Social Trust As An Undesirable Outcome

6570 Words Jul 6th, 2015 27 Pages
PS236 Spring 2014
Yanjun LIU
Who Trusts? : Social Trust as an Undesirable Outcome in Contemporary China
Abstract: When is social trust a desirable outcome for democracy? A debate on the (un) desirability of social trust has emerged in recent literature with one side arguing for the bright side of social trust---favoring democracies in democratic contexts and another side arguing for the dark side of social trust----favoring nondemocracies in nondemocratic contexts. By asking who trusts and whether the most trusting individuals will be the vanguards of democratization, this research brings China into the debate and demonstrates with some quantitative evidence from a representative national sample that in China, higher levels of social trust are linked to higher levels of political confidence, higher levels of satisfaction with the present condition of democracy, lower levels of support for political reform, and higher levels of engagement in state-sponsored participation. As a result, higher levels of social trust in China should not be viewed as a positive building block but a potent obstacle to the prospect of democracy. As for the democratic utility of social trust, it’s time for both sides of the debate to converge at a point where both walk away from the “status quo bias” on their research radars separated by democracy---nondemocracy dichotomy, and move toward an agreement that is the “status quo utility” of social trust in supporting existing political regimes…
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