Abstract: Systematic research on the structuring of social relations—the analysis of social networks—has been increasing at an exponential rate in recent decades and has provided multiple foci of ever-expanding research interest across the social sciences as well as the biological and physical sciences and computational science (Borgatti and Halgin 2011). And yet, along with this explosive growth and many generative research contributions have come repeated charges that the field is atheoretical (reviewed in Erikson 2013, 219-220), and questioning of whether network theory has lived up to its promise. Indeed, an influential and highly-cited textbook on social network analysis (Wasserman and Faust 1994) is subtitled Methods and Applications, highlighting the aspects of social network analysis that many consumers as well as practitioners see as the major contributions of network studies, with scant mention of theoretical advances. We find three broad perspectives on theories of social networks to be helpful in organizing our thinking.
Citation: Pachucki, M.C. and Breiger, R.L., 2018. Network theories. Cambridge handbook of social theory.