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Mathematics LibreTexts

10.S: Summary


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Power arises from occupying advantageous positions in networks of relations. Three basic sources of advantage are high degree, high closeness, and high betweenness. In simple structures (such as the star, circle, or line), these advantages tend to covary. In more complex and larger networks, there can be considerable disjuncture between these characteristics of a position - so that an actor may be located in a position that is advantageous in some ways, and disadvantageous in others.

We have reviewed three basic approaches to the "centrality" of individuals' positions, and some elaborations on each of the three main ideas of degree, closeness, and betweenness. This review is not exhaustive. The question of how structural position confers power remains a topic of active research and considerable debate. As you can see, different definitions and measures can capture different ideas about where power comes from, and can result in some rather different insights about social structures.

In the last chapter and this one, we have emphasized that social network analysis methods give us, at the same time, views of individuals and of whole populations. One of the most enduring and important themes in the study of human social organization, however, is the importance  of social units that lie between the two poles of individuals and whole populations. In the next chapter, we will turn our attention to how network analysis methods describe and measure the differentiation of sub-populations.