Trust and Society: Suggestions for Further Development of Niklas Luhmann's Theory of Trust.
journal contributionposted on 2018-04-30, 15:25 authored by Christian Morgner
This paper addresses an apparent gap in the work of Niklas Luhmann. While the issue of trust continues to receive widespread attention in the social sciences, Luhmann's interest in this topic declined following the development of his systems theory. It is argued that this decline does not reflect any diminished relevance of trust for systems theory, but rather that the architectural remodeling of theory cannot easily be applied to the issue of trust. Here, the issue of trust is reconceptualized as a connection medium. This entails a reconstruction of Luhmann's early theory of trust, especially with regard to function and social positioning. In this context, trust can in turn be linked to the concept of medium in Luhmann's late work. As a connection medium, trust mediates between the different levels of sociality-interaction, organization, and society. These theoretical considerations are employed to develop a more applied framework for empirical research, with a brief case study from southern Italy. From this perspective, the idea of trust as society's glue is seen to be overly simplistic. The common ethical understanding that more trust leads to a better society is also questioned on the grounds that social cooperation can also lead to social sclerosis. Finally, risk and trust are shown to accommodate the formation of different cultures of trust. The paper shows how Luhmann's updated version of trust can inspire current research and enhance our understanding of how trust operates in contemporary society.
CitationCanadian Review of Sociology/ Revue canadienne de sociologie, 2018, in press
Author affiliation/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, ARTS AND HUMANITIES/Department of Media, Communication and Sociology
- AM (Accepted Manuscript)