“They have good devices”: Trust, Mining, and the Microsociology of Environmental Decision-making

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Trust, Gold mining, Guatemala, Environmental conflicts, New extractivism, Self-efficacy

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Daniels College of Business, Business Ethics and Legal Studies


Since the 1990s, transnational mining firms have increasingly sought new deposits in the developing world. This shift in global patterns of mineral activity has led to contestation by mining host community residents and their activist allies. A swell of recent literature in the social sciences explores this phenomenon, largely accepting conventional wisdom about the causal forces behind individuals' choices to contest mining. This article examines individual decision-making around mineral conflicts in an effort to bring the microsocial into focus. Trust is an essential and largely ignored dimension of mining conflicts. We argue that two types of trust—institutional and relational trust—help explain how individuals form preferences about mining in their territory. We further argue that individuals' sense of self-efficacy underlies their decisions about whom to trust or distrust. We also seek to deepen the social theorization of trust by challenging the common binary of affective and cognitive trust. To make this argument we draw from a mixed-methods study of responses to gold mining in Guatemala.

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