Social Contract, Social Capital, and Trust

The challenges we face as a people are many and this by itself does not differentiate us from other people, societies and cultures.  We possess many noble qualities, such as hospitality, that differentiate and distinguish us.  Yet for centuries our society has suffered because of characteristics that unless it is recognized and addressed the challenges we face will remain intractable.

Trust is both an emotional and a logical act that without doubt plays a significant role in the progress of a society.   It increases predictability, encourages exchange of ideas and goods, and improves honesty.  Predictability improves safety and with safety we can be more productive, independent thinking, and grow individually as a society.  Our ability to exchange ideas and goods without fear of a loss or consequence no doubt will improve our economy and understanding of the world we live in.  By being more honest, we expose our vulnerability and when that vulnerability is not taken advantage of, it further reinforces trust in society.

Social capital is the inherent value of the social connections within a group.  We as Iranians value our connections socially but our social capital falls short of its potential.  Often we have lamented our aversion to network with one another professionally or in business dealings.  I surmise that lack of trust is at the root of our challenges here also.

Social contract is a person’s moral and political obligation towards one another.  This typically manifests itself through representative government and the obligations that government has towards its citizens.  Once again, we find ourselves coming back to the role of trust.   Throughout history, and even today, our forms of governance have, but for brief periods, failed to function as the means by which the will of the people is expressed and implemented.  No doubt this has heightened our lack of trust in any of our past and present forms of governance as being representative of the people’s will.

These definitions only serve to frame the very real challenges we face in the context of a moral imperative, namely trust.  It is an act that needs to be nurtured, modeled, and reciprocated.  It is regenerative. An act of trust begets more trust.  Our ability to improve our social capital depends on it.  When our social capital rises, its potency in transforming the mechanisms of governance increases.  Trust can be the enabler and its absence the main obstacle to these transformations. 

Where can we begin but with ourselves? 


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