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Rethinking political distrust

  • Eri Bertsou (a1)

Abstract

Increasing political distrust has become a commonplace observational remark across many established democracies, and it is often used to explain current political phenomena. In contrast to most scholarship that focuses solely on the concept of trust and leaves distrust untheorized, this article makes a contribution by analysing political distrust. It argues that citizen distrust of government and political institutions poses a threat for democratic politics and clarifies the relationship between the distrust observed in established democracies and classical ‘liberal distrust’, which is considered beneficial for democracy. Further, it addresses the relationship between trust and distrust, identifying a series of functional asymmetries between the two concepts, with important implications for theoretical and empirical work in political science. The article suggests that a conceptualization of political distrust based on evaluations of incompetence, unethical conduct and incongruent interests can provide a fruitful ground for future research that aims to understand the causes, consequences, and potential remedies for political distrust.

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