Daily Archives: April 15, 2008

Discussion from Socnet on Organizing and Networks

Here is Blyden Potts’ response to a socnet query bout who first started refering to organizations as networks…

It seems to me that asking the question the way your friend does
misunderstands the nature of the issue.
Social organization means patterns of social relations, and any pattern of
social relations is — or at least can be understood as — a social network.
Social networks are not a “fundamental form” of social organization, they
are a way of conceptualizing any and all social organization.

If your friend’s desire is to argue that people are organized in social
networks no reference to any literature would seem to be needed. It is
essentially tautological to say that people are organized in social
networks, a bit like saying the weather is organized meteorologically, and
if it really needs to be demonstrated then why not ground it directly in
empirical examples? The “new era” discovery of social network research was
not finding a new way in which people were organized. It was in finding a
new way to conceptualize and analyze whatever ways people are organized.

I think your friend would do well to reframe his approach from understanding
social networks as a type of organization, which it is not, to understand
social networks as a way of thinking about social organization, which it is.

And I would think Barnes would be a good example of an early work that lays
the foundation for the network way of thinking about social relations:

“Each person is, as it were, in touch with a number of other people, some of
whom are directly in touch with each other and some of whom are not…. I
find it convenient to talk of a social field of this kind as a network.* The
image I have is of a set of points some of which are joined by lines. The
points of the image are people, or sometimes groups, and the lines indicate
which people interact with each other. We can of course think of the whole
of social life as generating a network of this kind. For our present
purposes, however, I want to consider, roughly speaking, that part of the
total network that is left behind when we remove the groupings and chains of
interaction which belong strictly to the territorial and industrial systems.
… what is left is largely, though not exclusively, a network of ties of
kinship, friendship, and neighborhood. This network runs across the whole of
society and does not stop at the parish boundary.”  (p.43)

*Barnes’ footnote for “network” makes clear he is talking about an “image”
and “convention” for depicting social relations, not some particular KIND of
social relation.

Blyden Potts

Its a great quotation to have of Barnes.

I thought Simmel did some early conceptual framing… but i never got around to reading Simmel.  :<)

Barry Wellman’s original query:

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Filed under economic sociology, Networks, Scholars, Social Networks, social theory

Obama’s opiate and bitter pills to swallow

So , Obama has been attacked for his “bitter”comments.

As if you didn’t know, the snippet that has most drawn sharks like blood in the water:

“And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not,” he went on. “And it’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

“Cling”, “guns,” and “religion” seem to have been the trifecta that sprung the “elitist” trap on him (Well, he trapped himself and has admitted it was not well said). Memories of Gore and Kerry, two fine leaders and VETERANS who were easily fitted with the mantle of “king of the elitists,” came surging back, stoking Obama’s enemies (Clinton AND McCain) and the media alike. One example. The elitist charge seems like it dates back to the post-Goldwater rise of the conservative movement. I sense darker undertones…elitist is not only arrogant or snobbish, but more sinister. It echoes fears of fifth column traitors, communists, or jews lurking amongst us “normal” folk. Like ghouls or demons, they pose as normal and can only be caught when their mask slips.

Ah… cue William Kristol, in an op-ed where he places Obama’s comments next to Marx’s “religion is the opiate of the masses.”

What does this mean for Obama’s presidential prospects? He’s disdainful of small-town America — one might say, of bourgeois America. He’s usually good at disguising this. But in San Francisco the mask slipped. And it’s not so easy to get elected by a citizenry you patronize. [My emphasis].

And, as the irony sirens scream, let me also point out that the modus operandi of this adherent of conservative ideology, which surely critiques the idea of the subconscious and psychology, relies on a the technique of a Freudian slip to show how Obama actually disdains America and Americans (assumed to be a monolithic entity). I guess misleading us into war with laundered propaganda, since conscious and not a Freudian Slip, is not disdainful or elitist. Just what then…? Nietzschean? Leo Straussian?

Oh Vay. Now Lieberman piles on.

Did Obama claim that economic frustration causes religiosity and extremism about the 2nd amendment? Probably. The full context of the quotation and his subsequent remarks (clip or transcript) clarify his more nuanced understanding that economic frustration can lead to greater feeling or using religion or culture to understand economic changes. More to the point, the bitterness is because the elites have forgotten middle America , the place, and the people. Obama:

“Nobody is looking out for you. Nobody is thinking about you. And so people end up- they don’t vote on economic issues because they don’t expect anybody’s going to help them. So people end up, you know, voting on issues like guns, and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. And they take refuge in their faith and their community and their families and things they can count on. But they don’t believe they can count on Washington.”

Ok, on a more humorous note. If religion is the opiate of the masses, what are guns? The crank? The drags?

“Die Religion … ist das Opium des Volkes.” Karl Marx.

Recruits: [chanting] This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy, who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. Before God I swear this creed: my rifle and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of our enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.” Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.

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