Cover image

The Political Economy of Trust

By Henry Farrell

Cambridge University Press 2009


Read Introduction

Buy from:

Cambridge U P*



Barnes and Noble

Amazon (UK)


* Use code E09FARRELL for a 20% discount on all Cambridge purchases made in 2009.



Trust and cooperation are at the heart of the two most important approaches to comparative politics - rational choice and political culture. Yet we know little about trust's relationship to political institutions. This book sets out a rationalist theory of how institutions - and in particular informal institutions - can affect trust without reducing it to fully determinate expectations and applies it to inter-firm cooperation in Italian and German industrial districts. It also sets out and applies a theory of how national informal institutions may change as a result of changes in global markets, and shows how similar mechanisms may explain persistent distrust too among Sicilian Mafiosi.


James A. Caporaso, University of Washington

Farrell's The Political Economy of Trust is a tour de force. His book takes us through the burgeoning literature on social trust, social capital, institutions, and networks. .. One of his main goals is to show that the concept of trust provides a deeper understanding of cooperation than institutions by themselves. He succeeds brilliantly. Farrell's masterful treatment of the literatures on social capital, culture, and rational choice approaches to institutions provides us with a more complete picture of the causes and consequences of institutions.

Jacob S. Hacker, Yale University

Henry Farrell's important book is a crucial contribution to the literature on social trust ... Boldly bridging the divide between rational-choice microfoundations and institutionalist macro-theorizing, while also bringing in culturalist perspectives, Farrell shows how trust can be grounded in informal institutions that were created for quite different reasons than the production or sustenance of cooperation. In doing so, he provides a powerful new way of understanding the role of trust in social, political, and economic life.