The Role of Trust in Political Systems. A Philosophical Perspective
Open Political Science
The paper analyzes the question of whether trust is an essential condition for the functioning of social and political systems; it approaches the issue from a philosophical perspective. Trust appears in both interpersonal relationships (interpersonal trust) and in societal and political institutions (social and political trust, respectively). In the political literature trust is sometimes characterized as 'an expectation of continued value'. Although the same literature distinguishes social
... nguishes social from political trust, the thesis advanced here is that, logically, all forms of trust must be characterized as an inductive generalization from past experience to future expectations of the continuation of some specifiable utilities (goods, services). As such, trust suffers from Humean reservations about inductive inferences. Trust as an expectation of the continued provision of utilities, on the institutional level, will be characterized as a first-order sort of trust. It can be disappointed without necessarily threatening the continuation of a given institution, especially if there is no alternative service provider. But trust as an expectation of the continued functioning of democratic mechanisms will be characterized as a second-order sort of trust. The paper will argue that the second-order kind of trust is essential for the functioning of democracies.