Trust and sustainable agriculture: the construction and application of an integrative theory

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Carolan, Michael
Major Professor
Michael M. Bell
Committee Member
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Sociology and Anthropology

This dissertation represents a journey into one of the most ubiquitous and complex of all social phenomena: trust. Within this text, a wide terrain of socio-theoretical phenomena is explored, ultimately leading us to an integrative theory of trust grounded within the social relations of everyday life. As I explain, trust is an essential component of all social relations; it is what gives social life life. To trust is to possess attitudes toward what we know that we do not know---attitudes that are present in most (if not all) moments of reflexive consciousness. As such, trust is also intricately tied to relations of power, knowledge, and identity. But this attitude of our knowledge of non-knowledge should not be understood as a unitary phenomena; rather, there are four such attitudes (or, if one prefers, four types of trust): simple trust, confidence, faith, and hope. These four attitudes of trust are distinguishable by varying perceptions of risk and evidence present in a situation, and which constitute the basis of my four-quadrant model of trust. This work is not, however, merely a theoretical exploration, but also a practical one. Consequently, following the theoretical exposition, attention is directed toward an empirical case study of agricultural social change---namely, the social movement of sustainable agriculture. The goal of merging theory and research in this manner is two-fold. First, to help illustrate and corroborate aspects of the preceding theoretical model, but also to gain insight into the driving empirical question. Specifically, the dissertation examines the relationship between landlords and tenants and how that relationship impacts the adoption or non-adoption of sustainable farming practices on rented land. The dissertation concludes by highlighting some possible conceptual implications of the theoretical model of trust on other contemporary theoretical frameworks, potential practical uses for the model itself, and a discussion of policies that could be implemented to promote sustainable agriculture in light of the preceding empirical analysis.

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Tue Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2002