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How to make head or tail of bridging and bonding? Adressing the methodological ambiguity


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  • Geys, Benny


A distinction has recently been proposed between bridging (or encompassing) and bonding (or inward-looking) social networks. However, existing theoretical contributions remain vague as to the fundamental meaning of both concepts. As a consequence, two distinct interpretations have evolved alongside each other. In the present paper, we employ data on voluntary association membership in Flanders to empirically illustrate that both approaches can lead to substantially different outcomes and therefore appear to tap into different dimensions of bridging versus bonding. These findings underline the problematic nature of the current conceptual ambiguity. We conclude that should the bridging-bonding distinction add meaningfully to our understanding of the external effects of social networks, it is essential to resolve the conceptual and methodological imprecision. -- In jüngster Zeit wurde eine Unterscheidung zwischen brückenschlagenden (übergreifenden) und bindenden (nach innen gerichteten) sozialen Netzwerken vorgeschlagen. Die theoretischen Beiträge bleiben dabei aber was die fundamentale Bedeutung beider Konzepte angeht ungenau. So haben sich parallel zwei unterschiedliche Interpretationen entwickelt. Im vorliegenden Artikel zeigen wir empirisch auf der Grundlage von Daten zu freiwilligen Vereinsmitgliedschaften in Flandern, dass beide Ansätze stark differierende Ergebnisse liefern und somit augenscheinlich die Frage „bridging“ versus „bonding“ in verschiedenen Dimensionen betrachten. Diese Ergebnisse unterstreichen die Problematik der aktuellen konzeptionellen Zweideutigkeit der Ansätze. Wir folgern, dass sowohl die konzeptionellen als auch die methodischen Ungenauigkeiten beseitigt werden müssen, wenn die Unterscheidung von ‘bridging‘ und ‘bonding‘ bedeutsamen Einfluss auf das Verständnis von externen Effekten durch soziale Netzwerke nehmen soll.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB) in its series Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Processes and Governance with number SP II 2007-11.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbmpg:spii200711

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Keywords: Voluntary associations; bridging and bonding; social networks; membership heterogeneity; social interconnections;


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  1. Quibria, M.G., 2003. "The Puzzle of Social Capital: A Critical Review," MPRA Paper 2640, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 2003.
  2. Bowen, Harry P. & Moesen, W., 2005. "Benchmarking the competitiveness of nations: non-uniform weighting and non-economic dimensions," Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School Working Paper Series 2005-2, Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School.
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Cited by:
  1. Grießhaber, Nicolas & Geys, Benny, 2011. "Civic engagement and corruption in 20 European democracies," Discussion Papers, Research Professorship & Project "The Future of Fiscal Federalism" SP II 2011-103, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  2. Geys, Benny & Heinemann, Friedrich & Kalb, Alexander, 2009. "Voter involvement, fiscal autonomy and public sector efficiency: evidence from German municipalities," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Market Processes and Governance SP II 2009-02, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  3. Christopher-Johannes Schild & Matthias Wrede, 2010. "Cultural Identity, Mobility, and Decentralization," MAGKS Papers on Economics 201016, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).


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