Publish at June 01 2022 Updated June 07 2022

Trust, the basis for living well in society, yes, but which society are we talking about?

The COVID era and its effect on our societies.


In 2019, came the COVID 19 epidemic in China.

We watched it from afar, too far perhaps this evil that created strange institutional and social behaviors.

Asian countries were already known for their masks, people who were sick or asthmatic or sensitive to air pollution wore the mask out of social respect we thought from our distant countries. But, it was already the seeds of something else, that of social mistrust or social distrust? There was a loss of social trust in any case.

The necessary social trust

"Life in society presupposes granting a share of trust to others: it is the very principle of submission to an authority. When citizens vote, they entrust their representatives with a piece of sovereignty...

Thomas Hobbes emphasized the importance of trust in the construction of the social body and the modern state. Individuals live in a state of warfare that is often reduced to an expression of distrust of other individuals. This state of war is the expression of envy or hatred. Trust amounts to submitting one's will to the will of Leviathan, which means that this submission is more than mere consent: one surrenders one's right to rule because one trusts the state, understood by Hobbes as civitas...

This trust in institutions is essential and conditions the state of mind of the social body..."

Source: Defiance, méfiance ou confiance dans la société contemporaine -
Groupe ISP - dépt formation - ENM - 2011

Social trust in our societies of hierarchical typology is based on the leader who has the power. And, it declines from the top down. In a corrupt society from the top for example, there can be no social trust, because the head will drag the whole structure into the pattern that structures it by its ways.

Virtuous social trust

"Trust is an indispensable step for the sense of responsibility: having trust in someone, in an action contributes to the functioning of social groups and the autonomy of individuals. It is also a key element of parental education or the hierarchical principle.

In the latter case, the superior entrusts attributions to a subordinate, with the responsibility for him/her to be accountable in case of difficulties. In terms of management, this solution is supposed to motivate the agent in question more. Trust is therefore a means of management or organization..."

Source: Trust, mistrust or confidence in contemporary society
ISP Group - training dept - ENM - 2011

In this case, social trust has an ascending hierarchical typology. It is the base that will do its part to solidify the trust of the overall edifice.

Trust is two-way, top-down and bottom-up at the same time and the two intertwined form a coherent and solid edifice. But if one of the two phenomena is disrupted then it can jeopardize the whole.

Social trust betrayed

"Giving trust can be risky. Modern societies have witnessed the evils of charisma or the development of the cult of the leader. The individuals, mobilized in the mass, without intermediate bodies, let themselves be guided (Duce, nickname given to Mussolini, comes from the Latin ducere, to lead).

The legislative corpus includes provisions aimed at preventing the betrayal of trust. The breach of trust, provided for by the penal code, punishes the fact that a person embezzles, to the prejudice of another person, funds, values or any property whatsoever which has been given to him and which he has accepted on the condition that he return them, represent them or make a specific use of them. Transition: the loss of trust seems to some to have turned into a society of mistrust in which the era of suspicion has become permanent. The development of conspiracy theories is only one of the testimonies of this phenomenon and highlights its limits if not its dangers."

Source: Trust, Distrust or Confidence in Contemporary Society
ISP Group - Training Department - ENM - 2011

To guarantee the stability of the edifice, one needs safeguards, laws, deontologies, ethics. But, when a phenomenon is atypical like an epidemic such as we have one per century, there are no safeguards or normalities to hold on to and then social trust can crumble from the bottom up because the head is not prepared to handle the atypicality it has to deal with.

Distance, the new social morality

"Health measures have worked, in a vast movement, to put others at a generalized distance. Social relations have been subjected to unsuspected assaults, via many experiments piloted by the experts advising our leaders, experts fond of social psychology, neuroscience or other precautions "milgramming" our lives. (Milgram experiment)

So is the practice of nudge, which leads us to accept "in small steps" what at first seemed inconceivable: lockdowns, self-exit warnings, generalized wearing of masks, curfews, vaccinations in close doses, vaccine passports, QR-coding of our lives. Many behavioral changes have been presented as "citizen and responsible", establishing a new ethos based on distance, suspicion, self-control, itself reinforced by technological vigilances (terminals, passes and QR codes) and the guards of this new sanitary order, paid to enforce the directives. A new era of suspicion has risen to power...

The purpose is to put distance between individuals and also to exercise control over them, to verify that the distancing devices, seconded by social engineering reinforcing them, are applied and scrupulously respected.

Outside of any sanitary consideration, the consequences are important: here is the era of distended, disfigured relationships (cf. the generalization of the wearing of masks), emptied by force of things of their symbolic and sensitive density. And the "archipellization" of society is accelerated by this distancing. This is what Pierre Rimbert emphasized when he placed "health crisis and digitization of the world" in parallel, endeavoring to demonstrate that the digitization of our relationships, conceived by asocial geeks, is being imposed.

Source: From Distant Society to Distrustful Society - May 15, 2022

Social distancing is the antipode of social trust. How do we manage this new emerging society? Sometimes fate works out well. Yesterday, it was decried to prefer to stay behind your computer rather than go for a walk in the parks or have collective activities. The COVID era is the emergence of a new civilization based on social juxtaposition, not social inclusion.

Trust, at the heart of the social pact

"How can we "make society" at a distance and without trust, when everyone distrusts everyone, and vice versa? For Covid has opened up a crisis of trust, at all levels of society. Distance, suspicion and distrust have been established as new social values. And from the government to the media, a relational chastity has been massively promoted via posters, television spots, throbbing soundtracks. Distrusting those close to you, keeping a "safe distance", protecting yourself at all costs, considering others, the environment and objects as possible dangers. Covid has instituted a new kind of social paranoia, with its hygienic morality and its new rites, including the gel, a secular stoup inviting to precautionary ablutions. There are scientific shortcuts behind all this, if not magical thinking.

More deeply, we are witnessing an incredible mesh of society and individuals, against the backdrop of generalized "Big Brotherization." To live "with Covid" is to live with the "contactless" (banking) and the QR codes, with the certificates that authorize but also track and trace. It means accepting a benefit/risk situation where donating one's personal data allows one to be a "Premium citizen", connected and protected. Here comes the society of sesames and rights, where some will have unlimited access to places and services because they will have accepted to pass under the forks of the political and medical powers. This is an observation more than a judgment...

We know how much Klaus Schwab's book "The Great Reset" has been glossed over, recuperated, distorted sometimes, and how much it has brought water to the mill of conspiracy theories. Could it be otherwise? In any case, the Davos boss explains in substance that the Covid episode can constitute a "rare window of opportunity", precisely to "reset" society, by imposing distance and digitalization as new social paradigms..."

Source: From Distant Society to Distrustful Society - May 15, 2022

The chain of social links has become more distant, isolating each person behind his or her machine, while the chain of digital links has hardened, pushing each Internet user to meet not physically in person but in the controlling and sanitary space of the digital world, with just as many viruses, but which do not, on the whole, affect physical health. In two years, the COVID era has ushered in the era of the Metaverse. Digital worlds of leisure and escape where everything is possible and more than the real world. But, is this enough to nourish the human being eager for social links?

Humanity begins with the concern for the Other

..., posited Emmanuel Levinas. For the French philosopher, we are thus characterized by our sociality, that is, the tendency of the species to organize ourselves in society, to build interactions between individuals or groups. But this sociality, how did we acquire it?

Neuropsychologist Nassim Elimari, a doctoral student at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, puts forward an answer: "Social species are the result of an evolutionary process in which social faculties increase the chances of reproduction."

In this view, mutual aid and cooperation are an advantage, providing better protection from predators and making it easier to find food. But living together also poses problems. Guillaume Dezecache, a researcher in cognitive psychology at the University of Clermont-Auvergne, reminds us, "For each individual, there is a tension between the benefits of cooperation and the risk of competition for food or reproduction."

Source: This Visceral Need to Live in Society - 15.01.2022

Four social parameters underlie society: cooperation, competition, food and reproduction. Today a part of internet business is based on games and sex, but it lacks the contact between humans, that of looking, that of touching, that of meeting and sharing, all of which are harmed with the social distancing of the COVID era and all of which, are main sources of the psychological problems our society has to face. To these we must add stress. Humans are still social beings. And some are trying to take steps to repair the damage.

"The current health situation, due to the pandemic, has considerable repercussions not only on the health or economic level, but also on the social level. The loss of income of a part of the population, the increase in precariousness and the use of social benefits, coupled with measures limiting interpersonal contacts and interactions between individuals alter our social cohesion and our living together.

The limitation of travel, leisure, meetings or gatherings has negative consequences on our health, our behaviors and our relationship with others. In this particular context, the outcome of which is not known at this time, it is necessary today to renew the links of proximity and solidarity, especially in the most precarious neighborhoods of the canton. Indeed, the current crisis has the effect of a social distancing which is not without weakening the cohesion within the population.

The cancellation of the vast majority of public events in the fields of culture, sports or other social events, rituals (weddings, funerals, birthdays, etc.) is not going to be without affecting, perhaps durably, the relations between the individuals composing our society. In this context, and in order to respond to the need to rebuild society, the Department of Social Cohesion (DCS) is launching a call for proposals to finance and promote projects in the fields of culture, sports or social action that aim to strengthen social cohesion in urban areas.

Insofar as a plural and transversal response is necessary to meet these challenges, projects articulating at least two of these fields are encouraged. "

Source: State of GENEVA - Call for projects - Rebuilding social cohesion after COVID-19 - March 22, 2021


Schools, as well as associations, states, elected officials... have a primary role as role models when it comes to rebuilding social trust. Perhaps one day, trust will be the subject of a course in trust in the other as an individual and in society.

Natural, more primitive trust is far from us, we are facing today new levels of trust consciousness, more individual, more intellectual, more framed, more artificial with its advantages and defects.

"Sociological character refers to the social nature of the individual and his or her representations that are rooted in social practices and institutions, but above all to our society as an experience of change. In a society marked by the rise of individualism, individuals find themselves faced with institutions, deprived of intermediary bodies or solidarities.

"The uncertain individual" (Alain Ehrenberg, 1995) feels a greater need to have confidence in institutions. However, contemporary society also expresses various forms of anxiety or solitude that weigh on these individuals who are victims of "self-fatigue" (Alain Ehrenberg, 1998). Should we not see this as a link with the increased autonomy of the individual?

Source: Defiance, méfiance ou confiance dans la société contemporaine - Groupe ISP - dépt formation - ENM 2011

Perhaps new words will have to be invented in the face of this mutation of society. Health trust, digital trust, trust in the Metaverse, digital ethics, artificial ethics, I have a feeling we're going to have to reinvent everything.

Image Source: DepositPhotos - Citalliance

See more articles by this author


  • Trust


Access exclusive services for free

Subscribe and receive newsletters on:

  • The lessons
  • The learning resources
  • The file of the week
  • The events
  • The technologies

In addition, index your favorite resources in your own folders and find your history of consultation.

Subscribe to the newsletter

Add to my playlists

Create a playlist

Receive our news by email

Every day, stay informed about digital learning in all its forms. Great ideas and resources. Take advantage, it's free!