Herein with Mollering’s conceptualization of trust: “Trust

Herein lays the importance of trust. As Georg Simmel says: ‘Without the general trust that people have
in each other, society itself would disintegrate, for very few relationships
are based entirely upon what is known with certainty about another person, and
very few relationships would endure if trust were not as strong as, or stronger
than, rational proof or personal observation’ (Simmel 1978: 178-9).

The background for the interest in the concept of trust is
the assumption that it concerns a central mechanism for overcoming barriers for
exchange and cooperation that have long been known from the theory of
non-cooperative games (Beckert, 2005). Trust allows cooperative advance
concessions, even though the possible choice of a non- cooperative strategy
gives the negotiating partner an option that would bring him additional
advantages and also damage the trustor (Beckert, 2005). Trust has long been
depicted as an inherently positive experience and a desirable quality which
should be sought after in relationships (Fukuyama, 1995).

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Interpersonal trust is regarded as an important social
resource that can facilitate cooperation and enable co-ordinated social
interaction and cooperation (Dirks and Ferrin, 2001; Skinner, Dietz and Weibel,
2013). Trust functions as a ‘lubricant’ greasing the way for efficient
operations when people have confidence in other people’s words and deeds
(Arrow, 1974). Also, Trust plays an important role in the business world by
facilitating both interpersonal and inter-organizational relationships (Mouzas et
al 2007; Boerma, Beckley and Ghauri, 2003; Haung and Wilkinson, 2013). Thus,
highly ‘normative assumptions hailing trust’s myriad benefits dominate the
discourse’: what Gargiulo and Ertug call ‘optimistic bias’ (2000:165) (Skinner
et al., 2013).

There are a plethora of working definition on trust in literature
across several disciplines. However, this study settles with Mollering’s
conceptualization of trust: “Trust is
defined as a ‘mental process of leaping’ enabled by suspension- across the
gorge of the unknowable from the land of interpretation into the land of
expectation” (Mollering, 2001:412). “Expectation is the state (outcome) at
the end of the process”. It is preceded by the combination of interpretation
and suspension. “Interpretation concerns
the experiencing of reality that provides ‘good reason’ for the production of
trust” (Mollering, 2001). In addition, the concept of ‘suspension’
(quasi-religious faith as noted by Simmel) is defined as “the mechanism that brackets out uncertainty and ignorance, thus making
interpretative knowledge momentarily ‘certain’ and enabling the leap to
favourable (or unfavourable) expectations (Giddens, 1991; Mollering, 2001).

Despite the differences in academic conceptualization of
trust across academic literature, there is agreement regarding certain conditions
that must exist before trust can take place, thus characteristics of trust
(Rousseau et al., 1998). Firstly, Trust is a social expectation, which means I
can only trust a person or a corporate actor (Beckert, 2005). This further
leads to dependency, which requires vulnerability. Trust is the disposition on
the part of the trustor to accept dependence on another (Luhmann 1979: 15, 22,
81). However, relations of dependence are inherently asymmetrical. The
asymmetrical nature of certain relations results into the possibility of the
other’s defection from the relationship or the exploitation of the trustor
(Barbalet, 2009). It can only be known whether the vulnerability of trust will
lead to a negative outcome, such as the breaking of a trust, after trust has
been given (Luhmann 1979, 2000: 25; Giddens 1990: 33).

Secondly, another element necessary for trust to exist is
uncertainty, specifically behavioural uncertainty of the trustee’s future
actions. The trustee is free in his response to one sided advance concession of
the trustor (Beckert, 2005). This is because the trust placed in the trustee
can either be fulfilled or violated by the trustee (Beckert, 2005). Thirdly,
trust can be spoken of in situations where there is information advantage for
the trustee. Trust can be spoken of only in situations in which the trust-taker
has an advantage from non-cooperative action that violates the expectation of
trust-giver (Beckert, 2005). This further results in risk taking actions for
the trustor. Risk is the perceived probability of loss, as interpreted by a
decision maker (Chiles & McMackin, 1996; Das and Teng, 2001). Lastly, Trust
entails subjective perception of a situation for the trustor. Beckert (2005)
suggest that trust contains calculating considerations, in sense that the
trustor only trusts when there is the perception that the trustee will act as
promised. This is similar to Mollering’s conception of ‘leap of faith’ which is
not based on rational reasons for trust, ‘a correct interpretation of causal relations’
or a ‘complete grasp of information.’ (Beckert, 2006; Mollering, 2001).

In accordance to the above discussions, it can be argued
that when any of the aforementioned elements do not exist, trust is unlikely to
take place. At the very least, it occurs in an ineffective or inefficient way.

 

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