Dados vol. 49 n. 3 Rio de Janeiro 2006

Sleeping with the enemy: a critique of the concept of trust

Feres Júnior, João - Eisenberg, José


In this article we intend to demonstrate that mainstream interpretations of international survey results on the value of interpersonal trust are often imprecise and mistaken, since they ignore the different roles conflict-adjudicating institutions play in mediating interpersonal relations in the societies the survey is applied, and thus the capacity this institutions have in fashioning civic and political cultures. Consequently, the answers obtained in public opinion polls referring to the concept of trust end up translating a very distinct dimension from that originally intended by those conducting the study. At the same time, the assumption that culture is an independent variable that determines social and political relations runs unchecked by the methodology and is confirmed in the final interpretation of results. In short, due to such analytical weakness, the concept of interpersonal trust is turned ineffective as a tool for empirical measurement, thus leading to erroneous nomological conclusions.

Keywords: trust, civic culture, opinion polls, surveys

DOI: 10.1590/S0011-52582006000300001

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Sleeping with the enemy: a critique of the concept of trust