The Strength of Weak Ties | Review

This paper is a critical review of the popular article The effectiveness of Weak Ties by Tag S. Granovetter (1973). After an release to the newspaper at hand and a summary of the texts main points, a closer look at some of the premises which the author develops his arguments is taken as well as evaluating the arguments themselves. Accompanied by that, the articles major efforts to the field of civic systems and public capital and its importance in this realm especially for the contemporary culture are reviewed. Finally, I will conclude by summing in the items and highlighting the significance of the article.


Mark S. Granovetters article The effectiveness of Weak Ties (1973) is one of the highly important & most cited works of the times. By emphasizing an integral part of social networks which acquired hitherto been neglected, the author clearly triggered a mix (not only) within the scientific community of sociology and public sciences.

Granovetter is a modern day sociologist and teacher in the school of humanities and sciences at Stanford School. His main areas appealing are Economic Sociology, Public Stratification and Sociological Theory. Contributing to these realms, he publicized several articles and catalogs.

Here, we will concentrate on the input he provides through the paper cited above.


In his renowned and important paper The effectiveness of Weak Ties (1973), Mark Granovetter makes a simple distinction between your respected functions of strong and weakened ties and items especially to the value of the latter. He defines the effectiveness of a link by the combination of time spent together, the psychological level, the intimacy and the reciprocal services (p. 1361) present in a particular marriage. He says that the more powerful a tie between two individuals, the higher is the proportion of common friends due to three main factors: the time committed to each of ones friendships, similarities that connect friends and the logic of Heiders cognitive balance theory which functions as explanation why the combination of an positive romance between person A and person B as well as between A and person C will most probably result in a good marriage between B and C (1958). Concluding from these claims, he points out that only poor ties connect one group of individuals (friends) and another, as strong ties already imply an overlap between two teams. Relationships that will be the only connecting point between two communities are bridges or "in case a tie is not the only but the shortest interconnection between members of different groups - local bridges (p. 1364).

According to Granovetter, along the way of diffusion of e. g. new ideas or principles these bridges play an essential role as they enable the get spread around of a concept from one group to some other.

The author presents a set of studies that show how new ideas pass on (most rapidly) through people with few strong but several vulnerable ties. This seems to be especially so if the idea introduced is quite unconventional and deviating from a certain norm and the spread of which requires a considerable degree of flexibility from peer pressure.

After clarifying the overall importance of poor ties, Granovetter requires a closer look at their relevance on two levels: the average person and the community level.

He explains that for the average person, the maintenance of weak ties (e. g. ex - working fellow workers) is essential as those are usually bridges that provide access to teams of people and information that one would otherwise not be able to obtain. For the city, on the other hands, bridges are crucial in order to avoid clean clique building which would inhibit community cohesion and hinder collective action.

Weaknesses of the argumentation

Not with no reason is Granovetters The Strength of Weak Ties considered a highly important and important paper. In contrast to a great many other sociologists writing about social theories or social capital, Granovetter makes a clear difference between social (strong ties) and mere business deal (weak ties) associations and he adheres with it throughout his discussion " an important step that many sociological argumentations around cultural capital lack.

There are, however, a number of weaknesses in his argument that i will describe in the next.

One of the premises he builds his debate on, would be that the proportion of overlapping friendship circles of two person is related to the strength of these individuals link. Thus, a weakened relationship between two different people implies that there are only few common friends or acquaintances. This, however, doesn't have to be true. Take previous class mates as an example: Person A and person B were class mates several years ago, but nowadays they are just in loose contact, they thus have a fragile tie. However, all of them does have an approximately evenly strong tie to almost all of the folks from the former class. Hence, there is an overlap of acquaintances even though they are only very weakly bonded to one another. Furthermore, a companionship that developed over an extended time period may remain a very strong one even if both individuals engaged do not see each other frequently anymore. This might then imply there is a strong tie between your two friends but certainly not very much overlap of these friendship circles where they live. This facet becomes a lot more important with new communication technologies evolving, which facilitate keeping contact despite spatial parting, and the general globalization which brings about a lot more people changing their location easier and more often.

Hence, this is of the strength of a link, though quite correct at first look, will not cover every kind of tie up and is thus not completely extensive.

Another idea Granovetter states is that due to the similarity which friends usually reveal it is very likely that if person A is a friend of person B and of person C, then B and C do become friends, too. If one always decides ones friends because they may have much in common can be doubted, though. Not without cause is the proverb opposites get so popular and often used. Often people have a tendency to feel safe around someone that differs in his personality and persona, this being an anti-pole to ones own weaknesses and talents. Thus, the similarity that the author implies here alternatively refers to writing a pastime in or dedication to something, whether it be in the labour world or common hobbies. However, when a likes B for their perpetual discussions about politics and A is a pal of C because of their shared love for soccer, B and C aren't necessarily more likely to build a profound companionship as well.

When writing strong ties lead to overall fragmentation (p. 1378), Granovetter clearly underestimates the value of strong ties. His newspaper is unique in emphasizing a thitherto neglected part of real human connection. Nevertheless, strong ties build the basis for almost any trust to advance, which again is a primary component of cultural capital and community cohesion. A person who does not have any intimate connections will have a hard time trusting people. Now, you can state that everyone is bonded in at least one strong romance and hence, this remark is redundant. However, nowadays the number of weak ties folks have is increasing continuously as online websites such as facebook allow for an easy way of controlling the climbing amount of human relationships. Still, these human relationships do demand some input to stay present and therefore it can be questioned if people still invest in their strong ties or if the quantity and power of friendships is declining in recent years. What you can be certain about, though, is the fact that for community cohesion to advance and stay, both poor and strong ties are needed, alternatively that discovering strong ties as a risk to social cohesion.

Last, one can question if the generalization of the value of fragile ties is respectable. It may, perfectly be the situation that they help the get spread around and diffusion of and thus gives usage of information you can otherwise not obtain. This function (enlargement of diffusion) is, however, one which does not require reliance on the vis- -vis one interacts with. Take the example of an old colleague sharing with a person about a job offer. This widens the job seekers horizon but he doesn't have to rely upon this solo job offer. Here, weakened ties fulfil their function magnificently. When something is at stake, though, you have to doubt that folks would still make considerable usage of vulnerable ties. Here, they would rather count on someone they know and well enough to be sure that he is able to be respected. This holds true not limited to interpersonal issues but also in only trade connection.

Strengths and contributions of the article

Nevertheless, one can not possibly question the value of the article. One major contribution is a remedy to the risk of an in-group bias that might occur: As lately discovered in a study by Hooghe, Reeskens, Stolle and Tappers, generalized trust, which furthers public cohesion and is a core element of social capital, produces easier and in higher amplitude within homogenous groups whereas heterogeneity of a group lessens it (2009). These studies bring along some problematic issues: How can collective action and communal cohesion happen in heterogeneous societies? Normally, heterogeneous communities will split into subgroups which can lead to fragmentation. With the linkages, the bridges, between these groups, the threat of fragmentation and a resulting lack of participation in public areas life can be allayed.

Furthermore, it evidently gives the basis for several important magazines not only in the fields of civic systems and interpersonal capital.

Richard Floridas The Climb of the Creative School (2002), for example, points out the crucial importance of the pass on of information through fragile ties for the facilitation of imagination in the labour sector. This is merely a representative of the many contemporary influential theories that build on Granovetters newspaper.

The Durability of Weak Ties plays a part in the debate around the concept of sociable capital not only by causing a clear difference between different kinds of ties (as mentioned above already) but also by demonstrating how weakened ties can be a connecting point between market leaders and an organization and the resulting trust and participation in the authority and by emphasizing the importance of the pass on of information which can ultimately lead to collective action and the participation of the majority of a society in public matters.

Finally, as already shortly mentioned above, Granovetters stress on fragile ties will not become outdated by new studies although the publication lays more than 35 years in the past. In contrast, it will acquire even more importance by the release of new technologies and online platforms that alleviate the maintenance of a vast number of loose interactions, even bridging great ranges. This trend is essential for understanding nowadays (Western) societies and hence, for many areas of sociology and cultural sciences.


Considering the items made above, you can clearly state that the publication is a simple contribution in civic networks theory despite the weaknesses it could have.

There are scholars that have a tendency to favour strong ties and disregard the significance of weakened ties "such as Robert Putnam most important in his book Bowling Alone (2000). This only makes Granovetters article more important providing an anti-pole to such neglect.

Even though there are imperfections in the argumentation and the premises on which the approach is made, those are slight ones.

Furthermore, Granovetter claims himself that his work is a restricted, basic the one which is a fragment of the theory (p. 1378). He does not claim to give you a comprehensive and elaborated notion that will not need further improvement. Within a theory and by pulling the focus on an totally neglected part of human interaction, it paves just how for even more research in this way.

Granovetter, hence, were able to contribute greatly to many fields of research and this good article won't loose significance in the foreseeable future as it is the basis further studies and will not be substituted by those.

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