Granovetter's Theory of the Strength of Weak Ties
Motivation for Granovetters Theory
- Careers, job changing. Why is it that people so often get jobs from weak ties?
- How do large groups coordinate to make things happen, for example to meet a threat from
- Since then it has developed into a larger perspective known as embeddedness, which holds
that all economic action, including that by organizations, is enabled and constrained and
shaped by social ties among individuals
Overview of the Theory
- Individuals with more weak ties have greater opportunities for mobility
- Cosers theory of autonomy (built on Simmel): lots of weak ties provide
"seedbed of individual autonomy". People with many weak ties [Toennies
Gesellschaft] live up to the expectations of several others in different places and at
different times, which makes it possible to preserve an inner core to withhold
inner attitudes while conforming to various expectations. People with strong ties
[Gemeinschaft] share norms so thoroughly that little effort is needed to gauge intentions
- Relates difference to Basil Bernsteins distinction between restricted and
elaborated codes of communication. Elaborated are complex and universal. More reflection
is needed in organizing ones communication to very different people. [weak ties]
- In elaborated speech there is high level of individualism, as it results from the
ability to put oneself in imagination in the position of each role partner.
- Social structure of poor is strong tie based, which does not encourage complex role set
that in turn develops intellectual flexibility and self-direction.
- Weak ties --> complex role sets --> cognitive flexibility --> ability of
communities to organize. Complex voluntary orgs may depend on a habit of mind permits one
to assess the needs, motives actions of a variety of people simultaneously.
- Adoption of innovation: made difficult by strong ties
- Mobilizing for change in response to environmental jolts:
- Italian community of the west end in boston in 1962 were unable to fight "urban
renewal" process which destroyed it. Gans attributes to working class culture (but
other working class neighborhoods have succeeded).
- Divided into kinship and lifelong friendship cliques that were relatively closed. Unable
to connect across cliques. Peoples work was outside the community, so no sources of
- More weak ties, more capable of acting in concert. Strong ties breed local cohesion and