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I am thinking about the possibilities for linking network studies to
social mobility in an operationalisable way. At one extreme, there
are "regression quantitative" approaches that just look at head
counts of associates and "wash out" what may be important
dynamic/cohort effects of changing network size and nature. At the
other extreme are "narrative qualitative" approaches in which the
role of networks must be recalled, sometimes many years after the
fact. The fundamental difficulties seem to be:
1) Getting of jobs and getting promoted (the stuff of "mainstream"
social mobility) are rather rare events.
2) Given the odium attached to "favouritism", it may be very hard to
access data about informal mechanisms by survey or even interview but
"being there" (ie fieldwork) is hard to reconcile with 1.
3) There may be considerable ethical/sensitivity issues in assessing
networks that may lead to accusations of "unfair advantage" in
organisations. These push back towards anonymised data but to my
knowledge there are very few surveys which would provide adequate
data about nominated others to support this kind of quantitative
My current thinking is to "extend" the notion of labour market
advantage to more frequent events as contract renewal, bonus payments
and so on, on the (perhaps rather weak) argument that similar network
mechanisms may operate "in the large" (ie with promotion). This might
make it feasible for extended fieldwork to capture the network
situation and enough "instances" but problems of sensitivity and
Any encouragement, criticisms, references? Would the more quals and
quants ends of the SN spectrum think it was possible to tackle this
by quals or quants alone?
I know some of the classics like "Getting a Job" and the interlocking
directorates research, but I think the extended dynamic nature of
social mobility (more like "Getting One Job After Another") is rather
different from these existing areas.
Edmund Chattoe: Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, Littlegate
House, St Ebbes, Oxford, OX1 1PT, tel: 01865-286174, fax: 01865-286171,
http://www.sociology.ox.ac.uk Review Editor, J. Artificial Societies
and Social Simulation (JASSS) http://www.soc.surrey.ac.uk/JASSS/
"So act as
to treat humanity, whether in your own person or in another, always as an
end, and never as only a means." (Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles)
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