The study of social networks is an established topic of sociological research. Since the 1960s social network analysis (SNA) has championed social networks against competing descriptions of social aggregates such as group, society or system. Based on the results of British social anthropology, network analysis has developed into a comprehensive research program in the United States. The methods of formal analysis have been further developed and refined. In the last few years, however, they have also become the building blocks and the subject of systematic theorizing. However, the various metaphorical, theoretically ambitious and purely empirical usages of the concept of network are only loosely integrated. The significance of networks in sociological theory has gained more attention over the last ten years, for instance by scholars such as Harrison White. Some approaches advocate an independent sociological “network theory”, while others try to integrate networks into established theories. Based on an approach that conceives networks as a specific social form, my research concerns the question of what makes networks a unique social phenomenon and how societal, historical and cultural contexts affect the significance of social networks.
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