Simone Derix: Living in Networks. New perspectives on social relations in historical and social sciences

Abstract

This article reflects upon recent studies concerned with the methodology and practical application of network theory. Network theory prioritizes the relationality of human and non-human agents. The concept of "networks" is used primarily in three ways. First, it is applied methodologically, in for example "social network analysis," and secondly through concepts such as "embeddedness," "social capital," and "strong vs. weak ties." Finally, scholars use it more generally to emphasize the importance of social relations in their research. Because of its flexibility, the concept has attracted much scholarly attention in multiple fields. Sociology has developed an independent field of network studies, and has taken a leading position vis-à-vis other fields of study in the usage of the concept. Most overviews and introductions to network studies come from this particular field.
Since a few years back, historians have also begun  to display a broader interest in network approaches, and are using the theory primarily in research on economic, kinship and transnational history, as this article illustrates through multiple examples. Through the studies discussed here, the potential as well as the challenges of this theory becomes clear. On the one hand, this theoretical approach opens up the possibility of introducing or intensifying interdisciplinary cooperation, and of a more frequent dialogue between scholars active in quantitative and qualitative research. On the other hand, given its broad appeal, representatives from different fields must reflect carefully on the differences and contradictions in their applications of the concept of the "network," and must anchor their theoretical studies in specific examples and practical research.

The following titels were discussed i.a.:
Jansen, D.
: Einführung in die Netzwerkanalyse (185); Holzer, B.: Netzwerke (186); Stegbauer, C./Häußling, Roger (Hrsg.): Handbuch Netzwerkforschung (187); Schweizer, T.: Muster sozialer Ordnung (188); White, H.: Identity and Control (188); Hollstein, B./Straus, F. (Hrsg.): Qualitative Netzwerkanalyse (189); Stegbauer, C. (Hrsg.): Netzwerkanalyse und Netzwerktheorie (189); Mützel, S./Fuhse,J. (Hrsg.): Relationale Soziologie (190); Ostrom, E./Jahn, T. K. (Hrsg.): Foundations of Social Capital (190); Fangerau, H./Halling, T. (Hrsg.): Netzwerke (191); Gamper, M./Reschke, L. (Hrsg.): Knoten und Kanten (191); Hergenröder, C. (Hrsg.): Gläubiger, Schuldner, Arme (193); Unfried, B./Mittag, J./Linden, M. (Hrsg.): Transnationale Netzwerke im 20. Jahrhundert (193); Berghoff, H./Sydow, J. (Hrsg.): Unternehmerische Netzwerke. Eine historische Organisationsform mit Zukunft? (194); Reinhard, W.: Freunde und Kreaturen (194); Clemens, G. (Hrsg.): Schuldenlast und Schuldenwert (195); Grandits, H. (Hrsg.): Family, Kinship and State in Contemporary Europe Vol. 1 (199); Lanzinger, M./Saurer, E. (Hrsg.): Politiken der Verwandtschaft (199); Sabean, D./Teuscher, S./Mathieu, J. (Hrsg.): Kinship in Europe (199); Kuper, A.: Incest and Influence (200); Urbach, K. (Hrsg.): Royal Konship (202)

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