Markets, Networks and Hierarchies
Edited by Olivier Favereau and Emmanuel Lazega
Chapter 1: No man is an island: the research programme of a social capital theory
Henk Flap1 THE THEORY GAP IN NETWORK ANALYSIS The study of social networks has gained momentum since the 1960s. It produced impressive findings, such as that persons who are more integrated into their networks have a better life expectancy (Berkman and Syme, 1979). Judged by the number of publications and its various fields of application one can only conclude that network research is flowering. Milestones in the development of this research tradition are Granovetter’s 1973 article on ‘The strength of weak ties’ and his 1974 book on Getting a Job. Unjustly neglected, however, is his 1979 essay on ‘The theory gap in social network analysis’, in which he laments the empirical and methodological bias of network research and its lack of theoretical integration and explanatory depth. Stinchcombe (1989) added that there is not much cross-fertilization among fields of application. Furthermore, existing studies would oversee that network effects are conditional upon certain social and institutional circumstances. Social network studies have mainly been kept together by the orienting notion that all network structures have some effect on the actions of the actors enmeshed in these networks. This notion provides for an underlying unity, but it also makes network research somewhat akin to the search for the dependent variable, known from the earlier status-inconsistency literature. In sociological research it has become a kind of routine to include network factors in the analysis as a kind of turbo-chaser to boost explained variance. The prospects for more general theories in network research are, however, not...
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