Network аpproach as a phenomenon in sociological theory

Network аpproach as a phenomenon in sociological theory

Maltseva D.V.

Cand. Sci. (Sociol.), Deputy Head of the International Laboratory for Applied Network Research, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia

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Maltseva D.V. Network аpproach as a phenomenon in sociological theory . Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2018. No 4. P. 3-14


The article presents a comparative analysis of three directions of “Network Аpproach in Sociology” – Social Networks Analysis, Relational Sociology and Actor-Network Theory. Analytical grounds of the analysis are time and context of appearance, main theoretical positions, methodology of empirical research. Аnalysis of differences and similarities between three directions shows the connection between Relational Sociology and ANT, to some extent, and their difference to SNA. Similarities are manifested in the definition of the object of research, the nature of actors they consider (while different roles are assigned to non-human actors), abandoning the initially formed social space, understanding the world as the unfolding relationships produced through translation (or switching), using interpretative methods of analysis. Important differences remain in the interpretation of activity, concept of network and relation to the context. Both SNA and Relational Sociology may be seen as different theoretical approaches, while ANT may be considered as a general sociological theory. Thus, it is not correct to use the concept of “network approach” in the sense of “theoretical approach” or fuse these directions under unifying names “network theory” or “network paradigm”. It should be emphasized that this is a collective name for different theoretical approaches using the concept of network in their explanatory models. Eventual attempt to construe an integrative version of these directions should take into account differences in their theoretical basements.

social network analysis; relational sociology; actor-network theory; network approach; contemporary sociological theories


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