Power Networks

  • David Knoke


This chapter reviews research on power networks, defined as sets of political actors connected by one or more types of decision-making actions, such as communicating, persuading, influencing, or deciding the outcomes of legislative, regulatory, or judicial issues. It examines research on policy networks in developed nations such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, and Japan, and in transitional nations of Eastern Europe and China. It reviews evidence about an emerging transnational corporate class, followed by a discussion of analytic power elite social structures and a methodological illustration using the 1990s Mexican power elite. It concludes with suggestions for future analyses of power networks.


  1. Akin, A. M. (2013). Elite Political Networks, Network Change, and Violent Conflict in Ukraine and Georgia. University of Alabama doctoral dissertation, Tuscaloosa.Google Scholar
  2. Bo, Z. (2010). China’s Elite Politics: Governance and Democratization. Danvers: World Scientific Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Börzel, T. A. (1998). Organizing Babylon: On the Different Conceptions of Policy Networks. Public Administration, 76, 253–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Börzel, T. A. (2011). Networks: Reified Metaphor or Governance Panacea? Public Administration, 89, 49–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Breiger, R. L. (1979). Toward an Operational Theory of Community Elite Structures. Quality & Quantity, 13, 21–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bull, B. (2008). Policy Networks and Business Participation in Free Trade Negotiations in Chile. Journal of Latin American Studies, 40, 195–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carroll, W. K. (2009). Transnationalists and National Networkers in the Global Corporate Elite. Global Networks, 9, 289–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carroll, W. K., & Carson, C. (2003a). Forging a New Hegemony? The Role of Transnational Policy Groups in the Network and Discourses of Global Corporate Governance. Journal of World-Systems Research, 9, 66–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carroll, W. K., & Carson, C. (2003b). The Network of Global Corporations and Elite Policy Groups: A Structure for Transnational Capitalist Class Formation? Global Networks, 3, 29–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carroll, W. K., & Fennema, M. (2002). Is There a Transnational Business Community? International Sociology, 17, 393–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carroll, W. K., & Sapinski, J. P. (2010). The Global Corporate Elite and the Transnational Policy-Planning Network, 1996–2006: A Structural Analysis. International Sociology, 25, 501–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Coleman, J. S. (1957). Community Conflict. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  13. Dahl, R. A. (1961). Who Governs? New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Fewsmith, J. (2015). Elite Politics in Contemporary China. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Fischer, M., Fischer, A., & Sciarini, P. (2009). Power and Conflict in the Swiss Political Elite: An Aggregation of Existing Network Analyses. Swiss Political Science Review, 15, 31–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fischer, M., et al. (2012). Impacts of Market Liberalization on Regulatory Network: A Longitudinal Analysis of the Swiss Telecommunications Sector. Policy Studies Journal, 40, 435–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gil Mendieta, J., et al. (1997). A Dynamic Analysis of the Mexican Power Network. Connections, 20, 34–55.Google Scholar
  18. Hafner-Burton, E. M., & Montgomery, A. H. (2006). Power Positions; International Organizations, Social Networks, and Conflict. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 50, 3–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Heemskerk, E. M. (2011). The Social Field of the European Corporate Elite: A Network Analysis of Interlocking Directorates among Europe’s Largest Corporate Boards. Global Networks, 11, 440–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Heemskerk, E. M., & Takes, F. W. (2016). The Corporate Elite Community Structure of Global Capitalism. New Political Economy, 21, 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Heemskerk, E. M., Fennema, M., & Carroll, W. K. (2016). The Global Corporate Elite after the Financial Crisis: Evidence from the Transnational Network of Interlocking Directorates. Global Networks, 16, 68–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Higley, J. (2010). Elite Theory and Elites. In K. T. Leicht & J. C. Jenkins (Eds.), Handbook of Politics: State and Society in Global Perspectives. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  23. Ingold, K. (2011). Network Structures within Policy Processes: Coalitions, Power, and Brokerage in Swiss Climate Policy. Policy Studies Journal, 39, 435–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ingold, K., & Christopoulos, D. (2015). The Networks of Political Entrepreneurs: A Case Study of Swiss Climate Policy. In I. N. Aflaki, E. Petridou, & L. Miles (Eds.), Entrepreneurship in the Polis: Understanding Political Entrepreneurship. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  25. Ingold, K., & Fischer, M. (2014). Drivers of Collaboration to Mitigate Climate Change: An Illustration of Swiss Climate Policy over 15 Years. Global Environmental Change, 24, 88–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ingold, K., & Varone, F. (2011). Treating Policy Brokers Seriously: Evidence from the Climate Policy. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 23, 319–346.Google Scholar
  27. Ingram, P., & Torfason, M. T. (2010). Organizing the In-Between: The Population Dynamics of Network-Weaving Organizations in the Global Interstate Network. Administrative Science Quarterly, 55, 577–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Keller, S. (1963). Beyond the Ruling Class: Elites in Modern Society. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  29. Keller, F. B. (2014). Networks of Power: An Informal Network among Chinese Communist Elites 1982–2007. American Political Science Association Annual Meeting.
  30. Keller, F. B. (2015). Networks of Power: A Social Network Analysis of the Chinese Communist Elite 1982–2012.
  31. Kenis, P., & Schneider, V. (1991). Policy Networks and Policy Analysis: Scrutinizing a New Analytical Toolbox. In B. Marin & R. Mayntz (Eds.), Policy Networks: Empirical Evidence and Theoretical Considerations. Boulder/Frankfurt: Campus/Westview.Google Scholar
  32. Knoke, D. (1990). Political Networks: The Structural Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Knoke, D. (1998). The Organizational State: Origins and Prospects. Research in Political Sociology, 8, 147–163.Google Scholar
  34. Knoke, D. (2011). Policy Networks. In J. Scott & P. J. Carrington (Eds.), The Sage Handbook of Social Network Analysis. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Knoke, D., & Kostiuchenko, T. (2016). Policy Networks: Structures and Power. In J. Victor, M. Lubell, & A. Montgomery (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Political Networks. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Knoke, D., & Laumann, E. O. (1982). The Social Structure of National Policy Domains: An Exploration of Some Structural Hypotheses. In P. V. Marsden & N. Lin (Eds.), Social Structure and Network Analysis. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  37. Knoke, D., & Pappi, F. U. (1991). Organizational Action Sets in the U.S. and German Labor Policy Domains. American Sociological Review, 56, 509–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Knoke, D., et al. (1996). Comparing Policy Networks: Labor Politics in the U.S., Germany and Japan. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kondoh, H. (2002). Policy Networks in South Korea and Taiwan during the Democratic Era. Pacific Review, 15, 225–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kostiuchenko, T. (2011). Central Actors and Groups in Political Elite: Advantages of Network Approach. Polish Sociological Review, 2, 195–204.Google Scholar
  41. Kostiuchenko, T. (2012). Elite Continuity in Ukraine: When Networks Matter (?). Historical Social Research, 37, 14–25.Google Scholar
  42. Kostiuchenko, T. (2014). Civic and Political Connections between Ukrainian Governing Elites: Opportunities for Lobbying and Policy Making.
  43. Laumann, E. O., & Knoke, D. (1987). The Organizational State: Social Choice in National Policy Domains. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  44. Leifeld, P., & Schneider, V. (2012). Information Exchange in Policy Networks. American Journal of Political Science, 56, 731–744.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Luzi, S., et al. (2008). Water Policy Networks in Egypt and Ethiopia. Journal of Environment and Development, 17, 238–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Marsh, D., & Rhodes, R. A. W. (Eds.). (1992). Policy Networks in British Government. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  47. Martinez-Diaz, L., & Woods, N. (Eds.). (2009). Networks of Influence? Developing Countries in a Networked World Order. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Murray, J. (2013). Evidence of a Transnational Capitalist Class-For-Itself: The Determinants of PAC Activity among Foreign Firms in the Global Fortune 500, 2000–2006. Global Networks, 14, 230–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pappi, F. U. (1984). Boundary Specification and Structural Models of Elite Systems: Social Circles Revisited. Social Networks, 6, 97–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Raab, J. (2002). Where Do Policy Networks Come From? Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 12, 581–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Raab, J., & Kenis, P. (2007). Taking Stock of Policy Networks: Do They Matter? In F. Fischer, G. J. Miller, & M. S. Sidney (Eds.), Handbook of Public Policy Analysis: Theory, Methods and Politics. London: Taylor & Francis CRC Press.Google Scholar
  52. Rhodes, R. A. W. (1981). Control and Power in Central-Local Government Relations. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  53. Rhodes, R. A. W. (1985). Power Dependence, Policy Communities and Inter-Governmental Networks. Public Administration Bulletin, 49, 4–29.Google Scholar
  54. Rhodes, R. A. W. (1990). Policy Networks: A British Perspective. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 2, 293–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rhodes, R. A. W. (2007). Understanding Governance: Ten Years On. Organization Studies, 28, 1243–1264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rhodes, R. A. W. (2008). Policy Network Analysis. In R. E. Goodin, M. Moran, & M. Rein (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy. Oxford: University of Oxford Press.Google Scholar
  57. Robinson, W. I. (2004). A Theory of Global Capitalism: Production, Class, and State in a Transnational World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Robinson, W. I., & Harris, J. (2000). Towards a Global Ruling Class? Globalization and the Transnational Capitalist Class. Science & Society, 64, 11–54.Google Scholar
  59. Rossi, P. H. (1960). Power and Community Structure. Midwest Journal of Political Science, 4, 390–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sapinski, J. P. (2016). Constructing Climate Capitalism: Corporate Power and the Global Climate Policy-Planning Network. Global Networks, 16, 89–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Schneider, V. (1986). Exchange Networks in the Development of Policy: Regulation of Chemicals in the OECD, EEC, and the Federal Republic of Germany. Journal für Sozialforschung, 26, 383–416.Google Scholar
  62. Schneider, V. (1992). The Structure of Policy Networks: A Comparison of the ‘Chemicals Control’ and ‘Telecommunications’ Policy Domains in Germany. European Journal of Political Research, 21, 109–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Sciarini, P., Fischer, A., & Nicolet, S. (2004). How Europe Hits Home: Evidence from the Swiss Case. Journal of European Public Policy, 11, 353–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sklair, L. (1997). Social Movements for Global Capitalism: The Transnational Capitalist Class in Action. Review of International Political Economy, 4, 514–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Stark, D., & Vedres, B. (2012). Political Holes in the Economy: The Business Network of Partisan Firms in Hungary. American Sociological Review, 77, 700–722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Thatcher, M. (1998). The Development of Policy Network Analysis: From Modest Origins to Overarching Frameworks. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 10, 389–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. van Veen, K., & Kratzer, J. (2011). National and International Interlocking Directorates within Europe: Corporate Networks within and among Fifteen European Countries. Economy and Society, 40, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Knoke
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

Personalised recommendations