Edited by John B. Davis and Wilfred Dolfsma
Social networks and the theory that has emerged from their study form the cutting edge of economic sociology (Swedberg, 2005). They also constitute a promising avenue for future, interdisciplinary research. Studying organizations from a network perspective entails studying the different connections between the individuals in them, connections that overlap to a degree as individuals connect with each other for different purposes. People in organizations also maintain connections with others, outside the organization, possibly members of other organizations. What individuals can be expected to do in an organization depends largely on the connections they maintain, and on the larger structures of networks. An individual may not be aware about or even be able to influence the latter. Seeing organizations as networks provides a fruitful alternative lens to understand the workings of the firm. The term ‘network’ is, however, used in a number of different ways. Some use it metaphorically, indicating that some actors have some kind of relations giving rise to some kind of effect. Actor–network theory can be seen in this way (Latour, 1987). The workings of the network itself are taken into consideration only haphazardly. Some have used the term ‘network’ to point to structures that fall between market and hierarchy, hybrid forms not easily conceptualized by existing organizational theory or by mainstream economics (Powell, 1990; Ouchi, 1980).
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