The social sciences have sophisticated models of choice and equilibrium but little understanding of the emergence of novelty. Where do new alternatives, new organizational forms, and new types of people come from? Combining biochemical insights about the origin of life with innovative and historically oriented social network analyses, John Padgett and Walter Powell develop a theory about the emergence of organizational, market, and biographical novelty from the coevolution of multiple social networks. They demonstrate that novelty arises from spillovers across intertwined networks in different domains. In the short run actors make relations, but in the long run relations make actors.
This theory of novelty emerging from intersecting production and biographical flows is developed through formal deductive modeling and through a wide range of original historical case studies. Padgett and Powell build on the biochemical concept of autocatalysis--the chemical definition of life--and then extend this autocatalytic reasoning to social processes of production and communication. Padgett and Powell, along with other colleagues, analyze a very wide range of cases of emergence. They look at the emergence of organizational novelty in early capitalism and state formation; they examine the transformation of communism; and they analyze with detailed network data contemporary science-based capitalism: the biotechnology industry, regional high-tech clusters, and the open source community.
John F. Padgett is professor of political science and (by courtesy) professor of sociology and history at the University of Chicago. Walter W. Powell is professor of education and (by courtesy) professor of sociology, organizational behavior, management science, communication, and public policy at Stanford University.
"[Padgett and Powell] see the 'percolation of perturbations' through complex networks as the next research frontier in the program of study that they propose, and they hope their initial forays in The Emergence of Organizations and Markets will inspire readers across the sciences to pick up the torch. If that happens, this theoretically innovative contribution to social science will have catalyzed the regeneration of historical applications of complexity science."--Michael Macy, Science
"This important book . . . combines insights from biochemical origins of life and social network analysis to study the emergence of organizational forms that have been important in the development of market societies. This unusual synthesis provides original perspectives to the fourteen case studies in the book. These studies make sense of detailed relational data through models of biological evolution. In addition to being informative on some of the major turning points in economic history, the case studies suggest new explanations for the background and origins of major organizational innovations."--Ozge Dilaver Kalkan, JASSS
"The scholarship, analytical focus, and sheer energy of this work are nothing short of admirable. It will change the way historians and social scientists study large-scale economic and political transformations."--Jon Elster, Collège de France and Columbia University
"This intellectual tour de force revolutionizes how we think about social transformations. It introduces a brilliant and surprisingly effective new model of explanation based on an analogy with the biochemistry of life-forms. The model's utility is convincingly demonstrated in fascinating case studies, ranging from medieval Florence to contemporary Silicon Valley. Every social scientist interested in the problem of social change should read this book."--William H. Sewell, Jr., University of Chicago
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