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Social Theory and Practice

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published on February 19, 2020

Marc A. Cohen

Generalized Trust in Taiwan and (as Evidence for) Hirschman’s doux commerce Thesis

Data from the World Values Survey shows that generalized trust in Mainland China—trust in out-group members—is very low, but generalized trust in Taiwan is much higher. The present paper argues that positive interactions with out-group members in the context of Taiwan’s export-oriented economy fostered generalized trust—and so explains this difference. This line of argument provides evidence for Albert O. Hirschman’s doux commerce thesis, that market interaction can improve persons and even stabilize the social order. The present paper defends this point by separating two theses that Hirschman combines under that label, a countervailing forces thesis and a doux commerce thesis narrowly understood. These theses offer different explanations (or mechanisms) for how commerce could have those positive effects. The data about Taiwanese trust practices provides evidence for the latter.

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