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2010-09-13

wellman_1988_chapter

CITATION: Wellman, Barry. 1988. "Structural analysis: from method and metaphor to theory and substance." Pp. 19-61 in Social Structures: A Network Approach (Barry Wellman and S.D. Berkowitz, eds.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

AUTHOR_1: Barry Wellman
YEAR: 1988
TITLE: Structural analysis: from method and metaphor to theory and substance
SOURCE: Chapter
SOURCE_TITLE: Social Structures: A Network Approach

SUMMARY:  This chapter appraises both the theoretical and methodological contributions of structural analysis to sociology, and will most likely be best understood by a sociological audience. The piece begins by enumerating the many misconceptions that exist about what structural analysis (and social network analysis) is and what it can do. This general misunderstanding of structural analysis is juxtaposed against a unified set of five paradigmatic characteristics of the field as of the late 1980s. These include 1.) the focus on interpreting behavior as constrained by and better explained social structure, not as emerging solely from individual attributes 2.) likewise, a focus on analyzing relations themselves, not individual, atomistic actors, 3.) a preoccupation with the ways in which behavior is affected by the joint interaction of multiple relations acting simultaneously, rather than one at a time, 4.) the emphasis on networks over groups and the idea of social structure as a network of networks, and 5.) a set of methods designed to deal directly with the relational nature of social structure that can supplement, or entirely replace, existing models premised on methodological individualism. Each of these elements is developed fully and identified in relation to the specific research and thought upon which it is based. Far from being a simple set of tools or a hodge-podge of observations, the author demonstrates that structural analysis based upon the study of social networks has emerged as an organized and compelling adjunct or alternative to more conventional methods of analyzing a wide array of social phenomena.

REVIEWED BY: jrh

LABELS_FULL: 1988, chapter, history, reviewed, jrh, overview, review of field, theory, structural analysis

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