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9 - Hierarchy and Centrality

from Part II - Seeing Structure

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 September 2023

Craig M. Rawlings
Duke University, North Carolina
Jeffrey A. Smith
Nova Scotia Health Authority
James Moody
Duke University, North Carolina
Daniel A. McFarland
Stanford University, California
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Some people take orders all day. Others give them. And most people are somewhere in the middle. While relations of “who orders whom” are generally established through formalized hierarchies of authority, informal relations such as business partnerships and even friendships are also frequently hierarchical in some way: some business partners have more control over important resources, some friends have more clout. Indeed, status and reputation structure almost all areas of social life. To understand social structure, we must attend to both horizontal relations in which individuals are connected through frequently mutual feelings of belonging, as well as vertical relations of power, authority, deference, and status that are asymmetric. Ultimately, how community and hierarchy combine is one of the most vexing concerns in the social sciences. Building on the previous chapter’s focus on groups and cohesion, this chapter focuses on aspects of social structures that are more asymmetric, centralized, or hierarchical.

Network Analysis
Integrating Social Network Theory, Method, and Application with R
, pp. 190 - 215
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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Suggested Further Reading

Borgatti, Stephen P. 2006. “Identifying Sets of Key Players in a Social Network.” Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory 12: 2134. (The “key player” problem has become a paradigm for intervention and comprehensive centrality, focused on identifying nodes that are critical to the functioning of a given system.)Google Scholar
Borgatti, Stephen P., and Everett, Martin G. 2020. “Three Perspectives on Centrality.” Pp. 334–51 in Oxford Handbook of Social Network Analysis, edited by Light, Ryan and Moody, James. New York: Oxford University Press. (Borgatti and Everett are arguably the leading voices on linking centrality metrics to social processes; this piece updates and reviews that line of work.)Google Scholar
Everton, Sean F. 2013. Disrupting Dark Networks. New York: Cambridge University Press. (Key work in applied network analysis that highlight difficulties and strategies for working in contexts with highly uncertain data but high stakes. See also Gerdes 2012.)Google Scholar
Faris, Robert, and Felmlee, Diane. 2011. “Status Struggles: Network Centrality and Gender Segregation in Same-and Cross-Gender Aggression.” American Sociological Review 76: 4873. (A model paper for using centrality to understand behavior; it finds that central students use aggression to gain and maintain status over time.)Google Scholar
Gerdes, Luke M. 2012. Illuminating Dark Networks: The Study of Clandestine Groups and Organizations. New York: Cambridge University Press. (See the note for Everton 2013.)Google Scholar
Gould, Rodger V. 2002. “The Origins of Status Hierarchies: A Formal Theory and Empirical Test.” American Journal of Sociology 107: 1143–78. (See the note for Gould 2003.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gould, Rodger V. 2003. Collision of Wills: How Ambiguity about Social Rank Breeds Conflict. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Lays out an argument about the origins of violence stemming from status ambiguity – hierarchies are generally stable, and if all know where they stand, disputes are rare. See also Gould 2002.)Google Scholar
Maoz, Zeev. 2010. Networks of Nations: The Evolution, Structure and Impact of International Networks, 1816–2001. New York: Cambridge University Press. (While broader than hierarchy per se, the exploration of world-spanning networks invokes clear notions of core and periphery and the associated dynamics of power and prestige.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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