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Title: Trust and social capital in urban Kenya and Tanzania
Author: Burbidge, Dominic
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Stable networks of cooperation, through which persons act under assumptions of reciprocity, promise-keeping and trust, are necessary for any society to flourish. These relationships have been described as “social capital”, defined as the norms and networks that enable collective action. Whilst study of social capital has generated much attention from those interested in its consequences for economic development and social unity, there remains a certain gap within the social sciences between homo economicus assumptions of self-motivated behaviour and manifestations of social capital. This invites analysis into the causes of social capital, which is the question taken up in this thesis. Asking what necessary conditions facilitate social capital’s emergence, this study analyses trustful relationships in urban Kenya and Tanzania. Urban living acts as a litmus test to trust relations and helps expose the necessary forces for social capital’s creation. Alongside this, the research sites of Kenya and Tanzania assisted in controlling for historical and cultural factors that may blur causal accounts of social capital. The two countries share similarities in their political, social and economic histories and, at the same time, exhibit diverging political emphases since independence and resulting levels of citizen-on-citizen trust. The country-level similarities and differences thus help contrast the lower levels of urban trust found in Kenya against the higher levels found in Tanzania, allowing in-depth examination of the conditions that support social capital’s emergence. Evidence is offered firstly through qualitative exploration of the formation of trustful relationships in economically competitive scenarios. Study of a single social network of plastic-bag sellers in Mwanza, Tanzania, reveals the importance of early anchors of trust as zones of reputation-indication. The comparative experiences of local market-sellers in Kisumu, Kenya, and Mwanza, Tanzania, support understanding higher levels of trust to pervade in Tanzania than in Kenya, and evaluate the influence of ethnic homogeneity for community solidarity. Interviews with business owners of Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, proceed to offer insights on alternative, normative dimensions that may help explain different levels of trust found amongst citizens. To measure the quantitative extent of trust and particular factors influential for its formation, “trust games” were deployed in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. The experiments were engineered to test areas of common knowledge, specifically ethnicity and the “social virtue” of integrity. Engaging with common knowledge variables in this way offered for analysis areas of mutual understanding between citizens. Alongside confirming higher levels of trust in Tanzania than in Kenya, the games revealed how common knowledge of ethnicity and integrity bore influential effects on levels of trust that were country-specific. Whilst common knowledge of ethnicity tended to have a negative impact on levels of cooperation in Tanzania as compared to Kenya, the effect was the opposite for the social virtue of integrity. The thesis’ central argument is that congruence between citizens on what marks out a trustworthy person is a precondition for relationships of trust to emerge; some symmetry in the moral discourse surrounding agency, character and reputation is thus critical for bringing about the economic and political benefits associated with social capital.
Supervisor: Cheeseman, Nic Sponsor: Herbert and Isle Frankel ; Oriel College
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Governance and ethics ; Human development ; Political economy of markets and states ; Development economics ; Microeconomics ; Governance in Africa ; Urban Studies ; Trust ; Game Theory ; Social Capital