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Is Israel a High Trust Society?

November 23, 2009

Lately, I’ve been reading about Francis Fukuyama’s idea of social trust. Fukuyama argues that the degree of social trust between people (beyond family or immediate social networks) in a society has sweeping consequences on its economic prosperity. To demonstrate this, Fukuyama compares countries with high levels of social trust, such as Japan, Germany, and the US, with those lacking this asset (France, Italy, and China).

Social trust allows people to socialize and cooperate unhindered in both formal and informal settings. People are more likely to believe others and rely on them to work for attaining mutual benefit. High trust societies usually develop stable political systems and facilitate the creation of large companies with less need for direct government intervention.

By way of example, Fukuyama compares corporate cultures in France and Germany. French employees and managers have limited mutual trust, leading to rigid company guidelines, seniority-based salaries, and difficulty solving problems without assistance from higher-ups. By contrast, German workers and managers trust each other more readily, which makes for more relaxed work rules, flexible salary plans, and problem solving through direct negotiations.

Fukuyama warns that in recent decades, the US has been living off previously accumulated social trust, which is being depleting due to the rise of individualism, crime, breakdown of family values, and fewer local associations.

All this has led me to applying this concept to the Israeli society in which I live. In recent years, the Israelis have become much more focused on individuality, but also more prosperous. Then again, may be we are all just one big clan, so the theory doesn’t apply to us at all.

How would you evaluate Israel in terms of social trust? Are we creating more of this asset or using it up? I look forward to reading about your “greater picture” analysis, as well as specific examples from your business dealings, work places, and general encounters.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 24, 2009 4:14 am

    You gave us a big assignment! Israel is changing but I think overall there is a high trust.

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