Neighbor Networks: Competitive Advantage Local and Personal

ISBN : 9780199570690

Ronald S. Burt
416 Pages
160 x 240 mm
Pub date
Jan 2010
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There is a moral to this book, a bit of Confucian wisdom often ignored in social network analysis: "Worry not that no one knows you, seek to be worth knowing." This advice is contrary to the usual social network emphasis on securing relations with well-connected people. Neighbor Networks examines the cases of analysts, bankers, and managers, and finds that rewards, in fact, do go to people with well-connected colleagues. Look around your organization. The individuals doing well tend to be affiliated with well-connected colleagues. However, the advantage obvious to the naked eye is misleading. It disappears when an individual's own characteristics are held constant. Well-connected people do not have to affiliate with people who have nothing to offer. This book shows that affiliation with well-connected people adds stability but no advantage to a person's own connections. Advantage is concentrated in people who are themselves well connected. This book is a trail of argument and evidence that leads to the conclusion that individuals make a lot of their own network advantage. The social psychology of networks moves to center stage and personal responsibility emerges as a key theme. In the end, the social is affirmed, but with an emphasis on individual agency and the social psychology of networks. The research gives new emphasis to Coleman's initial image of social capital as a forcing function for human capital. This book is for academics and researchers of organizational and network studies interested in a new angle on familiar data, and as a supplemental reading in graduate courses on social networks, stratification, or organizations. A variety of research settings are studied, and diverse theoretical perspectives are taken. The book's argument and evidence are supported by ample appendices for readers interested in background details.


1. Introduction
2. Process Clues in Network Spillover
3. Balkanized Networks
4. More Connected Networks
5. Industry Networks
6. Closure and Stability
7. Mishpokhe, Not
8. Bent Preferences
Appendices and References

About the author: 

Ronald Burt is the Hobart W. Williams Professor of Sociology and Strategy at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He studies the social structure of competitive advantage in careers, organizations, and markets. He is the author of Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition, (Harvard University Press, 1992) and Brokerage and Closure: An Introduction to Social Capital, (Oxford University Press, 2005). He earned a bachelor's degree in social and behavioral science from Johns Hopkins University in 1971, a master's degree in sociology from the State University of New York at Albany in 1973, and a PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1977. He has been on the faculty at INSEAD, Columbia University, SUNY at Albany, and the University of California at Berkeley. He took a leave of absence from Chicago to work at Raytheon Company as the Vice President of Strategic Learning.

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