Network Analysis and Political Science
Posted: 12 May 2011
Date Written: June 2011
Political science is fascinated with networks. This fascination builds on networks' descriptive appeal, and descriptions of networks play a prominent role in recent forays into network analysis. For some time, quantitative research has included node-level measures of network characteristics in standard regression models, thereby incorporating network concepts into familiar models. This approach represents an early advance for the literature but may (a) ignore fundamental theoretical contributions that can be found in a more structurally oriented network perspective, (b) focus attention on superficial aspects of networks as they feed into empirical work, and (c) present the network perspective as a slight tweak to standard models that assume complete independence of all relevant actors. We argue that network analysis is more than a tweak to the status quo ante; rather, it offers a means of addressing one of the holy grails of the social sciences: effectively analyzing the interdependence and flows of influence among individuals, groups, and institutions.
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