Are Social Networks Fundamental?

Are social networks fundamental?  That is how Daniel Little frames this interesting post.  At first, I wasn’t quite sure what he meant.  I thought, “No, social networks can’t be understood without understanding the people that comprise them, the society they exist within, etc.,” but then I actually started reading his post and realized he is asking whether the concept of a social network is central to most social explanation.  This is something I am more inclined to agree with.  Was I the only one briefly thrown for a loop by that title?

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2 Responses to Are Social Networks Fundamental?

  1. jimi adams says:

    Interesting. i’m aware i may be a bit biased (and even, dare i say, “evangelical” about networks as fundamental), but i would tend to think about your initial contention quite differently.
    Couldn’t your statement:

    “No, social networks can’t be understood without understanding the people that comprise them, the society they exist within, etc.”

    Just as easily (and possibly more(?) appropriately) also be made as:

    Yes, people can’t be understood without understanding the social networks that comprise them, the society they exist within, etc.”

    In other words, i guess i am curious what would be objectionable about what you initially thought the post was going to say.

  2. Michael Bishop says:

    I guess that when I see the claim “X is fundamental” I think it “it is impossible/unhelpful to analyze how the parts that comprise X interact.” Social network analysis is fantastic, but I still think it is essential to think about the individuals too, e.g. why are they in this social network and not another? why are they in the structural positions they are in? On the other hand, I wouldn’t be inclined to say that “individuals are fundamental” either.

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