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Mathematics LibreTexts

10: Centrality and Power

 

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Social network analysis methods provide some useful tools for addressing one of the most important (but also one of the most complex and difficult) aspects of social structure: the sources and distribution of power. The network perspective suggests that the power of individual actors is not an individual attribute, but arises from their relations with others. Whole social structures may also be seen as displaying high levels or low levels of power as a result of variations in the patterns of ties among actors. And, the degree of inequality or concentration of power in a population may be indexed.

  • 10.1: Introduction to Centrality and Power
    All sociologists would agree that power is a fundamental property of social structures. There is much less agreement about what power is, and how we can describe and analyze its causes and consequences. In this chapter, we will look at some of the main approaches that social network analysis has developed to study power, and the closely related concept of centrality.
  • 10.2: Degree Centrality
    Actors who have more ties to other actors may be in advantaged positions. Because they have many ties, they may have alternative ways to satisfy needs, and hence are less dependent on other individuals. Because they have many ties, they may have access to, and be able to call on, more of the resources of the network as a whole.  So, a very simple, but often very effective measure of an actor's centrality and power potential is their degree.
  • 10.3: Closeness Centrality
    Closeness centrality approaches emphasize the distance of an actor to all others in the network by focusing on the distance from each actor to all others. Depending on how one wants to think of what it means to be "close" to others, a number of slightly different measures can be defined.
  • 10.4: Betweenness Centrality
    For networks with binary relations, Freeman created some measures of the centrality of individual actors based on their betweenness, as well as overall graph centralization. Freeman, Borgatti, and White extended the basic approach to deal with valued relations.
  • 10.E: Centrality and Power (Exercises)
  • 10.S: Summary
    Social network analysis methods provide some useful tools for addressing one of the most important (also one of the most complex and difficult) aspects of social structure: the sources and distribution of power. The network perspective suggests that the power of individual actors is not an individual attribute, but arises from their relations with others. Whole social structures may also display high levels or low levels of power as a result of variations in the patterns of ties among actors.