This chapter shows how the concept of ‘trust’ can be used as a basis for thinking about the university in a way that transcends both modern (rational, managerial) and traditional (Humboldtian) ideas about organising academic life. The first part shows how both rational choice and sociological theories of trust and cooperation can inform our understanding of low- and high-trust communities. It is proposed that some elements of the rational choice perspective can be used to understand the functioning of low-trust communities, but that describing trusting social relations also requires a theory that addresses the emotive and moral dimensions of trust. The second part presents how rational theories of management produce low-trust institutional arrangements inimical to basic academic activities such as research and teaching. The rational management perspective is contrasted with the Humboldtian framework, which organises academic activity in a way that accounts for many issues typical for knowledge-producing organisations. The Humboldtian model is nevertheless flawed, as it limits trust relationships to professors – an elite caste within the academic system – alienating both young academic workers and the university’s clients: the state and the middle class. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the conditions that, according to modern literature on trust and cooperation, should be met for universities to become high-trust communities.
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