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Det svårgripbara nätverket: en sociologisk studie av företagare i nätverk
Örebro University, Department of Social and Political Sciences.
2002 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The questions for this study are:

1. What are networks?

2. How do networks work?

These questions are answered by means of two different investigations. The first is chiefly theoretical and the second is primarily empirical.

The theoretical investigation begins with an examination of four different concepts of networks used in social research: network as a perspective, network as a phenomenon, network as a research method and network as a method for development. The concept is then further investigated on three levels. On the first level, the parts of a network and the relationships between these parts are analysed. The second level focuses on the emergent properties of a network. The emergent properties refer to those irreducible features that make it a network, and that at the same time mark the difference between networks and other types of social entities (organizations, rituals etc.). Two such properties form the starting point for the examination, namely value-adding and diffusion. The third level of analysis places the network in relation to space and organization. This three level analysis is used throughout the thesis.

In the empirical section, four cases of entrepreneurial networks are examined. The aim of the case studies is to identify the network and to study how the network works. What in the example is the network? How does the network work in the actual case? What does the network do? What properties can be assigned to the network and the way it works? Or, more comprehensively, from the examination of four cases of networks, what conclusions can be drawn about what networks are and how they function?

From the case studies I have concluded that personal ties are fundamental to a network, and that the chains of production are a type of tie that may, but does not have to, occur when the network is activated in an entrepreneurial context. For the entrepreneurs and their enterprises, the social exchange has no value in itself, but if it can add value, for example as a lubricant in coordinating production chains, it fulfils an important purpose.

I have also concluded that what makes an entrepreneurial network a network is not the coordination of production chains, but the personal relationships that manage these chains. Thus it is not the coordination itself, but the way of coordinating that is of importance. Networks can be found in structures of many different types of ties, but for the emergent properties to emerge there has to be a structure of personal ties at the core.

I have assumed that a network is not a method or a perspective, but a social entity with certain properties. The investigation has provided support for this assumption. There is extensive research on SME networks, industrial districts and value-adding chains that shows that networks in production contexts form social constellations with their own distinctive features and ways of working.

The relationship between networks and space is temporary, but not essential. Networks can be bound to places, but they do not have to be.

An important structural difference between organizations and networks is that networks are formed of separate units that cooperate, while organizations form a single unit that may, but does not have to be characterized by cooperation.

The most important conclusion from the comparison of organizations and networks is that these concepts together provide a better explanation of the case studies than either of the concepts alone. To understand and explain the complex social interplay that occurs in the case studies, it is a great advantage to use networks and organizations as concepts for different social entities with different properties and different ways of working.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro universitetsbibliotek , 2002. , 263 p.
Series
Örebro Studies in Sociology, ISSN 1650-2531 ; 3
Keyword [en]
networks, network analysis, social networks, organization, flexible specialization, entrepreneur, enterprise, production, cooperation, social capital, strategic networks, SME, critical realism, blockmodeling, sociologi
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-11ISBN: 91-7668-310-9 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-11DiVA: diva2:134638
Public defence
2002-09-20, Hörsal C, Örebro universitet, Fakultetsgatan 1, Örebro, 13:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2002-09-20 Created: 2002-09-20 Last updated: 2012-01-17

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