Catnets: my new favourite concept (and not *just* because of the name)

Catnets exist where a set of actors are both internally densely networked in a relevant and meaningful manner and also share a common ‘category’ or ‘collective identity’. Actors can belong to a common category and even adhere to a common identity without necessarily enjoying meaningful and dense network ties: hermits are an obvious example. Likewise actors can be densely networked in a meaningful fashion without necessarily belonging to a salient category or sharing a collective identity: socially heterogeneous friendship groups might be an example. Where both conditions come together, however, we have a catnet and catnets are important, according to White, because the combination of networks and identities is particularly conducive to collective action, including protest and social movement mobilization. Like Marx, White believes that networks can become a force for change when their members identity as a group. In a somewhat more flexible manner than Marx, however, he claims both that ‘cats’ can give rise to ‘nets’ and that ‘nets’ can give rise to ‘cats’. Whilst either may exist in isolation the homophily mechanism discussed in Chapter 9 entails that actors who belong to a common category – particularly when it entails an identity which is important to them – are more likely to associate and form networks but by the same token actors who interact regularly and enjoy strong, transitive connections are more likely to generate collective identities for themselves. Dense friendship groups might form as gangs with collective identities for example.

Pg 196 – Crossley, N. (2010) Towards Relational Sociology. Routledge.

(podcast with him about his book here and about his study of the punk scene in manchester, which used network analysis, here)

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