Social scientists have been interested in researching trust for a long time. Trust is usually conceptualized in social science either as generalized trust, measuring how much individuals trust each other, or political trust, relating to the trust citizens have in democratic institutions such as parliaments, parties, or politicians.
Early research on democracy has credited civic associations with an important role of not only facilitating generalized trust between citizens, but also to function as a prerequisite of democracy. Citizens who engage in civic associations practice democratic decision-making and show higher levels of political participation. Building upon this finding, the question emerges on how much the decline of civic associations in modern times due to singularization has contributed to a decline in the quality of democracy.
Besides lower levels of involvement in civic associations in recent times, economic inequality and risks in the labor market have also risen for significant parts of the population. This has led to a renewed interest in researching trust: How much have growing inequalities impacted generalized and political trust and thus weakened democracy? This could be one possible explanation of lower participation rates in democracy or right-wing populism.
In order to investigate the importance of generalized and political trust in political science we will first turn to some classics. Do individuals really watch TV instead of engaging in civic associations which causes the democratic decline in modern societies, as Putnam argues in his seminal book ”Bowling alone”? Or is there more to it? We will look at how researchers try to conceptualize and measure trust and then examine different relationships with trust: economic inequality, the welfare state, gender, education, corruption, etc.
The course is set up as a ”Blockseminar”, which is held from the 10-12th of December in Münster in presence. Students will have to present a paper in detail in the seminar as the formative assessment (”Studienleistung”). As marked assessment (”Prüfungsleistung”) students may choose between answering an essay question on a conceptional issue or performing an individual empirical study on one aspect of trust. Data on trust is readily available for European countries from the European Social Survey.
The aim of the seminar is twofold: First, students should practice reading, understanding, and discussing scientific literature (in English). Further, I aim to familiarize students with a current research agenda and give insights into a current research project (https://www.hertie-school.org/en/perzepeu).
The seminar will be held entirely in English and is meant as a safe space practicing English in an academic context.
Putnam, Robert D. (2000). Bowling Alone. The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Simon and Schuster.