Trust, Morality, and Markets

Rethinking Economy and Society via the Russian Case

by Yuri Veselov (Author) Mikhail Sinyutin (Author) Elena Kapustkina (Author)
©2016 Monographs 152 Pages


The spread of contemporary globalized capitalism wrought by the new patterns of industrialization, marketization, and consumerization shapes Russia’s recent historical path and developmental possibilities. This book discusses Russia’s transformation into a market economy and the role of trust in the creation of new institutions and ways of life. It focuses on the relations between society and economy in a period of turbulent social change and the extraordinary transformation of social practices.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Economy and Morality
  • 1.1 Rethinking Economy and Society: the Moral Focus
  • 1.2 Economy and Morality as Embedded and Disembedded
  • Chapter 2. The Reproduction of Trust
  • 2.1 The Rise of Market Worlds: Changing Social Structures
  • 2.2 Understanding Trust in Market Societies
  • Chapter 3. Trust during Transition
  • 3.1 Misunderstanding Trust in the Soviet Economy and Society
  • 3.2 Transformation: Trust as Displaced by Force
  • 3.3 New Dimensions of Trust
  • Conclusion


The presented study is a culmination of a dozen years of our research activity at St.-Petersburg State University. Unlike the favourite hero of classical economic theory, Robinson Crusoe, we have been in constant communication over the years with many persons through social networks. One can hardly mention all those who influenced the authors on their intellectual journey. We are strongly indebted to them and hope this text can serve as a token of our gratitude.

We would also like to thank those who were institutionally involved in our endeavor. The impulse for our interest in the trust problem came from the RSS Foundation, Open Society Institute, who gave us a grant (1390/2000) for preparing a research project. From this grant we gained invaluable experience, along with a mutual project with European colleagues organised by the German scholar Heiko Schrader, Professor of Sociology at Magdeburg University. We could not have finshed our work on trust without our reviewers, Victor Voronov, leading researcher of the Institute of Social Investigations at the Daugavpils University in Latvia, and Pasquale Tridico, Jean Monnet Professor in European Economic Integration at the Department of Economics of the University Roma Tre in Italy. And, our text would still not be available in English without the editorial help of Gregory Sandstrom, currently at the Department of Social and Political Sciences European Humanities University Vilnius, Lithuania, Anastasia Oreliovich, our brilliant graduate at St.-Petersburg State University, and last but not least Nadja Bartsch from Peter Lang.

Finally the book was confirmed for publication by the Editorial Publishing Council of the Faculty of Sociology at St.-Petersburg State University. We are also grateful to the Peter Lang International Academic Publishing for a chance to realise our project. We remember fondly the patience, responsiveness, and proficiency of Ute Winkelkoetter, Senior Acquisitions Editor, and Anne-Kathrin Grimmeissen, Production Manager. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of St.-Petersburt State University. ← 7 | 8 →


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Anyone engaged today in sociological discourse knows that trust matters. The list of new monographs on this issue is long and includes many respectful names (Barber, Fukuyama, Gambetta, Govier, Hardin, Misztal, Nooteboom, Seligman, Sztompka, etc). It is obvious that the rise of interest in this problem correlates both to globalization and to the eclipse of the twentieth century world. People of the coming epoch need confidence in the future, as they move faster and faster and constantly produce novelty. The Bible1 tells us to search for trust not in relation to human beings but with God. But the fashionably constructed economic concept of trust as a reliability in economic transactions leaves out something very specific and important from trust. The journey with us through the pages of this book will show that contemporary social thought needs a more sociologically developed concept of trust than is currently available. We will use it more as a relational form and as a feature of social communication and interaction. The meaning of trust, in our view, has been hidden in the constantly changing social life of human communities. Yet if we wish to succeed in our lives we have to improve our practical skills by sound knowledge, including how and when to trust others and to show that we can be trusted by them.

As a general rule of everyday life, people are not satisfied with their level of economic well-being. They are often concerned with the inadequate social outcomes of economic development in their homeland. The market economy, they believe, definitely does not belong to the world of morality and ethics. Yet they hardly know how to make that economic system work more fairly or how to put economics into a moral frame of reference. But they do know that the current level of social welfare, medical care and schooling is insufficient.

Looking at economic progress, many people are anxious about environment pollution, transnational corporations’ super revenues, inflation and unemployment and related problems, while positive results such as a constantly increasing living standard or decreasing working hours are taken for granted. At the same time, people are not sure to what extent moral judgments or social justice can be applied to their local or national economic situation because they are mostly considered as ← 9 | 10 → autonomous and self-sufficient systems, especially taking into account less than successful attempts at economic regulation in the recent past. These kinds of ambiguity and growing contradictions between economics and morality are becoming more and more evident and await more detailed study by scholars.

In academic circles, the issue of economy and morality has been discussed for years, across all historical periods of the social and economic sciences. During the times of A. Smith or M. Weber, J.M. Keynes or M. Friedman much was done to attempt to explain the moral basis of the economy. Many prominent scholars contributed to this effort and made the issue famous as one of the oldest discussions in the social and economic sciences. However, the discussion is far from complete and no agreement has been made yet concerning the relationship between the economy and morality or how to treat economies in the social sense and how to measure their achievements with moral standards.

The recent Human Development Index (HDI) as well as comparative research and related discussions have made it abundantly clear that economic development does not lead automatically to increases in social well-being – that is, well-developed countries do not always reach the top of the HDI range. It goes without saying that the HDI by itself is a somewhat primitive tool for measuring (and comparing) the levels of social development. Nevertheless, to some degree it reflects the need to treat national economies not only economically, but also to take seriously a nation’s social problems. Contemporary business ethics discussions reveal the uncertainty of how to define socially approved or moral ways of doing business. Even so, it is of great importance to take into account not only the goals but also the measures of economic development as well.

There is also a strong belief (especially in the discourse of New Institutional Economics) that institutional arrangements like contracts make it too expensive to use fraud or malfeasance in economic transactions. The implication is that trust is not a prerequisite, but rather an additional guarantee to support contracts. In market economies, however, the actual situation is different. There, contracts are an additional guarantee for the trust of both partners in a transaction because if all goes well there will be no need to enforce the contract (in legal procedures, for example). Of course, a contract is quite necessary as a written form of agreement and can be used to specify the details of a transaction. Thus, trust is necessary as a primary precondition for a transaction to be made, which a contract details as a secondary precondition.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (October)
Russian History Economic relations Soviet Union social change Russia
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 152 pp.

Biographical notes

Yuri Veselov (Author) Mikhail Sinyutin (Author) Elena Kapustkina (Author)

Yuri Veselov is Head of the Department of Economic Sociology at Saint-Petersburg State University, Russia. He specializes in economic sociology, morals and markets. Mikhail Sinyutin is Professor at Saint-Petersburg State University and specializes in history of sociology, sociology of money and institutions. Elena Kapustkina is a lecturer at Saint-Petersburg State University specializing in entrepreneurship and gender studies.


Title: Trust, Morality, and Markets
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154 pages