Mark Granovetter is the Joan Butler Ford Professor in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University. Granovetter has developed seminal concepts in sociology, including his work on how social structure, especially in the form of social networks, affects economic outcomes. His 1973 American Journal of Sociology (AJS) paper, “The Strength of Weak Ties,” redirected interest to an individual’s use of wider networks—beyond the “strong ties” of family and close friends. This highly influential paper argued that weak ties—as with distant colleagues and acquaintances—are more important for personal advancement, such as getting good jobs. This research formed the basis for Getting a Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers (University of Chicago Press, 1995).
Granovetter’s 1985 AJS article, “Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness,” is credited with launching the “new economic sociology.” It asserts that economic relations between individuals or firms are embedded in actual social networks, rather than existing in an abstract idealized market. This approach is developed in The Sociology of Economic Life (co-edited with Richard Swedberg, Westview Press, 2001). Granovetter’s model on the creation of fads, positing a probability-distributed threshold of action among individuals, built on previous work by Thomas Schelling, and was popularized in Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. His latest book, preliminarily titled Society and Economy: The Social Construction of Economic Institutions, is to be published by Harvard University Press.
Granovetter introduced a diagram in “The Strength of Weak Ties” to illustrate how the topology of interpersonal relationships changes over time, as people introduce people they know to each other. Now known as the Granovetter Diagram, it has been embraced in the field of financial cryptography as a basic and powerful tool for capability-based security, a major aspect of the design of secure computing systems.
He also has in progress empirical studies of the social basis of high technology industry in Silicon Valley, and of the early twentieth century electricity industry in the U.S.