Trust in Legal Institutions: an Empirical Approach from a Social Capital Perspective


  • Mariana Zuleta Ferrari Tilburg Law School


Social capital, trust, legal institutions, methodology, confianza, instituciones legales, metodología


Over the last decades, there is a growing public perception that some of the democratic institutions and frameworks, which were once taken for granted, are now showing their flaws, inefficiencies, increasingly struggling to keep up with society’s demands and expectations. This has led to a generalized feeling of uncertainty and disappointment, resulting in a lack of trust institutions. The implications of these circumstances on legal theory cannot be overlooked; this article aims to address the problem from an innovative perspective. A unique tool is presented in this article, which proposes a methodological agenda for approaching trust in legal institutions, from the perspective of the social capital theory. To this end, different variables and social capital dynamics will be identified and discussed in relation to trust in legal institutions. The aim is to, on one hand, provide an innovative methodological contribution to better understand the trust crisis, and in particular, the public perception towards legal institutions, and on the other, expand the analysis of social capital dimensions.

Durante las últimas décadas, ha sido posible observar una creciente percepción general de que instituciones y estructuras democráticas que años atrás eran dadas por sentadas, presentan, hoy en día, fallas e ineficiencias que dificultan su capacidad de acompañar las demandas y expectativas de la sociedad. Ello ha llevado a un estado generalizado de incertidumbre y decepción, que resulta en la falta de confianza en las instituciones. Las implicancias de estas circumstancias para la teoría legal no pueden ser subestimadas. Este artículo aborda el problema desde una pespectiva innovadora. Presenta una herramienta única que propone una agenda metodológica para aproximarse a la temática de la confianza en las instituciones legales, desde la perspectiva de la teoría del capital social. A este fin, distintas variables y dinámicas del capital social serán indentificadas y discutidas en relación a la confianza en las instituciones legales. El objetivo es proporcionar una contribución metodológica innovativa con los objetivos, por un lado, de mejorar la comprensión de la crisis de la confianza, y en particular, la percepción general hacia las instituciones legales, y por otro, expandir al análisis de las dimensiones del capital social.


Author Biography

Mariana Zuleta Ferrari, Tilburg Law School

Mariana Zuleta Ferrari is originally from Argentina. She is a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Public Law, Jurisprudence and Legal History of the Tilburg Law School in the Netherlands. She has obtained her Master's degree in Public Management at Bocconi University (Italy) and her PhD in "Law and Society" at the University of Milan (Italy). Mariana's research subjects are social capital, trust in legal institutions, social cohesion and security governance. She has also a broad background as a practicing lawyer as well as working in international organizations. Tilburg Law School. Department of Public Law, Jurisprudence and Legal History. PO Box 90153. 5000 LE. Tilburg. The Netherlands.




How to Cite

Zuleta Ferrari, M. (2016) “Trust in Legal Institutions: an Empirical Approach from a Social Capital Perspective”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 6(5), pp. 1141–1170. Available at: (Accessed: 30 November 2022).