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Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity Hardcover – August 1, 1995

3.9 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his acclaimed The End of History and the Last Man, Rand Corporation analyst Fukuyama argued that capitalist democracy is the ultimate goal of history, the highest form of socioeconomic organization. His audacious premise in this provocative new study is that the degree of trust and social cohesion in a particular society greatly influences that nation's economic well-being and global competitiveness. France, Italy, South Korea and China, in his schema, are family-oriented societies with relatively low levels of trust among strangers. In such countries, he maintains, state intervention is often the only way to build large-scale industries, and inefficient public administration, political corruption and fragmented party systems are common. By contrast, Germany and Japan, superpowers marked by a highly developed sense of societal trust and communal solidarity, readily developed large-scale enterprises and professional management. In the United States, Fukuyama maintains, the upsurge of individualism at the expense of community?combined with rising crime and litigation, the breakdown of families and the decline of neighborhoods, clubs, associations?weakens our overall global competitiveness and augurs a more intrusive government to regulate social relations. Fukuyama's bold attempt to link cultural values to economic performance is bound to stir controversy.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man, LJ 1/92) examines the impact of culture on economic life, society, and success in the new global economy. He argues that the most pervasive cultural characteristic influencing a nation's prosperity and ability to compete is the level of trust or cooperative behavior based upon shared norms. In comparison with low-trust societies (China, France, Italy, Korea), which need to negotiate and often litigate rules and regulations, high-trust societies like those in Germany and Japan are able to develop innovative organizations and hold down the cost of doing business. Fukuyama argues that the United States, like Japan and Germany, has been a high-trust society historically but that this status has eroded in recent years. This well-researched book provides a fresh, new perspective on how economic prosperity is grounded in social life. Highly recommended for academic libraries.
Jane M. Kathman, Coll. of St. Benedict Lib., St. Joseph, Minn.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st edition (August 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029109760
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029109762
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #536,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I live in Europe close to the fault line between (in Fukuyama-speak) low-trust-land and high-trust-land and I have rarely read such an interesting book. In some ways the book is the successor to Max Weber's magnum opus, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (published in 1905) about the impact of protestant religion and culture on economical success in Germany.

Rather than compare Protestantism with Catholicism and their economical impact on German citizens, Fukuyama divides the world into high and low trust societies. Within Europe low trust societies largely coincide with Catholic countries and high trust societies coincide largely with Protestant countries, hence some of Fukuyama's work will sound familiar at times to a reader of Max Weber. Still, Fukuyama's categorisation is not based per se on religious affiliation. Fukuyama is at pains to attribute the low trust of Italians or French to historical events or situations. At times it seems he goes out of his way to avoid attributing any causal role to religion. But the advantage of his approach is that his methodology in theory works in any culture outside the European Christian context. Fukuyama also applies his trust criterion on societies such as the US, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China. The Middle East and Africa are conspicuous in their absence, possibly because there are few if any examples of so-called high-trust cultures in these parts of the world.

There are a few shortcomings to the book :

Fukuyama only draws economical consequences from the presence or absence of trust, for instance, he claims high trust cultures such as Japan and Germany find it easier to form very large companies, whilst low trust cultures such as Taiwan or Italy feel more at home in family companies.
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Format: Hardcover
As a result of his previous major work Francis Fukuyama achieved fame as the man who predicted 'the end of history'. With this new work he has turned his attention from the political arena to consider comparative international economic performance. He describes the broad theme of Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity as follows; "that social capital has a significant impact on the vitality and scale of economic organizations".

Many commentators have tried to evaluate the importance of culture in determining national economic success. Fukuyama claims to have identified the key, performance-determining, aspect of national culture, namely, the level of trust present in a society. He maintains that culture is of critical importance to everyday economic life and that only high trust societies can create the kind of large scale business enterprises that are needed to compete in today's global economy.

The culturalist view of history attributes the success of Japan and later of other East Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan to their common Confucian traditions and their concomitant cultural characteristics. However, the traditional drawing of distinctions between Eastern and Western cultures is seen as too simplistic by Fukuyama, who points out the many differences inherent in East Asian societies. He points out not only the differences between Japan and China, but also those between China and Chinese societies abroad such as Taiwan and Hong Kong. This attention to detail and depth of analysis is one of the strengths of Fukuyama's study.
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Format: Paperback
Reviews of Fukuyama's book Trust tend to be by those who read it for the political and economic insights. Since I have lived in Asia and Africa, what interested me was the insight on how lines of trust between human beings are seen by different cultures.
Reading this book explains why Americans should hesitate to invest in China (they only really trust those in their own families). It explains why Japanese trust their companies not to be fired. And it explains why American conservatives favor local and private solutions to problems rather than government.
Businessmen and others who assume all people think like Americans might benefit from reading this.
One problem is that it is a thoughtful book, but not a book that is easy to read.
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Format: Hardcover
The author divides societies into two classes: high trust and low trust. High-trust societies form volunteer and meritocratic organizations that expand in scope and efficiency to reach optimum economies of scale. These commercial and non-profit organizations (which are not dependent on family ties) create a network of efficiencies that benefit commerce, media communication and social change.
Low-trust societies, in contrast, rely on the extended family to build commercial, social and political networks. The trouble with the extended-family approach to economic development is that all families will soon run out of blood-line managerial, scientific, literary or artistic talent. The Latin Catholic and Chinese cultures are described as low-trust societies.
One conclusion to this analysis is that it is the lack of trust in society that forces developing countries to have large government organizations. In countries such as Mexico, the lack of trust in the players and in the notion of market efficiency itself leads to the creation and perpetuation of state monopolies.
The author wonders if trust in the American society is declining, to judge, at least, by the rising number of guarded residential compounds. The Clinton impeachment trial, from one lens, is about the threat to trust in public life. According to the model, if trust declines, so too will economic prosperity.
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