Skip to main content

Networks in Political Science: Back to the Future

  • David Lazer (a1)

What are the relational dimensions of politics? Does the way that people and organizations are connected to each other matter? Are our opinions affected by the people with whom we talk? Are legislators affected by lobbyists? Is the capacity of social movements to mobilize affected by the structure of societal networks? Powerful evidence in the literature answers each of these questions in the affirmative. However, compared to other paradigmatic foci, political science has invested tiny amounts of capacity in the study of the relevance of networks to political phenomena. Far more attention has been paid to the psychology of how people process information individually as opposed to collectively, and to the role that institutions play in structuring politics as opposed to the relational undergirdings of politics. A review of the flagship journals in political science reveals a dearth of articles on networks. Few, if any, doctoral programs include courses for which the primary focus is network-related ideas, and even the notion of a relational dependence in data is rarely mentioned in discussions of the assumptions embedded in the statistical methods that dominate political science.

Hide All
Adamic, L. A., and Glance, N.. 2005. “The Political Blogosphere and the 2004 U.S. Election: Divided They Blog.” Proceedings of the 3rd International Workshop on Link Discovery, 3643.
Allen, T. J. 1970. “Communication Networks in R&D Laboratories.” R&D Management 1 (1): 1421.
Alwin, D. F., Cohen, R. L., and Newcomb, T. M.. 1992. Political Attitudes over the Life Span: The Bennington Women after Fifty Years. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Barabasi, A. L. 2003. Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means. New York: Penguin.
Barabasi, A. L., and Albert, R.. 1999. “Emergence of Scaling in Random Networks.” Science 286 (5439): 509–12.
Bavelas, A. 1950. “Communication Patterns in Task-Oriented Groups.” Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 22: 725–30.
Berelson, B., Lazarsfeld, P. F., and McPhee, W. N.. 1954. Voting: A Study of Opinion Formation in a Presidential Campaign. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Bernard, H. Russell, Killworth, Peter, Kronenfeld, David, and Sailer, Lee. 1984. “The Problem of Informant Accuracy: The Validity of Retrospective Data.” Annual Review of Anthropology 13 (1): 495517.
Boorman, S. A., and White, H. C.. 1976. “Social Structure from Multiple Networks. II. Role Structures.” American Journal of Sociology 81 (6): 13841446.
Burt, Ronald S. 1995. Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Butts, C. T. 2003. “Predictability of Large-Scale Spatially Embedded Networks.” In Dynamic Social Network Modeling and Analysis: Workshop Summary and Papers, ed. Breiger, Ronald, Carley, Kathleen, and Pattison, Philippa, 313–23. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Caldeira, G. A., Clark, J. A., and Patterson, S. C.. 1993. “Political Respect in the Legislature.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 18 (1): 328.
Carley, K. M. 2003. “Dynamic Network Analysis. Dynamic Social Network Modeling and Analysis.” In Dynamic Social Network Modeling and Analysis: Workshop Summary and Papers, ed. Breiger, Ronald, Carley, Kathleen, and Pattison, Philippa, 133–45. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Carpenter, D. P., Esterling, K. M., and Lazer, D. M. J.. 2004. “Friends, Brokers, and Transitivity: Who Informs Whom in Washington Politics?Journal of Politics 66 (1): 224–46.
Christakis, N. A., and Fowler, J. H.. 2007. “The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years.” New England Journal of Medicine 357 (4): 370–79.
Christakis, N. A., and Fowler, J. H.. 2009. Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. Boston: Little, Brown and Co.
Eagle, N., Pentland, A. S., and Lazer, D.. 2009. “Inferring Friendship Network Structure by Using Mobile Phone Data.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106 (36): 15,274.
Emerson, R. M. 1976. “Social Exchange Theory.” Annual Review of Sociology 2 (1): 335–62.
Festinger, L. 1954. “A Theory of Social Comparison Processes.” Human Relations 7 (2): 117–40.
Festinger, L., Schachter, S., and Back, K.. 1963. Social Pressures in Informal Groups. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Fowler, James H. 2005. “Turnout in a Small World.” In The Social Logic of Politics, ed. Zuckerman, Alan, 269–87. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Fowler, James H. 2006. “Connecting the Congress: A Study of Cosponsorship Networks.” Political Analysis 14 (4): 456–87.
Freeman, L. C. 1979. “Centrality in Social Networks—Conceptual Clarification.” Social Networks 1 (3): 215–39.
Freeman, L. C. 2003. “Finding Social Groups: A Meta-Analysis of the Southern Women Data.” In Dynamic Social Network Modeling and Analysis: Workshop Summary and Papers, ed. Breiger, Ronald, Carley, Kathleen, and Pattison, Philippa, 3777. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Freeman, L. C. 2004. The Development of Social Network Analysis. Vancouver: Empirical Press.
Freeman, L. C., Romney, A. K., and Freeman, S. C.. 1987. “Cognitive Structure and Informant Accuracy.” American Anthropologist 89 (2): 310–25.
Friedkin, N. E. 1998. A Structural Theory of Social Influence. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Gladwell, M. 2002. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Boston: Back Bay Books.
Granovetter, Mark S. 1973. “The Strength of Weak Ties.” American Journal of Sociology 78 (6): 1360–80.
Granovetter, Mark S. 1985. “Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness.” American Journal of Sociology 91 (3): 481510.
Hafner-Burton, Emilie M., Kahler, M., and Montgomery, A. H.. 2009. “Network Analysis for International Relations.” International Organization 63 (3): 559–92.
Heaney, M. T. 2006. “Brokering Health Policy: Coalitions, Parties, and Interest Group Influence.” Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 31 (5): 887944.
Heinz, J. P. 1993. The Hollow Core: Private Interests in National Policy Making. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Holland, P. W., and Leinhardt, S.. 1970. “A Method for Detecting Structure in Sociometric Data.” American Journal of Sociology 76 (3): 492513.
Huckfeldt, R., and Sprague, J.. 1995. Citizens, Politics, and Social Communication: Information and Influence in an Election Campaign. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Kearns, M., Suri, S., and Montfort, N.. 2006. “An Experimental Study of the Coloring Problem on Human Subject Networks.” Science 313 (5788): 824–27.
Laumann, E. O., and Knoke, D.. 1987. The Organizational State: Social Choice in National Policy Domains. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Lazarsfeld, Paul F., Berelson, B., and Gaudet, H.. 1968. The People's Choice. New York: Columbia University Press.
Lazer, David. 1999. “The Free Trade Epidemic of the 1860s and Other Outbreaks of Economic Discrimination.” World Politics 51: 447–83.
Lazer, David, et al. 2009. “Life in the Network: the Coming Age of Computational Social Science.” Science 323 (5915): 721–23.
Lazer, David, Rubineau, Brian, Chetkovich, Carol, Katz, Nancy, and Neblo, Michael. 2010a. “The Coevolution of Networks and Political Attitudes.” Political Communication 27 (3): 248–74.
Lazer, David, Sokhey, Anand E., Neblo, Michael A., and Esterling, Kevin M.. 2010b. “Deliberative Ripples: The Network Effects of Political Events.” Social Science Research Network, August 10.
Lin, Nan. 2001. “Building a Network Theory of Social Capital.” In Social Capital: Theory and Research, ed. Lin, Nan, Cook, Karen, and Burt, Ronald, 329. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
Maoz, Z.Forthcoming.Networks of Nations: The Evolution, Structure, and Effects of International Networks, 1816–2001. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Maoz, Z., and Russett, B.. 1993. “Normative and Structural Causes of Democratic Peace, 1946–1986.” American Political Science Review 87 (3): 624–38.
Marsden, P. V. 1987. “Core Discussion Networks of Americans.” American Sociological Review 52 (1): 122–31.
Marsden, P. V., and Friedkin, N. E.. 1994. “Network Studies of Social Influence.” In Advances in Social Network Analysis: Research in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, ed. Wasserman, Stanley and Galaskiewicz, Joseph, 325. Research in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
McPherson, M., Smith-Lovin, L., and Cook, J. M.. 2001. “Birds of a Feather: Homophily in Social Networks.” Annual Review of Sociology 27 (1): 415–44.
Milgram, S. 1967. “The Small World Problem.” Psychology Today 2 (1): 6067.
Mobius, M. M., Szeidl, A., and Center, L.. 2007. “Trust and Social Collateral.” National Bureau of Economic Research working paper.
Moody, J. 2002. “The Importance of Relationship Timing for Diffusion.” Social Forces 81 (1): 2556.
Moreno, J. L. 1934. Who Shall Survive. Beacon, NY: Beacon House.
Morris, M., and Kretzschmar, M.. 1997. “Concurrent Partnerships and the Spread of HIV.” Aids 11 (5): 641–48.
Mutz, D. C. 2004. “Cross-Cutting Social Networks: Testing Democratic Theory in Practice.” American Political Science Review 96 (1): 111–26.
Mutz, D. C. 2006. Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative versus Participatory Democracy. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Nickerson, D. W. 2008. “Is Voting Contagious? Evidence from Two Field Experiments.” American Political Science Review 102 (1): 4957.
O'Loughlin, John, Ward, Michael D., Lofdahl, Corey L., Cohen, Jordin S., Brown, David S., Reilly, David, Gleditsch, Kristian S., and Shin, Michael. 1998. “The Diffusion of Democracy, 1946–1994.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 88 (4): 545–74.
Onnela, J.-P., and Lazer, D.. 2009. “The Evolving Co-contribution Network of the U.S. Electoral System.” Paper presented at the Political Networks Conference II, Harvard University.
Onnela, J.-P., Saramäki, J., Hyvönen, J., Szabó, G., Lazer, D., Kaski, K., Kertész, J., and Barabási, A.-L.. 2007. “Structure and Tie Strengths in Mobile Communication Networks.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104 (18): 7332–36.
Padgett, J. F., and Ansell, C. K.. 1993. “Robust Action and the Rise of the Medici, 1400–1434.” American Journal of Sociology 98 (6): 12591319.
Patterson, S. C. 1959. “Patterns of Interpersonal Relations in a State Legislative Group: The Wisconsin Assembly.” Public Opinion Quarterly 23 (1): 101–09.
Pool, I. de Sola, and Kochen, M.. 1978. “Contacts and Influence.” Social Networks 1: 148.
Porter, M. A., Onnela, J. P., and Mucha, P. J.. 2009. “Communities in Networks.” Notices of the American Mathematical Society 56: 1082–97; 1164–66.
Putnam, R. D. 1966. “Political Attitudes and the Local Community.” American Political Science Review 60 (3): 640–54.
Putnam, R. D. 2001. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Putnam, R. D., Leonardi, with R., and Nanetti, R. Y.. 1993. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Rogers, E. M. 1995. Diffusion of Innovations. New York: Free Press.
Routt, G. C. 1938. “Interpersonal Relationships and the Legislative Process.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 195: 129–36.
Sacerdote, B. 2001. “Peer Effects with Random Assignment: Results for Dartmouth Roommates.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 116 (2): 681704.
Schattschneider, E. E. 1960. The Semisovereign People: A Realist's View of Democracy in America. Chicago: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Schelling, T. C. 1978. Micromotives and Macrobehavior. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Scott, J. 1988. “Social Network Analysis.” Sociology 22 (1): 109–27.
Sherif, Muzafer, Harvey, O. J., Hood, William R., Sherif, Carolyn W., and White, Jack. 1961. Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Book Exchange.
Simmons, B. A., and Elkins, Z.. 2004. “The Globalization of Liberalization: Policy Diffusion in the International Political Economy.” American Political Science Review 98 (1): 171–89.
Snijders, T. A. B. 2005. “Models for Longitudinal Network Data.” In Models and Methods in Social Network Analysis, ed. Carrington, Peter J., Scott, John, and Wasserman, Stanley, 215–47. Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Strogatz, S. H. 2003. Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order. New York: Hyperion.
Uzzi, B. 1999. “Embeddedness in the Making of Financial Capital: How Social Relations and Networks Benefit Firms Seeking Financing.” American Sociological Review 64 (4): 481505.
Watts, D. J. 2003. Small Worlds: the Dynamics of Networks between Order and Randomness. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Watts, D. J. 2004. Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.
Watts, D. J., and Strogatz, S. H.. 1998. “Collective Dynamics of ‘Small-World’ Networks.” Nature 393 (6684): 440–42.
White, H. C., Boorman, S. A., and Breiger, R. L.. 1976. “Social Structure from Multiple Networks. I. Blockmodels of Roles and Positions.” American Journal of Sociology 81 (4): 730–80.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

PS: Political Science & Politics
  • ISSN: 1049-0965
  • EISSN: 1537-5935
  • URL: /core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed