To the Problem of Fundamental Conceptualization of Social Tie

Keywords: network analysis, social capital, generalized trust, social cohesion, social mobility, consensus, cooperation, conflict, competition


This article is devoted to the problem of the conceptualization of social tie using as a theoretical resource the M. Granovetter’s approach of defining strong and weak ties, as well as weak and absent ties. The author considers that defining of the substantive characteristics of each type of tie, as well as boundary between them, may shed light on the problem of social tie conceptualization. Today there has been much empirical research, which has used the concept of a weak tie in studies of the new jobs finding process, information spreading, and generally getting ahead in society. Despite that many of these research reveal evidence supporting M. Granovetters’ ideas, his original theory is challenged. The most important objection concerns his assertion of the significance of weak ties. Many researchers insist on the institutional or social nature of this finding. A large number of weak ties between micro networks does not lead to the increase of social cohesion in society. Moreover, the level of cohesion and trust in society may determine the significance of weak ties. At the same time, it should be taken into account that weak ties contribute to social solidarity provided they are based on consensus or cooperation. If these ties are grounded in the conflict or competition, they cannot contribute to social cohesion. These objections do not allow using the M. Granovetter’s definition of “strength of tie” as fundamental. This paper goes further; focusing on the conceptual boundaries between those ties that M. Granovetter defines as strong and weak, the author makes attempt to clarify what findings of the M. Granovetter’s research may contribute to the more broad conceptualization of social tie.  Based on theoretical findings of P. Bourdieu, J. Coleman, the author considers non-randomness, frequency, reciprocity, liability, and modality as substantive characteristics of a social tie. These substantive elements differ the social tie from «accidental collision on the street». Moreover, the author argues, that temporal perspective, the way of resource obtaining (potential or realized) and social position of each individual, that takes part in the social tie, should be taken into account.


Burde, P. (2002). Formyi kapitala [Forms of capital]. Journal of economic sociology, 3 (5), 60-74 (in Russian).

Granovetter, M. (2009). Sila clabykh svyazey [Strength of weak links]. Journal of economic sociology 10(4), 31-50 (in Russian).

Zimmel, G. (1997). Sotsialnaya differentsiatsiya. Sotsiologicheskie i psihologicheskie issledovaniya [Social differentiation. Sociological and psychological research]. In S. Levit (Ed.), Izbrannoe. Sozertsanie zhizni (pp. 301-465). Moscow: Jurist (in Russian).

Koulman, D. (2001) Kapital sotsialnyiy i cheloveskiy [Social and human capital]. Social sciences and contemporary world, (3), 122-139 (in Russian).

Putnam, R. (2000) Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of american community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Azarian, R. (2010). Social Ties: Elements of a Substantive Conceptualization. Acta Sociologica. 53(4), 323-338.

Granovetter, M. (1983). The Strength of Weak Ties: A Network Theory Revised. Sociological Theory, (1), 201-233.

Obukhova, E. (2017). Social Capital and Job Search in Urban China: The Strength-of-Strong-Ties Hypothesis Revisited. Chinese Sociological Review, 49 (4), 340-361.

Ryan, L. (2016). Looking for Weak Ties: Using a Mixed Methods Approach to Capture Elusive Connections. The Sociological Review, 64 (4), 951-969.

Sharone, O. (2014). Social Capital Activation and Job Searching: Embedding the Use of Weak Ties in the American Institutional Context. Work and Occupations, 41 (4), 409-439.

Völker, B. (2001). Weak ties as a liability. The case of East Germany. Rationality and Society, 13(4), 397-428.

Wasserman, S., Faust, K. (1994). Social network analysis: method and applications. Cambridge University Press

White, H. (2008) Identity and control. How social formations emerge. Princeton University Press

How to Cite
Fitisova, A. V. (2017). To the Problem of Fundamental Conceptualization of Social Tie. Grani, 20(11), 76-81.