7: Democratic decline? Civil society and trust in government

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This chapter considers the contemporary decline of political trust and the potential existential threat that it poses to democracy. Drawing on comparative analysis from the UK, France and Germany it examines governance-trust configurations and their likely propensity to foster co-production and co-creation between state and civil society. A key finding is the extent to which the development of trust within civil society varies as much within as between states. The analysis also highlights how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the erosion of trust. The study argues that potential solutions for restoring political trust and reversing the perceived decline of democracy have civil society at their heart and include the adoption of more diverse and effective forms of citizen engagement. Yet the discussion also warns that this is fraught with difficulties. Notably, the adoption of co-creation or co-production to build trust with civil society actors is likely to be most challenging in new governance regions where a shared history or identity is largely absent.

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Civil Society in an Age of Uncertainty
Institutions, Governance and Existential Challenges