Network Theories of Social Structure  Room TBA    Wed. 9:00-11:50

SS241B: 69621	   		    Douglas R. White, Lilyan A. Brudner

UCI fall 1996       'Netsyl96.htm'  Off:SST 743 714-824-5893 drwhite [at ] uci [dot] edu

Program in Social Networks 	    Home:(619)452-9957


This page was accessed: 104 times up to Nov 23, 1996.
Accessed: times after Nov 23, 1996.

Term paper: research proposal or project with one or more independent or dependent variables relating to network concepts.

Prologue: What is NETWORK THEORY?

Network theories of social structure are not concerned only with quantitative studies of social networks, which are merely one method and one possible application, but with the problems of theory and explanation in the social sciences in terms of including linkage and context effects. Hence the domain of this seminar is the formulation of theory in social observation studies in the social sciences, including those of historical and contemporary sociology, ethnography, social, intellectual and political history, 'social network studies' proper (which tend to be concerned with small group behavior and cognition), empirical economics and markets, organizations, and politics, world-systems and civilizations, which are often considered as networks. Among other components of theory, the network component can be identified as concerned with (1) linkages amongst actors or events, (2) the representation and conceptualization of linkages and structures of linkages of diverse sorts, (3) the problem of social embedding, that is, how sets or structures of linkages form a context for action or events to unfold, (4) context effects, or more generally, the identification of structural or configurational patterns that may themselves have effects or place constraints on other occurrences.

While the literature examined in this seminar deals with one or more of these problems, two generic types of theory come into play. The first is substantive theory developed to deal with the understanding or explanation of particular phenomena under study, which are of course quite varied. The second is foundational or formal theory (construction of concepts) that deals with how we define our concepts. Network theory per se is formal theory, but formal network theory has many substantive theoretical applications. Social networks as a research discipline is held together by its interdisciplinarity. First, there are many problems across different disciplines that may benefit from the use of similar formal concepts to understand their 'network' (linkage and context) component, although substantive interpretations will vary as to the role played by a given formal concept in differing phenemena. Second, to the extent that similarly defined concepts are mobilized in 'puzzle solving' in different disciplines and problem areas, we can pose comparative questions not just between different cases of the same phenomenon but between different phenomena, where we can ask whether or how some of the same types of processes may be operative.

Formal network theory, then, -- an open-ended set of concepts which today feature multiple types of centrality, of position, of strength of ties, of hierarchical embedding, of duality, of cohesion (of circuit blocks, groups and cliques), and of the converses of cohesion in segmentation, et cetera -- is non-predictive theory, aimed instead (on this point see Suppes or Stigmüller) at developing and defining network and structural concepts. Such theory provides, subsequent to formal conceptualization, a basis for comparison and/or insight and/or measurement, although many of the uses of network comparisons are qualitative rather than necessarily quantitative. Such concepts (and quantitative implementations which are directly aimed at prediction, such as network autocorrelation, and statistical decomposition of network and attribute affects, which supplement scaling and multivariate techniques) become potentially explanatory once they are employed (with appropriate interpretation) within substantive theories that aim at empirical explanation. There are some aspects of formal theory, however, that are explanatory in a logico-deductive sense, such as showing the logical and necessary connections between two apparently different aspects of something which turn out to implicate one another by the logic of how their respective concepts for these aspects are defined. Thus, tracing the threefold relation between concepts (formal theory), substantive theories of phenomena, and the observed or observable phenomena that are the target of the theorizing turns out to involve a number of subtleties that involve a close inspection of the logical arguments involved at each level and in connecting these levels. Connections between levels often do involve quantification: (1) formal - substantive linkages can be assessed through measurement concepts, for example, and (2) substantive theory - empirical evidentiary links are often assessed by goodness of fit vis-à-vis alternative models. Case-by-case analysis or analysis of exceptions, however, are among the valid qualitative approaches. There are also other aspects of formal theory, however, that lead more directly to substantive theoretical insights, without the intervention of quantitative techniques.

In the literature examined in this seminar, the specific focus on theory and explanation is threefold. On the substantive side we have: how are theoretical problems posed, in what ways are the 'network' or contextual and relational elements conceptualized, what role do they play in the argument and in the evaluation of evidence, and how do they fit in terms of the overall logical structure of the argument and its relation to the evidence? On the formal side: in What way are network concepts, measures or approaches used or potentially useful for the problem, and how do they help in empirical evaluation of the substantive theories? The crucial tertium quid is, then: how do the formal and the substantive sides relate in terms of theory, argument, explanation, representational framework, concepts and measurement? What more general comparative lessons or issues can we draw? How can a networks framework be more usefully mobilized, if at all, in the formulation of theory and explanation, how can it be deployed in terms of methods, and how can this framework help to evaluate empirical results (theory testing) and to improve social science theories and explanations across different disciplines, including history?

The strategy for literature review assigns to seminar participants examples of contemporary formulations of social theory that entail crucial social network concepts, theory, or arguments, and calls for students to discuss and evaluate the readings in terms of the foci above. Some readings use network concepts but not specific network methods of analysis; some use network theory or methods explicitly; some are network studies proper by those who identify themselves as 'social networks' researchers.

It is useful to frame three orienting questions to organize the results of our various inquiries:

1) When taking social networks into account at different levels relevant to different disciplinary problems, one of the foremost questions many researchers want to know from the substantive side of social network studies per se is: How are social networks constructed? In the various readings, we might pick out and summarize what different studies show about the effects of the following factors on network formation:

1. tasks and their environment

2. exchange values and opportunities

3. social affinities and beliefs about agency

4. the mutually constructive interaction between behavior, positions and beliefs about social relations

5. the interplay between informal networks and processes of such as: institutionalization; institutional change, function, and maintenance; environmental and social constraints on behavior; norms, enforcement and innovation processes, et cetera.

2) What kinds of emergent for formal properties might networks of relations have that may be of interest of themselves, or that might govern 'network effects' needed to theorize or explain some social process? See: formal theory (construction of concepts) for a list and explication of some of these properties:

3) What kinds of research questions and/or designs are likely to be fertile or profitable in incorporating social network concepts into the theory and data collection?




NOTE:These summaries subject to ongoing editing

Weekly readings are organized to address two types of issues:

1) foundational conceptual issues


. introduction


. networks, culture, agency (Emirbayer and Goodwin, reported by Christine Avenarius);

structural cohesion and position (Brym, reported by Ion Motkin)

W3. strong/weak ties (Granovetter, presented by Ti-Lien, reported by Silvia Casasola); centrality (Freeman; Freeman, Borgatti, White; presented by Silvia, reported by Ti-Lien)


. groups (Freeman on Granovetter vs. Winship models);

positional duality such as actor/issue or actor/attribute (Bearman, reported by Bill Granados) - blockmodeling/str. equivalence; see: Lorrain and White 1971

flow duality such as family/business (Supple, presented by Avenarius, reported by Bill);

measuring centrality from mediator dependency (see: Freeman, "Gatekeeper"; reported by DRW)

W5. student report: measuring centrality (Ti-Lien Hsia and Sylvia Casasola)

student report: Ti-Lien Hsia (friendship and school-age deviance)

W6. student report: Bill Granados (community norms and deviant behavior)

student report: Ion Motkin (strong ties and social exchange)

principles of quasi-experimental research design (DRW)

W7.mediation/betweenness (Bruce Money on corporate purchasing networks; DRW)

student report: Sylvia Casasola (Guatemalan elites)

student report: Christine Avenarius (ethnicity, partnerships, innovation, cultural change)

corporate interlock (see: William Roy, reported by Avenarius)

rise of family elites (Padgett, reported by Avenarius)

Padgett data from Wasserman and Faust (Padgett, from Rick Grannis's home page)

W8. disarticulation/betweenness (Padgett on Medici robust action, reported by Avenarius)

cohesion, pgraphs, circuit blocks/structural endogamy, 'social class,' agency (Brudner & White 1997; reported & summarized by Brudner)

W9. findings of Rick Grannis, AJS submitted article, ethnicity and biconnected blocks of neighborhood streets (DRW)

community-level network analysis (White 1997), uses of simulation (DRW)

world-economic trade network (Smith and White 1992; DRW)

flow centrality (Freeman, Borgatti and White 1991; DRW)

2) substantive and explanatory issues

1. social movements (e.g., Brym W2; Bearman W4; see: Tilly; see: Gould)

2. business (Supple W4), economic organizations, corporate interlock, innovation and partnerships (W7: W.Roy; Avenarius),

markets and mediation (W7: B.Money)

3. community and social class (W8: Brudner & White 1997; W9: White 1997)

4. rise of family elites (W6: Padgett) and ruling elites (W7: Casasola)

5. power and the emergence of the modern state (W7: Padgett)

6. world-system as economic network, dynamics of change (W9: Smith and White 1992)

The 1996 UCI seminar explores the use of network theory and analysis applied to the histories of modernity as approached through social history, longitudinal ethnography, and historical sociology. Social networks, with its focus on process, structure and agency, has a body of methods, measurement concepts, formal and explanatory theories that relate these concepts to a wide variety of substantive domains and applications. The theme of this Networks Seminar for 1996 is:

Network Theory and the Analysis of Historical Modernity: Communities, Social Movements and Elites.

We consider some of the phases of early modernity in Europe in the 16th century, including Stephen Toulmin's thesis of Cosmopolis preceding a 17th C. enlightenment and microhistorical studies of changes in social agency and property management that set the stage for new types of urbanism and industrialism. Eric Wolf's Europe and the People without History provides a framework for assessing modernity's histories of colonialism and the intensification of extractive economies with the development of industrialism. Network theories of elites, social movements and revolutions are also examined. Current writers such as Bearman, Padget, Gould, Gribaudi, and Tilly are the main focus of the seminar. Introductory readings (Berkowitz; Scott) and classic articles on structural equivalence, centrality, and strong/weak ties establish some of the central concepts of network analysis. Several exemplary work on networks approaches to social history are also examined (Brym; Emirbaya and Goodwin). The instructor(s) will help to explicate the network methodologies used in these studies and in their own work, referring to the text by Wasserman and Faust, the applicability of UCInet software for analysis of network data., and other key sources.

In addition to the readings, students should focus their research on a project and topic for the seminar that can be treated theoretically, analytically or empirically by a networks approach. Students should prepare to present (1) early in the seminar, an oral proposal for network research on the topic, turned in as a written proposal by the end of week 3, and (2) an eventual term paper on the topic.

Network thinking about social science problems has transformed a number of fields of inquiry; most recently, a number of network approaches have been taken to social history and historical sociology (see DRW projects for example). Links to other social network web sites are found on

This is proseminar for both the Social Networks Ph.D. Program and the Intercampus Academic Program Initiative Fund (IAPIF) supported by the UC Office of the President. The title of the intercampus program is Modernity's Histories in Global Context: Contested Narratives, Models, Processes. Graduate students participating from any UC campus may apply for travel funding to the intercampus end-of-quarter fall and winter workshops and the end-of-year conference where research pursued in linked History and Social Science seminars at UCI, Davis, UCSD and UCR are presented and discussed.