SOC 87                                                                                                                                                                       Prof. Akos Rona-Tas

(One-unit freshman seminar)

Trust in Society

Mondays 10:00-11:50                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Office hours: MW 200-2:50

SSB 101                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      SSB 488



The course will review different approaches to trust in social relationships. We will discuss under what conditions trust emerges, what role it plays, and what people do when trust is unavailable but they still have to cooperate.

Classes meet on Jan. 10, 31; Feb. 7, 14 and 28. PLEASE NOTICE: NO CLASSES ON JAN 17 (MARTIN LUTHER KING DAY), JAN 24 AND FEB 21 (PRESIDENT'S DAY) .
The readings are available through electronic reserves: . Please do the readings in advance of the class when it is listed.

Two to four of you will be responsible for one of the readings. The group should prepare and present together. The presentation should first explain what the reading says. You start with presenting the outline of the article. How does the author proceed? (E.g., First, the author poses the question… then she debates others…., then she introduces evidence…., then she concludes.) Then you tell us what her questions are in more detail. Then explain what her arguments are and how she concludes. Then you should raise questions for discussion and make critical comments.  You will do this twice. Your two group presentations will be 66% of your grade.

The other 34% is class participation.  Participation is more than just showing up for all class. That is required. Participation means taking part in the discussion in class. Good participation means doing that with a good command of the readings.


Jan 10

Trust as a Concept

Reading: Definitions of Trust. Chapter 2 in Piotr Sztompka, Trust.

Jan 17

Martin Luther King Holiday

Jan 31

Interpersonal Trust

Trust in Others and Generalized Trust

Reading: Trust and Commitment in the United States and Japan, Toshio Yamagishi and Midori Yamagishi, Motivation and Emotion, vol. 18, No.2, 1994 129-166


Trust and Cooperation

Reading: Can We Trust Trust? by Diego Gambetta, in Diego Gambetta ed. Trust, 213-238


Feb 7

Impersonal Trust

The Social Control of Impersonal Trust, by Susan Shapiro, The American Journal of Sociology, 93:3 (1987) 623-658


Trust in Institutions

Reading: Trust and Government, Chapter 7 in Russell Hardin, Trust and Trustworthiness, 151-172


Feb 14

Trust as Social Structure

Social Capital

Reading: Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital, by Robert D. Putnam, Journal of Democracy 6.1 (1995) 65-78

Is Social Capital Declining in the United States? By Pamela Paxton, The American Journal of Sociology, 1999, 105:1, 88-127


Feb 28

The Downsides of Trust and Overview

Reading: Social Capital – Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology. By Alejandro Portes, Annual Review of Sociology. 1998, 24:1-24.



Some Further Readings:

The literature on trust is by now quite large. There are several good edited volumes.

Diego Gambetta ed. 1988. Trust. Making and Breaking Cooperative Relations. Oxford: Blackwell

Valerie Braithwaite and Margaret Levi, eds. 1998. Trust and Governance. New York: Russell Sage

Karen S. Cook ed. 2001. Trust in Society. New York: Russell Sage

Shane R. Thye and Edward Lawler eds. 2002. Group Cohesion, Trust and Solidarity. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science

Nan Lin, Karen Cook and Ronald S. Burt. 2001. Social Capital. Theory and Research. New York; Aldine de Gruyter

Then there are several monographs:

Niklas Luhmann. 1979. Trust and Power. Chichester: Wiley

Bernard Barber. 1983. The Logic and Limits of Trust. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press

Barbara Misztal. 1996. Trust in Modern Societies. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press

Trudy Govier. 1998. Dilemmas of Trust. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press

Piotr Sztompka. 1999. Trust, a Sociological Theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

Robert H. Putnam. 2000. Bowling Alone. The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster

Russell Hardin. 2002. Trust and Trustworthiness. New York: Russell Sage

Bart Noteboom. 2002. Trust. Forms, Foundations, Functions, Failures and Figures. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar

Tom R. Tyler and Yuen J. Huo. 2002. Trust in Law. New York: Russell Sage