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The heuristic value of the social: The effect of social quality and trust on welfareand tax ...

The heuristic value of the social: The effect of social quality and trust on welfare

and tax attitudes

Dong-Kyun Im | University of Seoul, Republic of Korea


In the last decades, enhancing social trust and improving social quality have been often considered as the antidote to the problems produced by the neoliberal makeover of the social life. However, it remains unclear whether higher social quality and trust actually produce more pro-social attitudes among people. Based on a statistical analysis of a cross-national survey administered in five countries, this article shows that social quality and social trust, as empirical indicators of the social, do not always generate pro-social attitudes. It demonstrates that perceived social quality and trust on social institutions can generate both conservative and liberal attitudes toward social welfare and taxation. In order to explain the varying effects of social quality and trust, we propose a heuristic model of political cognition and motivation, which illustrates how the political variety of the social is possible. Our model highlights the contextual contingencies of the political meaning of the social.


Attitudes toward taxes, cognitive sociology, social quality, social trust, welfare attitudes

International Sociology 2018, Vol. 33(3) 407– 432

DOI: 10.1177/0268580918760429

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