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Trust in a Polarized Age, Kevin Vallier

Reviewed by Aaron Rosenthal

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The dual trends of rising partisan polarization and declining trust in government have driven a vast amount of scholarship in American politics. Kevin Vallier’s book Trust in a Polarized Age argues that we must understand these trends as mutually reinforcing: distrust fosters polarization and vice versa. This vicious cycle creates the pervasive political war in contemporary American politics. To interrupt this negative feedback loop, Vallier argues that we must use liberal institutions to strengthen five liberal rights practices: freedom of association, private markets and property rights, social welfare programs, democratic constitutionalism, and electoral democracy.

The book serves as the empirically oriented sequel to Vallier’s Must Politics be War? (2019). Trust in a Polarized Age can be read alone, however, thanks in part to Vallier’s summary of Must Politics be War? in Chapter 1, where he explains why liberal institutions, and only liberal institutions, can save America from political war. After a brief exploration of the empirical trust literature in Chapter 2, Vallier then provides a chapter to each of the liberal rights he believes can rebuild our trust.

In these chapters, Vallier employs a two-step argume

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