Who Says Networks, Says Oligarchy? Oligarchies as “Rich Club” Networks

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International Network for Social Network Analysis

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VOLUME 36 , ISSUE 1 (February 2016) > List of articles

Who Says Networks, Says Oligarchy? Oligarchies as “Rich Club” Networks

Christopher Ansell * / Renata Bichir / Shi Zhou

Keywords : oligarchy, rich clubs, policy networks, urban networks

Citation Information : Connections. Volume 36, Issue 1, Pages 20-32, DOI: https://doi.org/10.17266/35.2.2

License : (CC BY 4.0)

Published Online: 10-March-2018

ARTICLE

ABSTRACT

Departing from Roberto Michels’s classic analysis of oligarchy, we provide a structural analysis of the concept based on social network analysis. We define oligarchy as a social network that exhibits three structural properties: tight interconnections among a small group of prominent actors who form an “inner circle”; the organization of other actors in the network through the intermediation of this inner circle; and weak direct connections among the actors outside the inner circle. We treat oligarchy as a global property of social networks and offer an approach for measuring the oligarchical tendencies of any social network. Our main contribution is to operationalize this idea using a “rich club” approach. We demonstrate the efficacy of this approach by analyzing and comparing several urban networks: Sao Paulo urban infrastructure networks and Los Angeles and Chicago transportation policy networks.

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