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analysis while simultaneously shaping the

direction of its development.

During the 1960s, several theoretical movements

converged to suggest language is the

medium through which personal experience is

made meaningful. This “linguistic turn” in sociological

research highlighted the “storied” character

of personal experience and inspired research

on the structural characteristics of both oral and

written narratives. While still flourishing, the

structural approach to narrative analysis has

been criticized for reifying narrative structures

and under-emphasizing how narratives are accomplished

in the ongoing course of social interaction.

It is much more common now for analysts to

consider narratives not for their intrinsic structural

characteristics but for the ways in which

these characteristics are themselves socially contingent.

Most analysts now appreciate that both

oral and written narratives are best understood as

collaboratively constructed by storytellers and the

myriad audiences for whom stories are told.

Therefore, most contemporary narrative analysis


seeks to discover how the work of storytelling

is itself responsive to the wider round of social

activities within which storytelling is embedded.

Narrative analysis has also been profoundly influenced

by political developments both within

the discipline of sociology itself and in neighboring

disciplines. Social scientists once prided

themselves on their professional ability to use

the information they elicited from their research

subjects to generate superior understandings of

those people and their social worlds. Without necessarily

forsaking their claim to objectivity, many

researchers are now a good deal more attentive to

the fact that they do not possess a monopoly on

the capacity to describe social events objectively.

Feminist scholars, in particular, have promoted

the view that narrative analysis is not merely a

project of generating scientific accounts of the

narratives of others but of giving “voice” to those

historically denied the authority to speak for

themselves. DARIN WEINBERG


– see nationalism.


This is an ideology that holds that the nation is

the natural basis of social life and that the best

and most natural political units are states based

on nations, that is, nation-states. Correspondingly,

it gives rise to movements in which groups which

define themselves as nations demand that they

have their own independent national state.

Thus understood, nationalism is unproblematic.

The difficulties have to do mainly with the

concept of the nation, and the different understandings

of nationhood. Who belongs to the

nation? In one tradition, the nation is seen largely

in political, civic, and territorial terms. This has

been the dominant understanding of nationhood

in such countries as Britain, France, Spain, the

Netherlands, the United States, and Canada. To

belong to the nation, in this view, has nothing to

do with religion, race and ethnicity, or any other

cultural marker, and everything to do with political

membership of a particular, territorially defined,

state. In principle, all one needs to be a

national of, say, Britain or France, is to be born on

the territory of the state or to become naturalized

as a citizen. National belonging and citizenship, in

this tradition, are more or less synonymous.

Hence the famous commentary by Ernest Renan

in his lecture “What is a Nation?” at the Sorbonne

in 1882 (published in G. Eley and R. Suny, Becoming

National, 1996) emphasized the willed, voluntary

nature of civic membership (What is a Nation?,


The other tradition of nationhood puts the

stress on blood and belonging, on deep or primordial

ties of race, ethnicity, religion, history, and

other cultural factors. Membership is a hereditary,

involuntary, matter, especially as this concept

tends to stress an assumed common descent.

Nations, in this view, are born, not made. This is

the cultural or ethnic understanding of the

nation. It had its birth in eighteenth-century Germany,

from where it spread to eastern Europe and

other parts of the world. The power of the ethnic

concept of the nation is that, though it normally

aims at statehood, it can exist without statehood.

It therefore has wide appeal to those peoples who

feel themselves to be nations but who do not have

their own states or who exist as – often subordinate

– groups in states dominated by other nations.

There can in this concept be nations without

states, commonly given examples being the Catalans

of Spain, the Scots of Britain, and the Que´be´cois

of Canada. Not all such nations necessarily

want states, and whether or not they actually get

their own states is largely a matter of power politics

– the 20-million Kurdish nation, for instance,

has been waiting and fighting for a very long time

for statehood, but international politics have

stood in the way and are likely to do so for the

foreseeable future.

Nationalism as a doctrine arose in the late

eighteenth century in Europe, and received powerful

definition in the course of the French Revolution.

This was also the time when the two

principal concepts of nationhood were identified,

though the French themselves tended to promote

the civic concept – leading, by reaction, Germans

and others to stress the ethnic concept. But

whether the nation was politically or ethnically

defined, in the first half of the nineteenth century

nationalism was widely identified with the progressive

currents of democracy and liberalism. Its

earliest and one of its greatest prophets, Giuseppe

Mazzini (1805–72), saw individual nations as subdivisions

of a larger family of mankind, and envisaged

a future world order in which nations would

live peacefully and harmoniously together. In the

later nineteenth century, nationalism, affected

partly by the Social Darwinism of the time, took

on a sharper edge. It now tended to be hijacked by

right-wing thinkers and statesmen, and to become

aggressive and intolerant (a form of nationalism

known as integrative nationalism). Nationalism in

this period was often allied with imperialism, and

sought through the acquisition of colonies the

nation nationalism


aggrandizement of national power at the expense

of other nations. This form of nationalism reached

a climax in the 1930s in Europe, when it was often

transformed into fascism and other totalitarian

ideologies and movements. With the defeat of

fascism, nationalism also suffered a rebuff, the

more so as liberal hostility to nationalism was also

echoed by the left-wing movements of socialism

and Communism. Socialism historically had

always been opposed to nationalism as a bourgeois,

class-based, ideology with which the international

proletariat should have no truck (which

did not stop most socialist parties from supporting

their nations during the two world wars).

But while nationalism was under a cloud in the

post-Second World War western world, it was the

central inspiration behind the liberation movements

of the developing, non-western, Third

World as they sought to throw off colonial rule.

Even where the movement took a communist

form, as in China, Vietnam, and Cuba, its driving

force was clearly nationalist. In some cases, especially

in Africa and the Middle East, the nationalism

was made problematic by the fact that many

of the nations were of recent invention, usually

the creation of western powers under colonialism.

They might contain several ethnic groups of

widely differing character, though usually one

managed to achieve dominance during the independence

struggle. This threw up a welter of conflicts

after independence as different ethnic

groups claiming national status tried to free

themselves from “alien” rule. Examples were the

Biafrans in Nigeria, the Tamils in Sri Lanka, and

the East Timorese in Indonesia.

But it was not only in the developing world that

nationalist conflicts continued to flourish. In the

West too, after a relatively short period of quiescence,

nationalism revived vigorously, with strong

movements in such places as Britain, Belgium,

Spain, and Canada. Further East, the collapse of

communist regimes after 1989, and the break-up

of the Soviet Union in 1991, were accompanied by

a powerful surge of nationalism throughout the

region – leading, for instance, to the separation of

Czechs and Slovaks and, in a bitter and bloody

conflict, to the disintegration of Yugoslavia and

the rise of five new nations in its place. Nationalism,

it is clear, far from being the passing phenomenon

that most nineteenth-century thinkers

assumed, remains one of the most powerful forces

in the world, overriding most other distinctions of

social class, gender, and region, and apparently

thriving even amidst the current currents of

globalization. KRISHAN KUMAR


– see environment.

nature/nurture debate

– see genetics.


In sociology, neighborhood is a largely undertheorized

and commonsense term referring to

urban locales based on residential proximity. The

context for neighborhood studies in urban sociology

was provided by early twentieth-century

sociologists (for example Georg Simmel, Ferdinard

To¨nnies, and Louis Wirth), who emphasized the

impersonality and anonymity of the modern city.

Against this view, neighborhood studies (for

example Michael Young and Peter Willmott’s

Family and Kinship in East London, 1957) found that

neighborhoods can be the site of close kinship and

personal ties that are not a residue from the past

but, on the contrary, have been facilitated by

modern cities. Urban living enables people to

form associations based on kinship, or religious,

ethnic, political, or other interests which become

the basis of local networks and subcultures. Cities

may thus facilitate a level of diversity not found in

rural areas. In recent work the idea of neighborhood

decline or regeneration has been linked to

the concept of social capital drawing on the work

of Robert Putnam and James S. Coleman. This has

focused on the neighborhood’s potential as a site

of integrative social networks and solidarity. The

level of social capital in a neighborhood is often

related to factors such as stability, integration,

trust, solidarity, and tolerance, which in turn are

used to explain such things as differential economic

growth or levels of crime between regions.

Two problems should be noted. The specific influences

of the local environment may now be mitigated

by global factors. The argument is often

circular in that the evidence for and conditions of

social capital in neighborhoods may be the same.


Nelson, Benjamin (1911–1977)

A sociologist and historian who trained as a medieval

historian at Columbia, Benjamin taught

social sciences at Chicago, Minnesota, and the

State University of New York, before becoming a

professor of history and sociology at the New

School for Social Research.

His classic work remains The Idea of Usury: From

Tribal Brotherhood to Universal Otherhood (1949),

which engages with and extends Max Weber’s

nationalism Nelson, Benjamin (1911–1977)


historical and comparative work on religion and

rationalization. Nelson examined the expansion of

the moral community and the problems of conscience

and moral regulation. Drawing on numerous

medieval books, he elucidates the manner in

which the original dualistic injunctions against

usury, found in Deuteronomy 23:19–20, were inverted

and extended by the rise of Christian universalism.

An ethic of tribal brotherhood and

communalistic association, which excluded the

quest of gain and treated outsiders as enemies

and morally out of bounds, was first extended to

universal brotherhood from the twelfth century

onward, and again by John Calvin (1509–64) in the

sixteenth century, to an ethic of universal otherhood

in which “all become brothers by becoming

equally others.” The breakdown of the inherited

structures of consciousness – where a triangulated

regulation of “conscience, casuistry, and the cure

of souls” existed – resulted in competition and

calculation replacing cooperation.

His later work emphasized the intracivilizational

study of social action and cultural change,

and highlighted the necessary interconnection between

sociology and psychoanalysis. Both of these

preoccupations are evident in his comparative

historical sociology of science which compares

the development of science in the West with

that in China, and extends his discussion of the

two great revolutions in the sixteenth and

seventeenth centuries, the Reformation and the

scientific revolution. STEVEN LOYAL


Referring to a broad range of economic policies

adopted since the 1970s by western capitalist

nations, this doctrine advocates measures to promote

economic development, and is used to guide

the transition from planned to market economies

in former communist countries. In the United

States, neoliberalism is often referred to as “neoconservatism,”

thereby creating some confusion

in social-science debates. This “new” economic

liberalism is based on the late eighteenth- and

early nineteenth-century classical political economy

of Adam Smith (1723–90) and David Ricardo

(1772–1823), and on Austrian economic theory –

especially, that of Friedrich von Hayek (1889–

1992). It came to prominence in the wake of the

demise of the Keynesian macroeconomics that

had informed economic policymaking after World

War II. In a critique of the two older approaches,

Keynesian theory argued that the labor market

was not self-adjusting and that it could not

secure full employment unless the government

manipulated its expenditure and fiscal policy to

maintain the necessary aggregate demand in the


Following classical political economy, neoliberalism

maintains that the most efficient allocation

of resources is achieved by the competitive

market. To function effectively, the market requires

that property rights are clearly defined by

law and that prices are not distorted by the power

of monopolies – such as governments and powerful

trade unions. Thus neoliberal policies advocate

the reduction of direct government participation

in the economy; the privatization of the supply of

goods and services; and the reduction of trade

union power and job security in order to create

labor markets that are “flexible” enough to exert a

downward pressure on wage levels if economic

conditions dictate. Rather than spending to maintain

demand and employment and thereby fueling

inflation through an increase in the money

supply, governments should try to maintain balanced

budgets and a stable supply and, consequently,

stable value of money. Direct control of

the money supply by means of “monetarism”

failed, but the anti-inflation goal is now pursued

by interest-rate policy administered by central

banks that are independent of government. These

policies of privatization, competitive markets, and

stable money are advocated by the International

Monetary Fund and World Bank as the framework

within which individuals, and not governments,

in underdeveloped economies can create wealth.

Von Hayek’s contribution to neoliberalism was in

arguing that economic planning would inevitably

fail because states could never have sufficient

knowledge. Only competing individuals could establish

the real scarcity value and prices of goods.

At the international level, neoliberalism takes a

pro-globalization stance in following Ricardo’s advocacy

of free trade based on “comparative advantage.”

Global economic welfare will be maximized

in the long run if there is an international division

of labor in which nations produce and then trade

the goods for which they are best suited.

The neoliberal policy-set is often referred to as

the “Washington Consensus” and is frequently

criticized for ignoring, in the same way as classical

political economy, the fact that economies

are characterized by a power structure in which

freely competitive markets tend to increase the

power and wealth of the powerful at the expense

of the weaker participants. GEOFFREY INGHAM

network theory

– see networks.

neoliberalism network theory



The study of social networks first emerged within

postwar sociology and anthropology as a way of

studying multi-centered micro-level connections

between individuals. Since then the network idea

has expanded in scope and significance as a means

of characterizing macro-level qualities of social

structures, and as a means of linking micro- and

macro-levels. The controversial idea of network

society advocated by Manuel Castells in The Rise

of the Network Society (1996) and The Internet Galaxy

(2001) represents a leading contemporary example

of social network theory, linking large structures

to individual settings.

The recently expanded scope of network theory

is connected, at least in part, with new information

technology and the creation of virtual

communication networks such as the internet,

e-commerce, and broader processes of globalization.

While debates continue on the precise connection

between electronic and interpersonal

networks, a proliferating typology of social networks

has emerged, focusing on one or more areas

such as business and commerce, policy and governance,

advocacy, knowledge, science and the

professions, migration and diaspora, religion,

empire, and terrorism. Despite all of this, skeptics

ask what exactly is distinctive about networks.

Are we dealing with a metaphor that simply

alludes to informal patterns of social connectivity,

or does the concept carry more analytical


In its original form as micro-level sociology,

network analysis was applied to phenomena

such as the support systems at work in rural–

urban migration, or interactions within the classroom.

A major landmark was Mark Granovetter’s

“The Strength of Weak Ties” (1973, American Journal

of Sociology) on how people gained information

about job opportunities in professional and technical

labor markets. He found this typically occurred

less through intimate associates than

through more distant acquaintances. This generated

the micro-level insight that “weak ties” could

have “strong” social consequences.

A neglected application of network theory to

larger social structures was undertaken by Ira

Lapidus in “Hierarchies and Social Networks; A

Comparison of Chinese and Islamic Societies”

(1975) in F. J. Wakeman (ed.), Conflict and Control

in late Imperial China, which developed a theory of

social organization in Islamic societies by comparison

with China. While he saw Chinese society

as dominated by a hierarchy of levels binding

together lineage, gentry, bureaucracy, emperor,

and world order, in Islamic society, in contrast,

there was a vast mosaic of small groups with little

unity. These are better described as networks.

This distinction between hierarchies and networks

anticipated a major development in social

scientific approaches to organization, systematized

by, amongst others, W. W. Powell in “Neither

Market nor Hierarchy: Network Forms of Organisation”

(1990) in Research in Organisational Behaviour

(12:295–333). This argument distinguished three

organizational forms: markets, hierarchies, and

networks. While markets are high on flexibility

and spatial reach they are by themselves low on

trust, and prone to opportunistic self-interest and

exit. Hierarchies are stronger on co-ordination

and formal control but often inflexible and poor

at incubating innovation. Between the two stand

networks which typically combine the flexibility

of markets with some of the co-ordinating capacity

of hierarchies, albeit based on interpersonal

trust. This is the nearest network analysis has

come to a general theory.

Castells’s recent work offers an alternative perspective

on network society. This proposes a new

form of global capitalism that draws on network

flexibility, enabled by information technology and

digitalization. Flows of capital, information, organizational

interaction, images, sounds, and

symbols occur through the hubs and nodes of

virtual networks. For Castells, the centrality

of virtual networks extends to politics, which is

increasingly conducted through electronic media,

and to culture, where the new technology encourages

networked individualism. Network society,

however, is dominated by mobile cosmopolitan

elites, and creates new forms of social exclusion

of the immobile poor.

This powerful body of work may, however, be

stronger on speculative plausibility than empirical

accuracy. Critics point out that most

economic communication is not transacted electronically.

Even those transactions that are

electronically enacted are not usually interactive.

Nor is activity on-line strongly networked since

much of it takes the form of mundane interpersonal

emails. Even more damaging, there is no

necessary connection between information technology

and globalization.

A contrasting, more historically informed approach

to networks is provided by Randall Collins

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