Social Networks, Political Dynamics, and Institutional Change in a Colonial Economy: Buenos Aires and the Atlantic World, 1760–1820

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 11:50 AM
Room 303 (Hynes Convention Center)
Zacarias Moutoukias , University of Paris-Diderot, Paris, France
We will discuss the use of social network analysis tools in order to reconstruct the mechanisms of social mediation that organize political and economic activity in a colonial world undergoing rapid change. I apply these concepts and tools—the intensive analysis of ego-centered networks, measures of centrality and proximity, analysis of the multiplicity of normative and discursive contexts than reciprocal links cross, etc.—in an extended study of the multiple articulations between the political and economic spheres in an old-regime colonial society. In this context, these articulations are the product of the absence, collapse, or imperfection of the institutions that ensure the execution of contracts, the formation of firms, or the supply of credit or access to information. These conditions generate a configuration in which the hierarchies necessary for the organization of economic activity tend to become identified with the structures of political authority, so that the strategies of local entrepreneurs and of the agents of the monarchy converge in a single space of political action constituted by a tissue of families, relatives, friends, and clients. It is thus the internal structure of these networks and the relative positions of the actors within them that define the space of their agency, and more particularly their use of resources that provide alternatives to juridical structures. The application of this foundational concept of social network analysis therefore serves on the one hand to provide explanations of the mechanisms that produced colonial social consensus, and on the other to elaborate an account of path-dependant institutional construction, and of local reactions to the crisis of the Spanish monarchy.