Õppides usaldama: Üldine usaldus Eestis aastatel 1990–2016

English title: Learning to Trust: Generalised Social Trust in Estonia from 1990 to 2016

Author(s): Mai Beilmann - Anu Realo -

Language: Estonian

Type: Journal article

Year: 2018


Generalised social trust (social trust), that is the willingness to trust others, even total strangers, without the expectation that they will immediately reciprocate that trust or favour, is like a glue that holds a society together and fosters cooperation among individuals. Social trust, which is often considered one of the key elements of social capital, is extremely important for the smooth functioning of democratic societies and appears to be an important factor that may make a new democracy more likely to succeed. This article focuses on the trends in levels of social trust in one relatively young democracy – Estonia – from the beginning of 1990s until 2016. The analyses are based on data from several waves of the European Social Survey (ESS), the World Value Survey (WVS), and European Value Survey (EVS). It has been claimed that differences in trust levels across countries may be driven by their cultural, political, and historical differences. Indeed, trust levels vary considerably between European countries and the strong impact of the past political and institutional context becomes evident when looking at the levels of social capital in the former Eastern Bloc: people in post-communist societies are generally less trusting than people in Western, and most notably, in Northern parts of Europe. In the beginning of the nineties, Estonia seemed to fit in this pattern, but in the second half of the nineties, all of the sudden Estonia started behave rather unexpectedly in terms of increasing social trust. Whereas low levels of social trust were easily explained with the Soviet past, this article attempts to explain the fast growth of social trust in Estonia from the second half of the nineties. The fast growth in social trust levels in Estonia is unprecedented in international comparison. We propose that an explanation may lie in theories, which conceptualise trust as a feature of social environment, suggesting that individuals become more trusting by experiencing trustworthy behaviour in their daily life. The rising levels of social trust in Estonia indicate that the people living in Estonia have indeed learned from their experience that in general, most people can be trusted. Considering that higher levels of social trust indicate ‘healthier’ society both in economic, social, and political sense, the fast growth of the levels of social trust during the last two decades is a very good and promising news for the 100-year-old Estonia.

Volume: 30

Issue: 6

From page no: 979

To page no: 1009

Refereed: Yes


Journal: Akadeemia

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