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Role of Trust in a Democratic System: Case of Post-communist Countries

Open Panel

Abstract

Based on existing theories in sociology and political science we suggest to consider the connection between democracy and trust as a relation between a system (social and political) and a strategy, which allows actors to act within the system, and which, if largely used, builds a milieu in which the system can function. We distinguish three basic channels of trust in democracy: legitimacy (form of systemic trust), trust in institutions and general trust in other people (social trust). Based on divergent theories – paying special attention to the debate between cultural and institutional paradigm – we debate the following questions: To what extent is the legitimacy of the regime – constituting the founding block of the democratic system – influenced by institutional or social trust? What is the relationship between trust in institutions and social trust? Do they represent two separate domains or are they somehow linked together? What are the determinants of social trust? Is social trust connected to social structure characteristics and are its origins somehow linked to civic participation, as the cultural paradigm claims? We analyze the risen questions on the specific case of post-communist countries, with a special focus on Czech Republic, using data from the survey ISSP 2004. Our analysis shows for example, that social trust and the trust in institutions are mutually interlinked and that legitimacy is affected not only by the trust in governmental institutions, but, even if weakly, also by social trust. Do these findings signal some positive process of consolidation of democracy in post-communist countries?