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Trusting Institutions

Rivista di Estetica (2/2018)

Advisory Editor

Jacopo Domenicucci (Ecole Normale Supérieure)

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Deadline for submission

April 30th, 2017


Trust and institutions, both crucial concepts to account for social interaction and cooperation, seem to be bound together in several ways. Somehow, institutions need trust and trust arises inside specific institutional frameworks. First, at least some key institutions, such as markets and governments, face serious trouble if nobody trusts them. Second, at least some forms of trust, such as generalized out-group trust, need specific institutions to emerge, e.g. the State. These views, widely held among philosophers, economists and political scientists, become fuzzier when required to specify how “trust” and “institutions” are interconnected.

This special issue of Rivista di estetica will focus on the way philosophy of action and social and political philosophy should articulate these concepts. This problem breaks down into two sets of questions where the first (1) aims at defining trust using the concept of “institutions” and the second (2) aims at clarifying the relations between individuals and political, economic, social, religious, scientific, legal, medical and cultural institutions through the concept of “trust”.

1) Institutions in trust.
Is trust the result of institutional interplay? Are any institutions necessary conditions of trust? How does culture intertwine with institutions to improve trusting behaviours? Is social trust nothing but the result of institutional reward, sanction and safeguard mechanisms? Is it through the production of social trust that institutions can promote social capital, civic behaviour and political participation?

2) Trust in institutions.
Do trust-like (and distrust-like) attitudes describe the way we generally relate to institutions? Is there a basic notion of trust that makes sense for both individuals and institutions? Does the need for reciprocity raise a puzzle for institutional trust? Are institutions trust-channels, i.e. intermediaries, or a proper object of trust? To what extent should institutional design take trust into consideration? What kind of trust are we talking about when we say that it is indispensable for democracy, for both democratic transitions and democratic governance?

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