Introduction: Mark Granovetter is a leader in research and theory in Economic Sociology and Social Networks. He is perhaps best known for his highly influential articles, “The Strength of Weak Ties” and “Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness.” The concepts of embeddedness and strength of weak ties have been widely adopted, creating new areas of research. At the moment he is a faculty member in the Sociology Department at Stanford University.
1. The strength of weak ties
In your 1973 piece the definition of “the strength of a tie” is the following: “the strength of a tie is a (probably linear) combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterized the tie. We wanted to ask you, did you make this definition deliberately ambiguous to allow for the emergence of different measurements that could test, validate and challenge your theory? Do you know about any empirical studies that have explored this? Can your notion of “strength of ties” embrace difference levels of analysis (individuals, social groups, organizations, industries, etc.)?
– During the 1980s, the “new economic sociology” emerged in opposition to the discipline of economics and as a new subfield of study it needed to justify itself. During her visit, Viviana Zelizer reaffirmed this view by pointing out that the early focus of economic sociology on quantitative models, markets and firms, followed or stemmed from an attempt to criticize and even convince economists of the inaccuracy of their theories and assumptions. Your work on “embeddedness” in 1985 suggests that economic activity not only comprise isolated individuals but also the interconnections among those individuals….Nowadays, the situation seems to be different; economic sociology has already gained consolidation as a subfield and there is ample evidence not only from sociology, but also from anthropology, history and social studies in general that supports the relevance of social relations in understanding the economic activity. In this line, do you think that it is still important to address economics? Would you say that a fruitful space of collaboration and dialogue has been generated with economists?
– By situating itself in opposition to economics, the subfield of economic sociology seems to have lost connection with classic sociological theories that attempted to understand broader social processes such as rationalization, differentiation, integration/order, etc. Instead, the “new economic sociology” centered on revealing the social mechanisms that are actually at play in the economy along with examining specific forms of coordination such as markets or firms. First, do you share this view? And second, in which ways do you think the “new economic sociology” has the potential to shed light into more general sociological questions?
3. Latest work and New Networks
– In your later work you have engaged with the issue of innovation and the start-ups in Silicon Valley. At the same time new notions of networks had been influential in sociological theorizing, such as Callon and Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory and Duncan Watt’s “New Science of Networks. How are these new approaches informing your later work?
4. Teaching Economic Sociology:
– In your view, what are the set of theories, concepts and techniques that every student of economic sociology should be equipped with?