What can we contribute?

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Tue, 9 Jan 1996 22:44:26 +0900

Vance Geiger writes, " Fukuyama's Trust is essentially a homage
to Western culture dressed up as a cross-cultural analysis. The
reasoning behind the title Trust, givesFukuyama away almost
from the start. Trust is something "we"have, but others lack."

I must disagree. While I suspect that Fukuyama's argument is
overgeneralized, which I take to be the inevitable fate of
sweeping generalizations, it is not so naive as Geiger makes it
out to be. The us who have "trust" includes at least Germany and
Japan. The "them" who don't includes specifically, in addition to
China, Italy and, to a certain extent, France. In a nutshell,
Fukuyama argues that those nations that have prospered in the
global market economy are not those in which individuals
struggle atomistically on behalf of themselves and their families
(however broadly defined), but those whose traditions include
the possibility of trusting relationships between strangers, who
are thus enabled to form enduring associations, of which major
corporations are one example. That these should include
cultures as diverse as Germany, Japan and the U.S.A. is
intriguing, precisely because it suggests the possibility of
explanations which are neither purely "rational choice" (a.k.a.
market economics) nor "cultural" (gee whiz, those Japs sure got
somethin') and, in addition, values that might be worth
supporting. Unless, of course, you prefer the world for which the
former Yugoslavia is a bloody (pun intended) fine model.

Fukuyama's analysis is, of course, a plea for something besides
the simple-minded sort of multiculturalism which says, "Aw
shucks. Head-hunting, holocausts, rape, torture, a bit of pillage--
all part of the local habits." The odd thing, you know, is that
people who see everything in terms of greed and power leave no
reason whatsoever why those who have shouldn't
exploit/brutalize/slaughter the have-nots to keep what we have
for ourselves. Our customs, ya know. The way the market works,
ya know. If Fukuyama's a bit parochial, and he's not all that
parochial, what have you got in mind that's better? That's a
point worth pondering.


John McCreery