Network research in the social sciences has successfully followed a structuralist approach where social phenomena are studied with regard to the pattern of relations between actors. These patterns of relations-social networks-are seen as the decisive level of social structures. Other features like formal roles, cultural norms, and values, are treated as secondary. As such, the field of social network research is currently divided between technically sophisticated analyses and complex, elusive theorizing. In Social Networks of Meaning and Communication, Jan Fuhse offers a coherent theory of social structures as networks of relations interwoven with meaning. Drawing upon and extending the cutting-edge work in relational sociology of Harrison White and Charles Tilly, Fuhse takes an important step forward in establishing a theory of social networks. Using a broad range of classic and contemporary social theory, he reconceptualizes social networks as constituted in patterns of expectations that form, reproduce, and change over the course of communicative events. These events, he argues, are the basic stuff of the social world. They lead to expectations about the behavior of actors (their identities) and their interaction with others (social relationships) - the meaning structure making for observable regularities of communication in social networks. Laying out this relational and constructivist perspective of social networks, the book highlights a number of implications for social relationships, groups, and collective actors, as well as ethnic categories and cultural differences, roles and institutions, gender and family relations, and methods of social network analysis. Its framework effectively bridges the gap in social network research between technically sophisticated analyses and complex, elusive theorizing.
Author: Jan Fuhse
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
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