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The Politics of Social Networks : Interpersonal Trust and Institutional Change in Post-Communist East Germany


  • Astrid Hedin

Summary, in English

New institutionalist approaches are inherently weak at accounting for institutional change. In this book, social network analysis is proposed as a key to institutional change. The social network perspective focuses emergent patterns of interpersonal interaction and the resulting ties of interpersonal trust. As a complement and contrast to both March and Olsen’s influential new institutionalist "logic of appropriateness" and to economic models of organization, I propose a social network model of agency: the "logic of interpersonal trust".

In my case study, I show how, during the 1989/1990 democratization of East Germany, pre-existing social network ties guided informal cooperation, recruitment and programmatic development in the reformation of the East German communist party SED into the PDS. With the help of interviews, auto-biographies and documents, I retrace the takeover of the SED as a process of social network entrepreneurship. I also show how feminist ideas and feminist candidates accessed the reforming PDS through bridges of interpersonal trust, resulting in a surprising programmatic turn to feminism and a quota for women.

A separate chapter discusses the importance of social similarity for the formation of social network ties. A model of "the strength of similarity" is proposed, which helps explain the strengths as well as limited flexibility of informal structures, such as same-gender informal circles. The book also includes a brief critique of the feminist critique of democratic revolutions and of the determinist tendencies of feminist theory.

Social network approaches should be relevant for example to rapid political transitions, such as the democratizations of former East Bloc countries, where old institutions succumbed to external pressures for reform. Where institutional structures are weaker, social network structures are likely to be more salient. Social network approaches may also be relevant to ongoing information age transformations, such as emerging forms of less hierarchical, more complex and informal inter-organizational networks.

Publishing year





Lund Political Studies



Document type



Department of Political Science, Lund University


  • Political Science


  • East Germany
  • PDS
  • SED
  • feminism
  • gender
  • political party
  • communicative action
  • logic of appropriateness
  • garbage-can decision-making
  • interpersonal trust
  • institutional change
  • social network
  • new institutionalism
  • structuration
  • Giddens
  • path-dependence
  • Political and administrative sciences
  • Statsvetenskap
  • förvaltningskunskap




  • [unknown] [unknown]


  • ISSN: 0460-0037
  • ISBN: 91-88306-27-5

Defence date

27 April 2001

Defence time


Defence place

The department of political science, Eden room 116, Lund University


  • Johan P. Olsen (Professor)