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.
Data collection from multiple French archives was completed, and coding of these documents into a relational database is nearing completion. At this stage of the project, we have built a unique longitudinal dataset on the commercial and political networks of the merchant elite in Old Regime Brittany that includes more than 8,500 observations. The collection and coding of matching network data on English commercial elites is currently under way. First findings coming out of this project were presented at the 5th Analytical Sociology Conference in New York and at the “Embeddedness and Beyond” Economic Sociology Conference in Moscow.