This talk is the opening keynote of the 2021 BAA Conference on "Rethinking Solidarity".


The keynote speech will be streamed live on YouTube: https://youtu.be/wdY1PIhPaKM

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Pippa Norris: "The Two Faces of Trust (aka the Cautionary Fable of the Frog and the Scorpion)"

Opening Keynote of the 20th BAA International Conference / Via live stream


The keynote speech will be streamed live on YouTube:


Opening Keynote of this year's international Bavarian American Academy (BAA) Conference on "Rethinking Solidarity."


The extensive contemporary literature from multiple disciplines has highlighted many beneficial consequences claimed to arise from trust within advanced industrialized societies, such as for promoting solidarity and overcoming collective action problems within local communities (Putnam); lubricating the wheels of economic markets (Fukuyama); managing organizations (Mayer, Davis and Schoorman); overcoming gridlock in policymaking (Hetherington); and facilitating international cooperation underpinning the democratic peace (Russett). It follows that any signs of low or eroding trust are, and should be, a matter of serious concern.

But a broader perspective recognizes that in fact trust has two faces, not one. Blind trust in anti-vax posts weaken herd immunity, putting lives at risk. Faith in Q-Anon conspiracy theories triggered violent insurrection attacking the U.S. Capital. Equally disastrous consequences can follow from gullible belief in fake Covid-19 cures like ingesting bleach, investing lifesavings in Madoff pyramid schemes, or trusting the Big Lie about President Biden’s legitimate victory. It is well-known that trust has a dark side, after all, the fable of the frog and the scorpion teaches children to beware of faux promises.

This presentation, drawn from a forthcoming OUP book In Praise of Skepticism, questions the prevalent rosy assumptions underpinning modern accounts of trust. The study unpacks the concept of dark trust and advances a new 4-fold typology of trustworthy relationships. This is used to analyze new empirical evidence drawn from the World Values Survey 1981-2021 in 115 societies. Social, political, and international dimensions of trust are compared among diverse authoritarian states, ranging from Myanmar, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan to China, Russia, Nicaragua, and Qatar, as well as among industrialized liberal democracies such as Germany, the U.S. and the UK. The conclusion argues that the risks of too much compliant trust, among individuals and societies, have commonly been underestimated.



Pippa Norris is a comparative political scientist who has taught at Harvard for three decades. She is the Paul McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, an Affiliated Professor at Harvard’s Government Department, and founding Director of the Electoral Integrity Project. She has also served as Laureate Fellow and Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney.


Her research compares public opinion and elections, democratic institutions and cultures, gender politics, and political communications in many countries worldwide. A well-known public speaker and prolific author, she has published around fifty books. Her work has been published in more than a dozen languages.

Major honors include the 2020 Samuel Eldersveld award by APSA, the 2019 Charles Merriam award by APSA, 2018 fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the 2017 Isaiah Berlin Lifetime Achievement Award by the PSA, the 2017 International Institutional Engagement award, the 2016 Brown Medal for Democracy, the Australian PSA’s 2016 Academic Leadership in Political Science, IPSA’s 2014 Karl Deutsch award, the 2011 Johan Skytte prize in political science, and the ARC’s 2011 Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship. Book prizes include the 2018 George H. Hallet book award (for Political Recruitment), the 2006 Doris A. Graber award for the best book in political communications (for A Virtuous Circle), and the Virginia Hodgkinson prize (for Sacred and Secular). Honorary doctorates have been awarded by the University of Edinburgh, the University of Bergen, Leuphema University in Luneberg, and Warwick University.


For professional service, she has served as Vice President of the American Political Science Association (APSA), and the executive of the International Political Science Association (IPSA), the Political Science Association of the UK (PSA), and the World Values Survey Association. Within APSA, she has served as president of the Women and Politics Research Section and the Political Communications Section, the Vice-President and President of the Elections, Public Opinion and Voting Behavior section, and the executive of the British Politics Group and the Representation and Elections Section. She has also been Co-Founding Chair of the Elections, Parties, and Public Opinion Group (EPOP) of the PSA and IPSA’s Elections, Citizens and Parties Research Committee.

For public service, she has served as the Director of the Democratic Governance Group at the United Nations Development Program in New York and the Advisory Board for International IDEA, and been an expert consultant for many international bodies including the UN, UNDP, UNESCO, UN Women, NDI, the Council of Europe, IFES, International IDEA, the OSCE, the World Bank, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the UK and Australian Electoral Commissions.

She has held visiting appointments at Columbia University, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of East Anglia, the University of Oslo, the University of Cape Town, Otago University, Sydney University, and the Australian National University. Prior to joining Harvard in 1992, she taught at Edinburgh University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Politics and Philosophy from Warwick University, and Masters and Doctoral degrees in Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Full details and publications can be found at: www.pippanorris.com



Please note:

Following the talk, you may ask Pippa Norris your questions online. If you prefer to do so even before the lecture, you can write us an e-mail at event@amerikahaus.de – just include “Question for Pippa Norris” in the subject line.


Organizer: Bavarian American Academy


Contact: Dr. Margaretha Schweiger-Wilhelm

(Photo: Pippa Norris © privat)


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