Reaching Out, Reaching In
Edited by Viva Ona Bartkus and James H. Davis
Chapter 2: Network Duality of Social Capital
Ronald S. Burt1 This chapter is about balance between brokerage and closure, the two primary mechanisms by which social networks constitute social capital. Brokerage involves building connections across groups to increase exposure to diverse opinion and practice. Brokerage is associated with growth and innovation. Closure involves strengthening connections within a group to focus the group on a limited set of opinions and practice. Closure is associated with trust and alignment, ultimately enhancing eﬃciency. The balance between brokerage and closure is usually analyzed in terms of where to invoke the mechanisms: maximum advantage occurs when a closed network secures alignment within a team and team members have brokerage networks beyond the team (see Burt, 2005, pp. 126–66, for review and illustrative evidence). The balance has also been discussed, though never to my knowledge with beneﬁt of network data, in terms of when to invoke the mechanisms: brokerage and closure are in perpetual cycle as a network duality, mending and undoing one another; brokerage followed by closure, followed by brokerage, and so on. It is misadventure to break the cycle. Business examples abound. General Electric chief executive oﬃcer (CEO) Jack Welsh emphasized ‘integrated diversity’ in the 1980s – a unity believed to work only ‘when the elements of that diversity, GE’s thirteen business units, were strong in their own right’ (Slater, 1999, p. 97). Rhone-Poulenc CEO JeanRené Fourtou emphasized the importance of preserving ‘le vide’ (literally, vacuum or empty space, or in network terms, structural holes): ‘Le vide has...
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