Academic journal article Development and Society

Trust, Social Quality and Wellbeing: A Sociological Exegesis

Academic journal article Development and Society

Trust, Social Quality and Wellbeing: A Sociological Exegesis

Article excerpt

This papers provides an argument regarding the centrality of 'trust' for the development and maintenance of 'social quality,' and ultimately for the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and societies. Within the Social Quality theory, trust is located within one of the four conditional domains; social cohesion. This paper provides a background to Social Quality theory within a political and theoretical context in order to demonstrate that trust underpins a number of the social systems that play a role in the development and maintenance of social quality; therefore, we argue, that trust underpins 'social quality' and hence the Social Quality theory. We suggest ways in which current social theories of trust may be situated within the Social Quality theory, in terms of the normative and conditional factors. Evidence is provided to support the argument that trust plays a more significant role social quality than the current model suggests.

Keywords: Sociology of Trust, Niklas Luhmann, Anthony Giddens, Social Quality Theory, Salutogenesis

Introduction

The main aim of this paper is to argue for the centrality of 'trust' for the development and maintenance of 'social quality,' and ultimately for the health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and societies. Within this paper, when we refer to 'wellbeing,' we do not refer to a narrow definition which ties wellbeing to a biomedical definition of health. Instead, we regard 'wellbeing' and 'social quality' as synonyms, and therefore in order to research and promote wellbeing (which is often vaguely conceptualised (Carlisle, Henderson and Hanlon, 2009)) within a community or society, we argue for the use of 'social quality,' which has been defined as "the extent to which people are able to participate in the social, economic and cultural life of their communities under conditions which enhance their wellbeing and individual potential" (Beck et al., 2001). This is also similar to what has been termed 'happiness-plusmeaningfulness' (Seligman, Parks and Steen, 2005).

Given that we are addressing the social determinants of wellbeing and social quality rather than the biomedical determinants, within this paper, we take a salutogenic approach (Antonovsky, 1990) to understanding the importance of trust with regard to wellbeing and social quality. Salutogenesis is a concept that focuses on factors that support human wellbeing rather than on factors that cause disease. While the decision to take a salutogenic approach to explaining wellbeing may be innovative and relatively unexplored in application to social quality, it can be argued that the Social Quality theory is in and of itself, a salutogenic approach to understanding health and wellbeing. The current Social Quality theory addresses the in-built relationships that exist between the social factors and related systems that impact on wellbeing.

This paper provides a description and critique of the conceptualisations of trust within sociology, and then to demonstrate the centrality of trust within the Social Quality theory. As this paper will demonstrate, trust underpins a number of the social systems that play a role in the development and maintenance of social quality; therefore, trust underpins the Social Quality theory. This paper outlines the current theory and provides an argument which suggests that before the current theory can be used to frame empirical research in any discipline, the model needs to be reworked. We suggest ways in which current social theories of trust may be situated within the Social Quality theory, in terms of the normative and conditional factors. Evidence will be provided to support the argument that trust plays a more significant role social quality than the current model suggests.

There is a burgeoning wealth of literature on trust in a number of disciplines including sociology (Meyer et al., 2008; Meyer and Ward, 2008; Mollering, 2001a; 2001b; Ward and Coates, 2006), public health (Gilson, 2003; Ishikawa and Yano, 2008; Lupton, 1996; Meyer and Ward, 2008; Rhodes and Strain, 2000; Taylor-Gooby, 2006; Thom, 2000; Thom et al. …

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