacies and post-communist transformation. Its his-torical interpretation of trust formation in the differ-ent political regimes and economic systems is veryvaluable.

    Rosanvallon P (2008) Counter-democracy: Politics in anAge of Distrust. Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress.This popular monograph deals with the phenome-non of protest politics in liberal democracies and

    concentrates on the reasons for the steady erosion ofconfidence in government. The paradox of trust andliberalism is widely discussed from historical andphilosophical perspectives.

    Sztompka P (1999) Trust: A Sociological Theory.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.The monograph presents a comprehensive theoreti-cal study of trust as a fundamental component ofhuman actions. The study provides conceptual andtypological clarifications of the notions of trust, itsfoundations and functions. The special focus isplaced on the transformation of trust in the after-math of communism.

    Warren ME (ed.) (1999) Democracy and Trust.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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    Gaidyt Trust

    This edited collection of articles analyses relationshipbetween democracy and trust. Different theories ofsocial and political trust are presented and connected,and healthy distrust in democratic institutions isdiscussed.


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    Teodora Gaidyt is currently a PhD candidate at the Sociology Department of the VUUniversity Amsterdam. In her PhD project (200914) she examines the relationship betweentrust, perceived political efficacy and political participation in mature and post-communistsocieties. She holds a bachelors degree in political science and masters degree in comparativepolitics. Her primary research interests lie in the field of political sociology, especially politicalattitudes in post-communist societies, political participation and the role of trust in socialinteractions. [email: [email protected]]


    Gaidyt Trust

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    rsum Cet article vise dabord analyser et montrer thoriquement les particularits de laconfiance envers les dmocraties mres et postcommunistes. Il conceptualise la notion de laconfiance comme interprte par le culturalisme et les approches rationalistes, et la systmatisedans un cadre thorique plus logique. En second lieu, la confiance sociale et politique estdiscute, et le rapport entre ces catgories est analys. Troisimement, dans une perspectivethorique plus large, la dialectique de la confiance politique et le libralisme sont abordes. Enconclusion, la confiance envers le rgime communiste et sa consquence sont examines.Largument principal est que, en gnral, la confiance sociale envers les socitspostcommunistes manque dune bonne intention originelle et demeure plus centre sur lafamille compar au plus large radiusde la confiance aux dmocraties plus anciennes. En mmetemps la confiance politique envers les socits postcommunistes est moins encline la remiseen question et moins base rationnellement depuis que, contrairement aux anciennes socitsdmocratiques, elle a volu en opposition la crainte plutt quen opposition au risque.

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    mots-cls confiance gnralise u confiance institutionnalise u confiance particularise uconfiance politique u crainte u mfiance institutionnalise u post-communismeu risque

    resumen El objeto de este artculo es analizar y mostrar tericamente las peculiaridades de laconfianza en las democracias maduras y post-comunistas. Primero, en el documento seconceptualiza la nocin como interpreta los enfoques racionales y culturales, y se sistematiza enuna estructura terica y ms coherente. Segundo, se discute la confianza social y poltica, y seanaliza la relacin entre estas categoras. En tercer lugar, se aborda la dialctica de la confianzapoltica y el liberalismo en una perspectiva terica y ms amplia. Por ltimo, se examina laconfianza en el rgimen comunista y post-comunista. El argumento principal es que, a nivelgeneralizado, la confianza social en las sociedades poscomunistas carece de origen afable y estms centrado en la familia, en comparacin con el radio que es ms amplio de la confianza enlas democracias maduras. Mientras tanto, la confianza poltica es menos auto-reflexiva yracional-basada en las sociedades poscomunistas, ya que, a diferencia de antiguas sociedadesdemocrticas, se ha desarrollado como la anttesis al miedo en lugar de al riesgo.

    palabras claves confianza generalizada u confianza institucionalizada u confianzaparticularizada u confianza poltica u desconfianza institucionalizada u miedo u post-comunismo u riesgo