Endogenous Institutional Trustworthiness – EnTrust

A conceptual and normative inquiry with the tools of analytical political philosophy


The EnTrust-Endogenous Institutional Trustworthiness Project in brief [​​download]​​​​​


Common sense says that dysfunctional institutions are not trustworthy. The project engages with this common sense by studying, from a conceptual and normative perspective, the structural features of institutional functioning. By theorizing the notion of “endogenous institutional trustworthiness”, the project analyses how officeholders may mutually trust their interrelated conduct to sustain the functioning of their institution. The project aims thus:

  • to explore the ethical grounds of this kind of trust,
  • what emotional reactions the lack of this kind of trust triggers, and
  • how such reactions may undermine or in fact be mobilized to secure the overall quality of the institution. 

The project’s key idea is that a necessary condition for institutional functioning is that officeholders should exercise their power of office according to a rationale justifiable as coherent with their power mandate (“office accountability”). The conjecture that qualifies the novelty of the project is that an institution realizing office accountability is endogenously trustworthy because its constitutive mechanisms ground officeholders’ mutual trust that their interrelated action sustains the institution’s functioning. The project assesses this conjecture by developing a taxonomy of officeholders’ critical reactions to deficits of office accountability (e.g., corruption) through contestatory uses of their powers of office (e.g. civil disobedience) as revealing of a lack of endogenous institutional trustworthiness. By bringing out also the emotional character of these reactions (e.g., self-righteousness, anger, guilt or shame), the project assesses the degree to which such “emotional capital” may undercut or in fact be mobilized to activate an institution’s internal resources of self-correction.