Trust toward institutions and processes in Hungary after the regime change
In the last one or two decades, the mainstream of theoretical sociology hasn’t paid much attention to trust. The empirical, quantitative analyses that dealt with this subject usually used less sophisticated terms for interpreting trust, they mostly measured general attitudes toward the political leaders, participation in the elections and the positive or nega tive feelings of the public toward the institutions.
There are many different ways of defining the content and function ing of trust. One major approach argues that trust is similar to coopera tive actions that it functions well in a well-established institutional environment, the participants share common norms and values, and everybody follows the common rules of the game. The institutions penalize the cheaters and free riders, so the theorists say that the production of trust is in strong connection with the democratic institutional system. This approach often handles the term trust as a special product or a com mon public good that is produced by and functions in the community in an organized way. Another major trend in this field emphasizes that trust can work well only in chaotic or anarchic circumstances. Their argument is that in fact, trust in a stable institutional framework with common based rules and procedures actually means trust in sanctions and the efficiency of sanctions, but it does not mean that during the interactions we trust the others or the institutions itself, in the name of community ethos. For ’real’ trust – these scholars argue – there has to be chaos and the atmosphere of distrust, because this is the situation when the actors really need and attribute much importance to the mechanisms that produce trust.
The difficulty of defining the term of trust is only one question that researchers have to deal with; another one is the problem of measuring trust. We can use indices to measure attitudes that refer to the existence or non-existence of trust in a society, but we cannot really make a scale to measure the extension or the range of it. Another problem can be the interpretation of the results, e.g. if the public trusts the president of the country it means that they believe that s/he wants to do his/ her best, so they have trust in his/ her good intentions or it means that they have trust in his/ her competence, and that s/he has the required skills for the position of presidency.