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Organizing the Sociological Landscape for the Next Decades of Health and Health Care Research: The Network Episode Model III-R as Cartographic Subfield Guide

Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)

Abstract

The last decade has produced an extraordinary consensus in understanding health, illness, and healing. While the last 100 years of social science, and many more years for the natural sciences, was marked by greater disciplinary boundaries and specialization, these last twenty have been marked by calls for transdisciplinarity. This is not unique to medicine or to the sociomedical sciences. The centrifugal force that characterized the development of the first 100 years of empirically based research has produced schools (e.g., public health), spin-off disciplines and programs (e.g., women’s studies, health services research), and subfields (e.g., medical sociology) with a solid body of rich ideas and empirical findings (Pescosolido 2006a). This period established some of the most famous dichotomies of early modern science – photons versus waves, geosynclines versus tectonic plates, nature versus nurture, the individual versus society, and culture versus structure. While some of these were eventually adjudicated and their superiority established (e.g., Geographer Wegener’s theory of plate tectonics), most have reached a contemporary end point that matches what sociologists have always known: The world is intricate and messy, even if regular and patterned.

Keywords

  • Social Network
  • Personal Network
  • Rational Choice Theory
  • Social Circle
  • Contextual Level

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Fig. 3.1
Fig. 3.2
Fig. 3.3
Fig. 3.4
Fig. 3.5
Fig. 3.6

Notes

  1. 1.

    Bringing a version of complexity theory to understand health, illness, and healing brings up two sets of terms that are au courant and confusing – interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary. I use the former to describe research and researchers who claim to bring the expertise of many disciplines and approaches to the table; I use the latter to describe the process of researchers, each expert in their field, who come together to develop frameworks and research designs that take advantage of the interconnected strengths of each. Obvious from even this framing, my preference is for the latter.

  2. 2.

    From a social science point of view, these labels may seem somewhat backwards. However, these terms originated in a set of arguments designed to convince those in the medical and mental health treatment systems, who were skeptical at best, that social networks were “active ingredients” within clinics, hospitals, and programs that affected the delivery and outcomes of their manualized treatments.

  3. 3.

    In population studies that have developed sophisticated tools (e.g., the CIDI in the National Comorbidity Studies; Kessler et al. 1998) to measure population-based prevalence rather than rely on institutional data, this is not the case. Yet the effort that goes into establishing prevalence has generally meant little remaining time for a health services component or even a sophisticated social network component for etiological analyses.

  4. 4.

    Other analyses might also be used to take advantage of these time-ordered, detailed data (e.g., examining the timing or “spells” of substance abuse, Pavalko et al. 2007).

  5. 5.

    For example, Durkheim’s classic work on suicide (1897/1951) laid out four types – altruistic, egoistic, anomic, and fatalistic – each stemming from very different social contexts in which individuals find themselves. Yet, there are few, if any, studies that separate out suicides by type or any schematics to classify suicide types.

  6. 6.

    Durkheim’s use of the term “society,” or even “societies,” weakens the power of sociological explanations (Tilly 1984, pp. 27–28; Pescosolido 1994). If we replace “society” with “network,” this idea becomes less ambiguous. Each context into which an individual social actor is connected represents a network that can offer the “constant interchange of ideas and feelings, something like mutual moral support” that Durkheim (1951, p. 210) discusses.

  7. 7.

    I also considered whether the net, itself, could be conceived of as a two-dimensional cantor set which mathematically describes structures that become either more “loose” from the center (e.g., spider web) or more “tight” from the center (an inverse cantor set). After much discussion with colleagues, the net when split along a plane diagonally cutting through the net would result in half fitting the usual notion of a cantor set, and the other half, an inverse cantor set. In fact, the Durkheimian net provided in Figure 3.2 could not be drawn using traditional mathematical algorithms. After many attempts in graphic programs to match the theoretical conceptualization, only an artist could provide the representation. Thus, I rejected the idea of a cantor set because it neither image exactly nor did it provide a parsimonious explication for the theory. I would like to thank Andy Abbott, Brea Perry, Alex Capshew, and Mary Hannah for their contributions to this discussion.

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Pescosolido, B.A. (2011). Organizing the Sociological Landscape for the Next Decades of Health and Health Care Research: The Network Episode Model III-R as Cartographic Subfield Guide. In: Pescosolido, B., Martin, J., McLeod, J., Rogers, A. (eds) Handbook of the Sociology of Health, Illness, and Healing. Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-7261-3_3

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