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Article

Francesca Panzironi

A network may refer to “a group of interdependent actors and the relationships among them,” or to a set of nodes linked by a web of interdependencies. The concept of networks has its origins in earlier philosophical and sociological ideas such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “general will” and Émile Durkheim’s “social facts”, which adressed social and political communities and how decisions are mediated and ideas are structured within them. Networks encompass a wide range of theoretical interpretations and critical applications across different disciplines, including governance networks, policy networks, public administration networks, social movement networks, intergovernmental networks, social networks, trade networks, computer networks, information networks, and neural networks. Governance networks have been proposed as alternative pluricentric governance models representing a new form of negotiated governance based on interdependence, negotiation and trust. Such networks differ from the competitive market regulation and state hierarchical control in three aspects: the relationship between the actors, decision-making processes, and compliance. The decision-making processes within governance networks are founded on a reflexive rationality rather than the “procedural rationality” which characterizes the competitive market regulation and the “substantial rationality” which underpins authoritative state regulation. Network theory has proved especially useful for scholars in positing the existence of loosely defined and informal webs of experts or advocates that can have a real and substantial influence on international relations discourse and policy. Two examples of the use of network theory in action are transnational advocacy networks and epistemic communities.

Article

Violence against women represents the most popular gender related issue for global women’s activists, international development agencies, and human rights advocates. Although state responsiveness to violence against women was previously seen by feminist political scientists as only a domestic issue, international studies scholars have begun to theorize how states’ responsiveness is shaped by foreign interventions by global actors. As countries around the world began to adopt new policies opposing violence against women, social scientists adept in both feminist theory and social science methods began the comparative study of these reforms. These studies pointed to the importance of the ideological and institutional context as structural impediments or opportunities as well as suggested the more effective strategic alliances between activists, politicians, and civil servants. Those studies that attempt a deeper analysis rely upon indirect measures of effectiveness of policies and interventions, such as judging policy on how feminist it is and judging reforms based on the recognition of the relationship between violence against women and gender based hierarchies. Through these measures, feminist social scientists can estimate the response’s impact on the sex–gender system, and indirectly on violence against women, which is seen to be a result of the sex–gender system. The next challenge is differentiating between the various types of intervention and their different impacts. These various types of intervention include the “blame and shame,” in which activists hold countries up against standards; bilateral or transnational networking among activists; the widespread availability of international funding; and traditional diplomacy or warfare.

Article

Lands of recent settlement refers to countries settled predominantly by European migration during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as the United States, Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Australia, and New Zealand. Current scholarship on the lands of recent settlement reveals a very active agenda of comparative studies covering a broad range of areas and issues: culture, institutions, gender, ethnicity, labor, national identity, geography, ecology, environment, noneconomic factors of growth, and transnationalization and globalization. In explaining the different levels of development between lands of recent settlement and the rest of the world, traditional explanations pointed to propitious external factors and factor endowments. These explanations include the analysis of the history of the United States based on the notion of “frontier development” and the staple theory of growth. Meanwhile, recent works debate whether institutions, culture, or geography plays a crucial role. These works focus on the social, domestic, geographic, and biological elements of development, the cultural and institutional legacy of colonialism, as well as questions on gender, ethnic, and national identity. Although they do not reject the importance of foreign demand, capital, and labor in explaining the development of the lands of recent settlement, they question the adequacy of interpretations based solely on economic factors. Ultimately, the most important contribution of the study of development of lands of recent settlement is in the area of an analysis of transnational networks and globalization.

Article

The Global Knowledge Society is a broad interdisciplinary effort that emerged in the last decade of the twentieth century to probe the socioeconomic, technological, and geopolitical dimensions of knowledge production, growth, diffusion, and exploitation, in terms of impact on the development of societies worldwide. As a field of inquiry, the Global Knowledge Society encompasses all areas of social science including international relations, international communication, information technology, international development, and economics, as well as across the physical sciences and humanities. It also aims to fill a historical void in traditional social science—from economics and political science to international affairs and development studies—for explaining structural and environmental differences in societal rates of knowledge generation, application and adoption. A number of models on knowledge development have been explored in the literature, including the “Distributed Information Networks” approach, the “Technological Diffusion” approach, the “Genius Theory of Invention” approach, the “Creative and Proprietary Incentives” approach, and the “Cultural Legacy” approach. Models outside the social sciences and humanities also offer some rich possibilities, such as those under the label of “Idea Evolution.” Several of the models suggest the need for rethinking the mystery of persistent societal differences in knowledge growth within and between countries. Future research on knowledge society should consider bringing together researchers and policymakers from many disciplines across the natural and social sciences to review the substance of the field’s comparative methods and findings using interdisciplinary frameworks and complex factors.