671.2 Networks and structuration processes

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 11:00 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Arnaud SALES , Sociology, Université de Montréal, Montreal, QC, Canada

Proposing here the concept of active reticular structure, I suggest that complex, large-scale structuration and change processes cannot be understood without analyzing the role of networks articulating human actors and corporate actors that succeeds in imposing a model, which then locks the paths of change. Beyond the initial active network, a new structural configuration emerges, which, by limiting available choices, renders the model increasingly constraining under the action of actors and followers.   In this sense the network becomes an active structure.

I will give two inter-related examples of active reticular structures. The first one show how the interfirm Auto-Oil-Rubber network under the leadership of Alfred P. Sloan, President of GM and Pierre S. DuPont, his predecessor, played the bus, automobile and highways against railways and electric tramways giving birth to a gigantic active reticular structure structuring our material civilization at the global scale.  The second refers to the active reticular structure of fossil fuels.

This analysis leads to an understanding of (a) the initial structuration process, often put in place in a context of rival practices between diverging network configurations where flows of various types are organized and circulated; (b) the resultant of this structuration process engaged by the predominant network, which gradually imposes its hegemony and prestige, by configuring concepts, models, actions, adapted goods, services and infrastructures, calling for the adherence of a large number of agents and becoming more stable through the reproduction of circuits and flows, except if a crisis  arises to alter or halt this reproduction process; (c) the local or regional, national and international expansion process associated with an increasing number of actors and followers, who through the extensive reproduction of practices strengthens the model thanks to hegemony thereby acquired, a model that becomes constraining for a lack of concrete alternatives.