Canada as Social Structure: Social Network Analysis and Canadian Sociology [1]

Article excerpt

Abstract: We review the social network approach to structural analysis, give a brief historical sketch of its development in Canada and abroad, and provide an overview of Canadian contributions to this field. We review research in the following areas: personal communities, computer supported social networks, social capital (social mobility, social support, social exchange), cultural capital, structural social psychology (social comparison and evaluation, attitude formation), collective action (mobilization for collective action and social movements, inter-and-intra movement dynamics), inter-organizational and class relations, and world systems. We discuss the core contributions of network scholars, challenges faced by network researchers, and make suggestions for future lines of inquiry. We conclude that while social network analysis is undoubtedly an international enterprise, Canadian scholars have made core contributions on a number of fronts over the past two decades.

Resume: Nous examinons la facon d'aborder I'analyse structurelle qui fait appel au reseau social, donnons un apercu historique do son evolution au Canada aussi bien qu'a l'etranger et donnons une vued'ensemble des contributions canadiennes dans ce domaine. Nous passons en revue la recherche dans les domaines suivants: communautes personnelles, reseaux sociaux assistes par ordinateurs, capital social (mobilite sociale, soutien social, echange social), le capital culturel, Ia psychologie structurelle sociale (comparaison et evaluation sociales, formation des attitudes), action collective (mobilisation en vuc do l'action collective et mouvements sociaux, dynamique a l'interieur des mouvements aussi bien qu'entre eux), relations entre les organizations et les classes, et les systemes mondiaux. Nous discutons des principaux apports des specialistes des reseaux, ainsi quo des defis auxquels sont conforntes los chercheurs dans ce domaine, et nous offrons des suggestions sur de futures avenues de recherche. Nous conc luons que, bien que l'analyse des reseaux sociaux soit sans aucun doute une entreprise intemationale, les specialistes canadiens ont fait des apports fondamentaux sur un certain nombre de fronts au cours dos deux dernieres decennies.

Part 1: The Social Network Paradigm

1.1 Introduction

Although people often view the world in terms of groups (Freeman, 1992), they function in networks. In network societies: boundaries are more permeable, interactions are with diverse others, linkages switch between multiple networks, and hierarchies (when they exist) are flatter and more recursive. To be sure, social networks have always been with us, but we believe that they are increasingly supplanting traditional groups. The change from groups to networks can be seen at many levels. Trading and political blocs have lost their monolithic character in the world system (Friedmann, 1991; Frank, 1998). Organizations form complex networks of alliance and exchange rather than cartels, and workers (especially professionals, technical workers, and managers) report to multiple peers and superiors (Richardson, 1987; Carroll and Lewis, 1991). Management by network is replacing management by (two-way) matrix as well as management by hierarchal trees (Berkowitz, 1982; Wellman, 1988a, Castells, 1996).

The social network paradigm provides theoretical and methodological tools for comprehending the nature of contemporary societies. Not only was one of the first compendiums of case analyses largely produced in Canada (Wellman and Berkowitz, 1988), many Canadian scholars have produced important analyses in the past two decades. This review of recent Canadian work is organized into three parts. In this first part, we provide an overview of the social network approach to structural analysis, including a brief historical sketch of its development in Canada and abroad. Part 2 focuses on interpersonal networks, and Part 3 focuses on large scale networks. …