Cleavages, social engagement and trust in post-communist euroupe
Rossbach, David Otto
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This dissertation addresses generalized trust in Post-Communist Europe. I examine trust stressing two sets of factors: the impact of attitudes associated with cleavages coming out of transition to democracy, and the importance of informal interpersonal association over more formal, structured forms of association. I argue that the classic list of cleavages suggested by Lipset and Rokkan (1967) have less importance to trust since those cleavages developed under the communist one-party state and were therefore less connected to the party system. As a result, these classic cleavages did not have the same mobilization functions as they did in Western Europe. Instead, I argue that cleavages that have developed out of the transition to democracy and a free-market economic system bear greater importance to trust. I further argue that due to the experience of forced group association during the communist era, and lingering distaste for formal political participation, the familiar Western models of the benefits of social engagement underestimate the importance of informal association in the post-communist states. Informal association was a key component of survival during the communist era and continues to be a valuable means of conferring information and forming political judgments. The first contribution this dissertation makes is that it brings together theories of political cleavages with theories of trust and social capital development. The dissertation bridges the gap between societal divisions and the position of the individual within these divisions. A second contribution of the dissertation is the testing of established theories of formal social engagement in post-communist states. The secretive nature of association during the communist era differs greatly from the open nature of association in the West. Theories of trust and social capital development must take this fact into account when exploring post-communist states.