The Elgar Companion to Social Economics
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The Elgar Companion to Social Economics

Edited by John B. Davis and Wilfred Dolfsma

As this comprehensive Companion demonstrates, social economics is a dynamic and growing field that emphasizes the key role that values play in the economy and in economic life. Social economics treats the economy and economics as being embedded in the larger web of social and ethical relationships. It also regards economics and ethics as essentially connected, and adds values such as justice, fairness, dignity, well-being, freedom and equality to the standard emphasis on efficiency. The Elgar Companion to Social Economics brings together the leading contributors in the field to elucidate a wide range of recent developments across different subject areas and topics. In so doing the contributors also map the likely trends and directions of future research. This Companion will undoubtedly become a leading reference source and guide to social economics for many years to come.
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Chapter 22: Social Networks: Structure and Content

Wilfred Dolfsma and Rick Aalbers


Wilfred Dolfsma and Rick Aalbers 1. Introduction Prominent economic sociologist Richard Swedberg (2005) has argued that social networks and the theory that has emerged from their study form the cutting edge of economic sociology. They also offer a promising avenue for future, interdisciplinary research. In addition to this, social networks are implicated in the full range of activities related to economic growth, from technological innovation to investment in physical, human and social capital, and to trade. The term ‘network’ is, however, used in a number of different ways. Some use it metaphorically, indicating that a number of actors have some kind of relations giving rise to some kind of effect. Actor–network theory can be seen in this way. While this line of research has led to important insights, for instance in the development of technological knowledge (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 are in between market and hierarchy, hybrid forms not easily conceptualized by existing organizational theory or by mainstream economics (Powell, 1990; Ouchi, 1980). Still others have used characteristics of networks studied to include these in analyses and accounts that do not place the study of networks at the center of their attention. Finally, there is an increasing number of scholars, stretching across the disciplinary fields of sociology, psychology, management, mathematics and even economics, that devote their attention primarily to the networks themselves, their workings and...

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