Thursday, January 13, 2011

Comparing policy networks - David Knoke (1996)

Knoke, David. 1996. Comparing policy networks : labor politics in the U.S., Germany, and Japan. Cambridge [England]; New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

The lead author of the book is very famous for network analysts in social science, especially those whose interests are political networks or social movements. As expected, the main methodology of this book is originated from network analyses investigating the links, types of connections (asymmetric influences, i.e., influencing vs. being influenced), and types of network (e.g., how much dense a nation’s political web about labor politics). Readers should be accustomed to some relation-oriented statistics, such as multi-dimensional scaling, diverse statistics of network properties (e.g., indegree vs. outdegree; betweenness; prominence; mutual connection; density; structural equivalence; or blockmodeling) and some advanced statistics such as structural equation modeling.

Underlying theory of this book is relatively straightforward. A variety of publics (issue public, event public, and others) and classic sociologist’s (G. Homans and T. Parsons) theory of exchange. Probably all sociologists and most of non-sociological social scientists may know what they do mean, although having no specialized expertise.

The subtitle of the book clearly shows that the book adopts comparative study, which aims to compare the similarity and difference between different social/political systems. Three nations – US, Germany, and Japan – were chosen and compared their political webs based on the author’s conceptualization, termed, organizational state approach.

The first chapter is an introduction of what the organizational state approach means, and why it is adopted (simply put, its strength is the possibility of empirical tests). Basically, it means “[Organizational state approach’s] conceptual components argue that modern state-society relationships have increasingly become blurred merging into a mélange of interorganizational influence and power relations”

The second chapter compares three nation-states from the perspective of legal-historical context.

The third chapter introduces the organizations in each nation-state because the basic unit of organizational state approach is a social organization that participates into the policy networks where the collective decision occurs.

The fourth to eighth chapters provided empirical results based on the author’s approach. In chapter four, he examines what is common and what is different in terms of policy interests among three nation-states. In chapter five, he examined policy webs where social agents interact. In chapter six, influences of both action sets and events are examined. In chapter seven, he provides several models about exchange between social agents (information exchange vs. resource exchange that is physical). Mainly this chapter might be considered as the expansion of the prior study conducted by Laumann, Knoke, and Kim (1992). The chapter eight concludes power structure based on results of policy networks. Conclusion – (1) public actors are important in all nation-states, (2) Japan shows centralized, but US shows bipartite with Germany intermediate between two nation-states – is not much surprising but clearly shows general perceptions of each nation-state’s political-institutional structure and/or decision-making culture.

The last chapter summarizes the findings of the author’s series of studies and confirmed his adopted approach (i.e., organizational state approach) is quite plausible. The figure 9.1 (on page 219) may summarize the author’s finding:

(Formal institutions, Informal institutions)

Contentious (USA model) – (Presidential system, Multiple centers of power)

Collaborative (Germany model) – (Parliamentary system, Multiple centers of power)

Coordinated (Japan model) – (Parliamentary system, Single center of power)

Autocratic (Not mentioned) – (Presidential system, Single center of power)

In general, findings are clear, while some figures are not self-evidently clear (probably, due to my unfamiliarity of styles of the author). Findings are not theoretically interesting by themselves, but sound plausible and persuasive. Especially, the author’s descriptions of historical backgrounds greatly helped readers like me.

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