Sociological Landscape - Theories, Realities and Trends by D. Erasga

By D. Erasga

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There has been much discussion across many areas of sociology about how people loosely aggregated within social categories may become more tightly welded into collectivities or organisations. The classic discussion was that of Marx concerning the revolutionary consciousness of the working class. g. through trade unions). Merton's views are more general (Crothers 1987: 97, Merton 1968). He distinguishes between categories, collectivities and groups. Members of categories share statuses, and thereby similar interests and values although not necessarily through shared interaction or a common and distinctive body of norms.

However, each of these four types of position are the basis for network links based on the 'structural equivalence' of the people concerned. That is, each plays an equivalent role in ‘their’ network, and analysis can be built around this similarity. Often these positions are, in fact, also socially prescribed status-roles, but they need not be. Nodes can occupy 'structurally equivalent' positions without this being formally recognised by the culture. One key idea is the importance of 'weak ties'.

At each of these levels, the social unit focused on has ‘internal’ and ‘external’ features: the elements that make it up and its relationships to other units within which it is contextualized. In a network approach, which is a major way of investigating the latter issue, relations between nodes are studied, not characteristics of nodes themselves. g. between individuals but also between organisations) are possible. This interest in linkages can be taken to follow approaches looking at characteristics of social entities (on the grounds that you need to know something about x and about y before you examine their relationship).

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