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Regular version of the site

Article

“To trust or not to trust” is not the question; “How to study trust” as a much more challenging task

Russian Sociological Review. 2016. Vol. 15. No. 4. P. 57-75.
Trotsuk I.

The articles considers trust as one of the most teasing and vague notions in the sociological science for it is widely used in both everyday language and scientific discourse as taken for granted and not presuming any special interpretations or contextually determined situational definitions. Moreover, sociology cannot claim to cover the trust topic entirely for the field of trust research is interdisciplinary, which generates differing theoretical and practical contributions to the field of trust studies and blurs both the disciplinary boundaries within it and the dividing lines between definitions of trust developed for theoretical and empirical research of different scale and purposes. In the first section the author identifies key elements of the sociological study of trust (causes and effects of trust (and distrust) in social life; determinants and practical implications of different ‘types’ and ‘levels’ of trust; attempts to distinguish trust from other semantically similar concepts; widely accepted conceptualizations of trust; the prevailing definition of trust as a means of coping with uncertainty, etc.). The second and the third sections summarize intentions and procedures of the empirical sociological study of trust within quantitative and qualitative approaches, pointing briefly to their results and focus of interest, which is social and political trust measured in large-scale surveys, often in the comparative perspective, in the former case; while the latter seeks to understand what trust means for people and why members of society prefer to speak about trust using specific words in particular situations. The fourth section discusses the discursive construction of trust in everyday narratives: the author believes that narrative analysis is a perfect methodological decision and a technical procedure (provided there is enough ‘quantitative’ and ‘qualitative’ data to contextualize its findings for correct interpretation) to identify the typological discursive constitution of trust in everyday relations and practices; and illustrates such a potential of narrative analysis on a small example of semi-structured interviews with the Russian rural dwellers. The article ends with a few concluding remarks to summarize key findings and challenges of the so-called trust research for now, which is justly enough considered to be at the crossroads.