Relational political science is a fast growing field, with roots in sociology, social psychology, anthropology, and graph theory. In political science, Karl Deutsch and Edward Laumann can be considered early adherents. Since the 1980s the literature on policy networks (e.g. David Knoke; Franz Pappi and Christian Henning) gave the field new prominence.
Formal social network analysis (SNA) allows us to map structural constraints and opportunities of actors dependent on their own relations and the structural characteristics of others’ relations. A relevant insight is that other actors’ relations shape one’s opportunity structure. Examining how actors are embedded within sets of interactions allows for insights on the distribution of power and the effective influence of social and political action. A good section of current political sociology is premised on a relational view of the interactions between individuals, social groups or society (Ron Burt, James Coleman) while influential literature on social capital (Nan Lin, Tom Snijders) entails an overt network angle.
European scholars have employed SNA in order to analyse policy making, decision taking and lobbying in a variety of contexts. Frans Stokman has looked at how actors adjust their roles at different points in the policy process; Alessandro Lomi has explored inter-organisational networks; Dimitris Christopoulos has looked at political entrepreneurs; Volker Schneider has explored complexity systems; Hanspeter Kriesi has inquired on political mobilisation, and Mario Diani on social movements. Conferences in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France and the UK have regular panels dedicated to political networks.
The Standing Group plans to aid development of the field through:
- Dissemination of publicity: conferences, panels and symposia in the field;
- Assisting colleagues and organise SNA Panels or Workshops at ECPR events;
- Publicising and promoting social network analysis specialised training;
- Creating a compendium of freely available data;
- Organising symposia to foster methodological innovations and novel applications in the field.
How to join the Standing Group
Contact the Convenors to join the Standing Group.