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Trust in Systems

Luhmann describes very clearly that organisations cannot form from personal trust, i.e. from trust between people. This works in teams and families, which is why a break of trust or a particularly well-developed climate of trust have such an impact. Not least for this reason organisations differ very much from teams or small businesses.

In the case of organisations, members must trust in the ‘organisation’ system: i.e. in the payroll accounting process and not in the respective wages clerk! Of course, this trust can be shaken where mistakes are made by the wages clerk (long-term, too), but it is not fundamentally bound to his behaviour.

Trust in systems (Luhmann) is a relatively recent achievement of society and it enables a great deal of complexity. It does, however, presuppose an effort on the part of people, which is not so self-evident. A willingness to trust between people emerges from emotions such as affection and sympathy or rejection and antipathy, which are usually very stable over the long-term (“I will ‘never’ trust him again!”). Therefore, to put one’s trust in systems for which one feels nothing, requires a cultural ‘education’, which is sometimes naively and rather hastily presumed.