The metaphor of network (and its cognate terms node, lattice, inter-linkage, and so on) plays aprominent role in contemporary social science. However, network metaphors come in and go outof sociological fashion, and may be employed in incompatible ways even by sociologistsexamining the same phenomenon. Writing in the 1980s Wilhelm Baldamus considered itremarkable that a metaphor which had hardly any explanatory power to start with could maintainits popularity for long periods for no tangible reason. This paper will examine Baldamus’s critiqueof network metaphors by looking at some examples in contemporary sociology, specifically thework of Harrison C White, and Actor Network Theory (ANT). The paper argues that the use ofmetaphors is probably inevitable, and can enhance as well as diminish our understanding of socialexperience. However, the network metaphor often creates artificial objects and makes us think wehave been precise when we have been vague. The paper calls for a more critical and reflectiveapproach to using metaphors in social scientific analysis.
|Number of pages
|International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory
|Published - 1 Aug 2012