H. H. KIM
tion. In addition, the causal impact of a new independent vari-
able is examined, something that the extant literature does not
take into account. In the era of increasing economic and cul-
tural globalization, transnational identity has become one of the
characteristic traits of contemporary life. How people perceive
themselves has critical ramifications in terms of policy choices
and preferences. As Kunovich (2009) shows, for example, there
is a strong association between the content of national identity
and the types of domestic and foreign policies people prefer and
endorse, which can “affect both potential members of a nation
and a nation’s interactions with other countries” (591).
One of the contributions this paper makes is to examine the
extent to which people’s self-identification affects their subjec-
tive evaluation of a global financial institution, an international
regulatory agency, and multinational businesses. According to
the regression output, the coefficients for the transnational
identity variable are consistently robust and negative: those
who identify themselves as belonging to a group that lies be-
yond national borders are less likely to trust global institutions
to function in ways that could benefit their lives. This is a novel
finding with interesting implications. Clearly, globalization will
only intensify over time. As many scholars have observed, the
multifaceted process of globalization “is here to stay.” And
“how it will be governed is the [only] question” (Nye & Dona-
hue, 2000: p. 38). Naturally, then, globalization will usher in
ever more forcefully transnational identities. After all, their rise
is seen as an inevitable product of cultural globalization, as
Huntington’s (1993, 1996) clash of civilization argument and
related others have made all too apparent. If so, there will be a
growing tension between the increasing and perhaps inexorable
roles played by international organizations like the WB, the
WTO and MNCs as agents of globalization and people’s dis-
trust in them as they progressively take on an identity that tran-
scends national boundaries. It remains an empirical question as
to how and to what degree this tension will get in the way of
effective global governance, an issue that remains both urgent
and controversial (Brown et al., 2000).
The current study has some limitations, which point toward
the possible directions for future research. First of all, as Hardin
(2002) explains, much of the research on social capital and
institutional or political trust is really about the “trustworthi-
ness” of political institutions. As such, researchers should in-
clude in the analysis various performance-related satisfaction
measures. This would provide a more conservative and hence
more accurate test of whether or not generalized trust has any
causal influence on institutional trust. The dataset provided by
the Asian Barometer Survey, unfortunately, does not provide
information on institutional performance. Also problematic
may be the questionnaire designed to measure generalized trust.
As Hardin (2002) points out, what the standard survey question
seeks to measure “is not genuinely generalized trust. The re-
spondents are forced by the vagueness of the questions to give
vague answers, and it is a misdescription to label their re-
sponses as generalized trust” (61). This study tried to overcome
this limitation by creating the generalized trust variable using
another question in the survey (“Do you think that people gen-
erally try to be helpful or do you think that they mostly look out
for themselves?”). This too, however, is not without conceptual
and methodological problems, and future research should come
up with a variety of improved questions as possible alterna-
Another shortcoming has to do with the issue of causality.
Though this is not a major concern for the present study, it is
something that plagues many others that seek to establish a link
between social capital and various outcome variables related to
democracy and democratic governance. According to Paxton’s
(2002) findings, the relationship between social capital, which
she conceptualizes in terms of generalized trust and associa-
tional membership, and democracy is reciprocal. Using panel
data, she demonstrates that the causality in fact runs both ways.
Studies based on longitudinal data would minimize this thorny
issue and help produce more convincing results underscoring
the role of social capital in producing institutional trust, support
for democracy, and political activism as well as other important
outcomes. Also, there may be critical contextual factors, such
as the level of democratic development of a nation, that mediate
the effects of generalized trust on various political conse-
quences, which many previous studies have ignored (see Jamal
& Noorudin, 2010). Future attempts need to incorporate these
into the analytical framework for more nuanced arguments
concerning the “functions” of social capital.
The literature on generalized trust and social capital is indeed
huge and growing. They have given much legitimacy to the
political culture perspective and offered valuable insights into
the workings of various aspects of democracy. As is the case
with any other popular concept in the social sciences, however,
they suffer from the danger of losing heuristic value. Preventing
that from happening will require more careful hypothesizing
about the causality between independent and dependent vari-
ables and a more refined methodological approach geared to-
ward collecting higher quality data. This is a tall order but one
that promises a great deal of intellectual payoff.
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