We claim that these controversies partly emerge from a focus on thestructural and functional dimensions of social capital, and a relative disregard of its experiential dimension, i.e. of the way in which social relations are experienced by those who participate in them. Based on this approach, we distinguish between personal and impersonal relations. In ideal-typical form, personal relations
are triply defined in the real, social and temporal dimension byco-presence, reciprocity and memory, respectively. Reciprocity, the type of social capital embedded in personal relations, is experienced as diffuse and taken for granted, and it is hardly universalizable or generalizable. Impersonal relations are those we establish with strangers. As a sociological category, the stranger is one with whom I do not share a space of co-presence; from whom I have notreceived anything and to whom I therefore owe nothing; and with whom I share no common memory. The stranger is therefore defined by the condition of impersonality or anonymity. The form of social capital embedded in this type of relation emerges from trust. Trust transcends the particularism of personal relations, universalizing duties and obligations beyond those established by reciprocity.
Thintrust and thick trust represent the ends of a continuum, for ‘thick trust’ refers to trust with a short radius, encompassing only others who are close to the truster, sociologically speaking, and ‘thin trust’ refers to trust . . . with a long radius, encompassing people at a greater social distance from the truster. (Putnam, 2000: 466). Putnam R (2000) Bowling Alone. New York: Simon and Schuster.This statement invites elaboration. What determines distance and closeness? Are the sources of trust that exist in ‘thick relationships’ efficient also in ‘thin’ ones, or do they dissolve precisely because of the social distance?
Trust provides a strategy to deal with interpersonal risk, specifically risk that emerges from the freedom of others. In other words, trust provides a solution tothe ‘problem of strangeness’ – the fact that we are surrounded by others who are not related to us by either loyalty or enmity, and about whom we have limited information.
interpersonal trust is a particularly modern phenomenon, predicated on the extension of relevant social interactions beyond closure networks, the universalization of individual autonomy, and the resulting need to expand trustrelations from hierarchical contexts marked by personal loyalty (e.g. Locke, 1988: 381) to habitual interactions with strangers (Hardin, 1991). Locke J (1988) Two Treatises of Government. Student Edition. Ed. P Laslett. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Hardin R (1991) Trusting persons, trusting institutions. In: Zeckhauser R (ed.) Strategy and Choice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Trustingothers involves, in the first place, predictability in the behavior of others: ‘I trust that the other will handle his freedom, his disturbing potential for diverse action, in keeping with his personality, or rather, in keeping with the personality he has presented and made socially visible’ (Luhmann, 1979: 39). Luhmann N (1979) Trust and Power. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
The problem oftrust would not arise if ‘full monitoring and control of somebody’s performance’ (Giddens, 1991:19) were feasible, nor would it arise if ‘we were all hopelessly moral, always doing what we said we would do in the circumstances which we said we would do it’ (Dasgupta, 2000b: 53). Giddens A (1991) Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity Press. ; Dasgupta...