High-trust and low-trust societies

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A low-trust society is defined as one in which interpersonal trust is relatively low, and which do not have shared ethical values.[1] Conversely, a high-trust society is one where interpersonal trust is relatively high, and where ethical values are strongly shared.

Institutions and mechanisms[edit]

According to researchers, low-trust societies are typically kinship-based;[1] outcomes of low-trust societies can include difficulty in forming and maintaining corporate structures.[2] Mechanisms and institutions that are corrupted, dysfunctional, or absent in low-trust societies include respect for private property rights, a trusted civil court system, democratic voting and acceptance of electoral outcomes, and voluntary tax payment.[3] Research has identified a correlation between linear-active cultures (i.e. following a daily schedule with a single task at a time)[4] with high-trust societies, and multi-active cultures (flexible schedules with many tasks at once, often in an unplanned order) with low-trust cultures.[5]


High-trust societies display a high degree of mutual trust not imposed by outside "contractual, legal or hierarchical regulation", but instead are based upon "prior moral consensus".[1] Much writing on the subject refers to Francis Fukuyama's 1995 book, Trust: Social Virtues and Creation of Prosperity, in which he describes "the ability of various peoples to organize effectively for commercial purposes without relying on blood ties or government intervention".[6]


  1. ^ a b c Natale, Hoffman & Hayward 1998, p. 35.
  2. ^ Govier 1997, p. 132.
  3. ^ Rose 2011, p. 196.
  4. ^ LEWIS, Richard. When cultures collide: Leading across cultures. Nicholas Brealey International, 2010.
  5. ^ Hopkins 2012, p. 120.
  6. ^ TRUST by Francis Fukuyama.


Further reading[edit]