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The anomaly of personal networks

October 22, 2008

Personal networks are truly anomalous social formations. Unlike most other social formations studied by social scientists (e.g. peer groups, cohorts, kindreds, ethnic groups, clans, age-sets, neighbourhoods, firms, markets or states), they are egocentric not sociocentric and highly vulnerable to the vagaries of the individual’s life course (Amit 2002, Bidart and Lavenu 2005, see full refs here). Changes in ego’s place of residence, workplace, education, or health all can
lead to significant changes in the composition and maintenance of his or her personal network, with biological death dealing the final blow (Amit 2002). By contrast, most other social formations have reproductive mechanisms in place to survive even quite dramatic changes to their personnel. As we say in Spain: “A rey muerto, rey puesto” (“Off with the old, on with the new”, or quasi-literally “A king dies, another king takes his place”.)

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