Civic Integration through Economic Networks
What are the social relational foundations that support the integration of divided communities and societies? Divided societies suffer from conflicts between opposing interest groups that compete for valuable resources and political influence. Conflicts typically arise from existing ethnic, regional, religious and similar boundaries that separate groups from each other. Extant research has shown that such conflicts lead to lasting political fragmentation, which in turn creates obstacles to economic development and growth. In this project we seek to identify (a) what type and (b) what patterns of social relationships are best suited to facilitate the bridging of political fragmentation. The main question we pursue is to what extent continuous relationships (e.g. economic networks) offer a more effective source of civic integration than relationships created from multiple categorical groups (e.g. crosscutting ethnic and regional networks). Empirically, we combine network simulations and a comparative analysis of longitudinal network data from salient historical settings (Britain, France, Russia) to advance the basic theoretical understanding of the social mechanisms that help to forge civic integration in otherwise divided communities.
At the core of this comparative project is the idea that brokerage mechanisms across multiple economic and political networks facilitate community integration. In one forthcoming article (Political Power & Social Theory, vol. 29, 2015), we show how the decline of such brokerage eroded the organization of an important overseas trade. A second article that examines how variation in brokerage ties within organizational teams shapes economic performance is currently under review. Third, the P.I. is currently completing a book manuscript about the brokerage potential of economic ties for political integration among overseas merchant elites (under contract with Princeton University Press). The project will be completed in mid-2015.