James Moody, Jason Owen-Smith, Walter Powell, Douglas White

Paper #: 04-03-009

Social action is situated in fields that are simultaneously composed of interpersonal ties and relations among organizations, which are both usefully characterized as social networks. We introduce a novel approach to distinguishing different network macro-structures in terms of cohesive subsets and their overlaps. We develop a vocabulary that relates different forms of network cohesion to field properties as opposed to organizational constraints on ties and structures. We illustrate differences in probabilistic attachment processes in network evolution that link on the one hand to organizational constraints versus field properties and to cohesive network topologies on the other. This allows us to identify a set of important new micro-macro linkages between local behavior in networks and global network properties. The analytic strategy thus puts in place a methodology for Predictive Social Cohesion theory to be developed and tested in the context of informal and formal organizations and organizational fields. We also show how organizations and fields combine at different scales of cohesive depth and cohesive breadth. Operational measures and results are illustrated for three organizational examples, and analysis of these cases suggests that different structures of cohesive subsets and overlaps may be predictive in organizational contexts and, similarly, for the larger fields in which they are embedded, and for predictions of feedback from the field context back to organizations.