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Mark Granovetter is an American sociologist who has created some of the most influential theories in modern sociology since the 1970s. He is best known for his work in social network theory and in economic sociology, particularly his theory on the spread of information in a community known as "The Strength of Weak Ties" (1972).[1]


Granovetter earned an A.B. at Princeton University and a Ph.D at Harvard University. He is currently the Joan Butler Ford Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University and was formerly the department chair of sociology. He has previously worked at Northwestern University, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and Johns Hopkins University.[2]

Major works

Granovetter's most famous work is "The Strength of Weak Ties" and is considered one of the most influential sociology papers ever written.[3] The concepts of this work were later published in the related monograph "Getting A Job". Granovetter's basic argument is that your relationship to family members and close friends ("strong ties") will not supply you with as much diversity of knowledge as your relationship to acquaintances, distant friends, and the like ("weak ties"). In the field of economic sociology, Granovetter has been a leader ever since the publication in 1985 of an article that launched "new economic sociology", "Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness". This article caused Granovetter to be identified with the concept of "embeddedness", the idea that economic relations between individuals or firms are embedded in actual social networks and do not exist in an abstract idealized market. He is currently working on a major treatise called "Society and Economy".

"Tipping points"

Granovetter has also done research on a model of how fads are created. Consider a hypothetical mob assuming that each person's decision whether to riot or not is dependent on what everyone else is doing. Instigators will begin rioting even if no one else is, while others need to see a critical number of trouble makers before they riot, too. This threshold is assumed to be distributed to some probability distribution. The outcomes may diverge largely although the initial condition of threshold may only differ very slightly. This threshold model of social behavior was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point.

Security influence

Granovetter's work has been an inspiration to some researchers working in the field of capability-based security. Interactions in these systems can be described using "Granovetter diagrams", which illustrate changes in the ties between objects.[4]

See also


  1. Granovetter, M. (1972). "The Strength of Weak Ties", American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 78, Issue 6, May 1360-80.
  2. Curriculum Vitae, November 2005, from Stanford University website
  3. Barabasi, Albert-Laszlo (2003). Linked - How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What it Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life, Plume. ISBN 0452284392.
  4. J.B. Dennis and E.C. Van Horn. Programming semantics for multiprogrammed computations. Communications of the ACM, 9(3):143--155, March 1966. Citeseer entry

Bibliography (selected)

  • Granovetter, Mark.(1973). "The Strength of Weak Ties"; American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 78, No. 6., May 1973, pp 1360-1380
  • Granovetter, Mark.(1974). "Getting A Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers"
  • Granovetter, Mark.(1978). "Threshold Models of Collective Behavior"; American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 83, No. 6, November 1978, pp 1420-1443
  • Granovetter, Mark. (1985). "Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness"; American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 91, No. 3., November 1985, pp 481-510

External links