The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions
835 pág.

The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions


DisciplinaCiências Políticas e Teoria do Estado622 materiais7.848 seguidores
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Anarchy is what states make of it: the social construction of power politics.
International Organization, 46: 391 425.
1999. Social Theory of International Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
74 colin hay
c h a p t e r 5
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NETWORK
INSTITUTIONALISM
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christopher ansell
1 Overview
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In some respects, \u2018\u2018network institutionalism\u2019\u2019 is anoxymoron.The term \u2018\u2018network\u2019\u2019 tends
to imply informality and personalism, while \u2018\u2018institutionalism\u2019\u2019 suggests formality and
impersonalism.Networkperspectives also tend tobemorebehavioral than institutional.
Nevertheless, it is reasonable to understand networks as informal institutions (though
they may in some cases be formal). In this sense, a network can be thought of as an
institution to the extent that it represents a stable or recurrent pattern of behavioral
interactionorexchangebetween individuals ororganizations. Inmuch the samespirit as
PeterHallhasdescribedinstitutionalism,thenetworkapproachviewsnetworksascritical
mediatingvariables thataVect thedistributionofpower, theconstructionof interestsand
identities, and the dynamics of interaction (Hall 1986, 19\u201320).
No single network paradigm exists, but rather overlapping discussions in political
science, organization theory, public administration, and economic sociology. Yet it is
fair to say that four meta-principles or assumptions are shared across the various
strands of network institutionalism.1 The Wrst and most general principle is a
relational perspective on social, political, and economic action. Emirbayer (1997)
contrasts relational with attributional approaches to social explanation. In the latter,
1 Wellman (1988) provides both an intellectual history of the network approach and an important
statement of its distinctiveness.
phenomena are explained in terms of the attributes of individuals, groups, or
organizations. Network institutionalism, by contrast, emphasizes relationships\u2014
which are not reducible to individual attributes\u2014as the basic unit of explanation.
A second meta-principle is a presumption of complexity. Relationships that connect
individuals, groups, and organizations are assumed to be complex, in the sense that
linkages between them are overlapping and cross-cutting. Groups and organizations
are not neatly bounded, certainly not unitary, and are often interpenetrating. The
third meta-principle of network institutionalism is that networks are both resources
and constraints on behavior. As resources, they are channels of information and aid
mobilized in the pursuit of certain gains; as constraints, they are structures of social
inXuence and control that limit action. The Wnal meta-principle is that networks
mobilize information, social inXuence, resources, and social capital in highly diVer-
entiated ways. Not only is the social world complex, but also highly biased. Networks
provide variegated access to resources, information, and support.
Although this chapter aims to provide a broad interdisciplinary overview of net-
work institutionalism, it is worth brieXy describing how the network approach is
congenial topolitical science.2First, political scientists have longbeen fascinatedby the
ways inwhich power and inXuencework through channels of personal connections\u2014
the proverbial \u2018\u2018old boys network.\u2019\u2019 Network institutionalism oVers an approach that
systematizes this fascination. Second, many problems in political science involve
complex bargaining and coordinating relationships between interest groups, public
agencies, or nations. While it may be suYcient to describe these relationships as
\u2018\u2018coalitions,\u2019\u2019 \u2018\u2018factions,\u2019\u2019 or \u2018\u2018alliances,\u2019\u2019 network institutionalism suggests that precise
patterns of connection matter for explaining political outcomes. Third, network
institutionalism rejects any simple dichotomy between individualist and group-
oriented explanation. It insists that individual behavior must be understood context-
ually, but rejects the assumption of unitary groups\u2014a salutary perspective given the
tensions in political science between individualistic and group-oriented approaches.
The remainder of the chapter clariWes the meaning of the term \u2018\u2018network,\u2019\u2019
provides a brief survey of techniques used to analyze networks, and then focuses
on Wve substantive domains in which network institutionalism has been prominent:
(a) policy networks; (b) organizations; (c) markets; (d) political mobilization and
social movements; and (e) social inXuence, social psychology, and political culture.
2 What is a Network?
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A network is a set of relationships between individuals, groups, or organizations. A
relationship, for example, might be a friendship between two Members of Parlia-
2 See Knoke 1994 for a more comprehensive account of network approaches to politics.
76 christopher ansell
ment or a cooperative exchange between two public agencies. Although conXict
between two individuals or organizations could also count as a relationship,
network institutionalism tends to presume positive relationships. Informed by a
Durkheimian perspective on social solidarity, many network studies emphasize the
social and aVectual bases of relationships. However, it is not always necessary
to assume that networks are solidaristic. Networks may be merely patterns of
interaction or connection. For instance, two stakeholder groups may interact
frequently in the context of a policy arena or the boards of two NGOs might
share the same directors. Such relationships do not necessarily produce social
solidarity and may be rife with conXict. But they imply the possibility that these
connections are conduits, even if inadvertent, for information, ideas, or resources.
Frequent interaction in a legislative committee, for example, might be the basis for
the Xow of critical information (regardless of whether the actors involved have any
sense of mutual obligation). Interdependence oVers a third way to interpret
networks. For example, one lobbyist might have information that another lobbyist
needs or two nations might have extensive trading relations. This interdependence
may motivate them to engage in exchange relationships with each other. Successful
exchange can, in turn, generate strong norms of mutual obligation and reciprocity
(sometimes referred to as \u2018\u2018generalized exchange\u2019\u2019). The prominence of bargaining
in political relationships makes this exchange approach to networks a natural one
for political science.
Granovetter (1985) has argued that social network approaches steer a course
between oversocialized (norm determined) and undersocialized (self-interest
determined) understandings of social behavior. From this perspective, social net-
works have both a social (aVectual) and instrumental (exchange) dimension. If the
neoclassical market exchange takes places at \u2018\u2018arms-length,\u2019\u2019 we should expect little
loyalty in such relationships and we should not expect them to provide the basis for
the kind of trust or reciprocity necessary to produce exchange where goods are
ill-deWned or the timeframe for exchange is poorly speciWed. It is precisely the
social character of network relationships