Human Studies

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 509–532 | Cite as

Trust and Confidence: History, Theory and Socio-Political Implications

Theoretical / Philosophical Paper


Even before trust became a buzzword, theoretical developments were made, which have instigated the development of two forms of trust which are described as personal trust and system trust/confidence. However, this distinction remained rather secondary in the overall literature. There is an overall lack on the historical developments of these forms of trust, their internal logic and how they interlink, overlap, or work against each other. The paper aims to advance these three aspects: first through a historical overview of the semantic of this distinction, followed by a theoretical reconstruction of the historical material and third by demonstrating how these theoretical concepts can be applied to political crises (Revolutions of 1989), thus revealing their logic and mutual interlocking.


Political sociology Trust History Political crises System trust Social theory 



For helpful comments on previous versions of this article, I would like to thank Christel Lane, Göran Therborn, Frens Kroeger, Claus Offe, Martin Endreß, and two anonymous reviewers. All mistakes and omissions are of course my own.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of LucerneLucerneSwitzerland

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