Richard Werbner
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Relational thought, networks, circles
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Chapter 5 examines the turn by A. L. Epstein, Clyde Mitchell and others to relational thought, at first primarily about ties of friendship or kinship and about the structures of these ties. Where an earlier generation of anthropologists in the 1930s had turned to science for physicists’ ideas of process theory, in the 1950s, led by John Barnes and later Mitchell, anthropologists fostered an approach to science through mathematics. After Barnes, Mitchell reformulated mathematical concepts in sociological language and brought graph theory and algebraic ideas and methods to bear on the data of interpersonal relations. Chapter 5 shows, also, how Mitchell responded when the tide of social network analysis turned in a fresh direction, sometimes called ‘The Harvard Renaissance’, and towards ‘block modelling’, in part stimulated by very much faster computers and exponentially more powerful computer programs. Of all the interdisciplinary contributions by members of the Manchester School, the ones that are best known, especially in sociology, are their pioneering parts in the development of this huge growth industry: the field of social network analysis.

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