The Social Logic of Politics: Personal Networks as Contexts for Political Behavior

The Social Logic of Politics: Personal Networks as Contexts for Political Behavior

The Social Logic of Politics: Personal Networks as Contexts for Political Behavior

The Social Logic of Politics: Personal Networks as Contexts for Political Behavior

Excerpt

Happy is the man, who has not followed the counsel of the wicked, or
taken the path of sinners, or joined the company of the insolent; rather his
concern is the teaching of the Lord, and he recites that teaching day and
night.

—Psalms 1:1

He who walks with the wise will become wise, And he who gathers with
the fools will become bad.

—Proverbs 13:20

God always pairs off like with like.

The Iliad, XVII, 1:218

STUDENTS OF POLITICS have always known that the immediate social circumstances of people's lives affect their political preferences and behavior. This principle derives from a more fundamental claim about all perception, cognition, and action: human life is social. As persons interact and anticipate interactions, each influences what the others perceive, value, and do. When persons make decisions, they take into account the cues, knowledge, values, and expectations of their spouse, parents, children, friends, work-mates, and others around them—those who matter in their lives. When they associate with others, they look for persons like themselves. As the epigraphs to this chapter highlight, the sources for this theoretical position go back to the Bible and Greek wisdom.

As elements of general wisdom, it is not surprising, therefore, that these principles are embedded in the founding works of social science and the behavioral revolution in political science. What is surprising is how they alternately disappear and recur. As the authors of the chapters in the volume apply the theoretical principles to the study of politics, they repeat calls made five decades ago. Consider Robert Merton's observations in Social Theory and Social Action (1957):

In his inventory of sociological concepts in 1932, Earle E. Eubank could muster thirty
nine distinct classifications of groups…. And in view of what I have described as the
“recent rediscovery of the primary group,” consider what Eubank had to say about the
publication of B. Warren Brown's book, Social Groups, in 1926: “This little volume
is a tangible evidence of the fact that the group has been discovered, or more accu
rately, re-discovered during recent years. In its new role and with its new implications
it becomes… the central concept of Sociology as a whole….” With the experience,
if not necessarily the wisdom gained through hindsight, it can only be hoped that the
more recent rediscovery will prove more productive and sequential than the one which
was enthusiastically hailed by Eubank a generation ago. (pp. 308–9) . . .

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