Identity and Control by Harrison White

Donald Steiny Publications Leave a Comment

Identity and Control by Harrison White and a team of contributors is the result of White’s research in sociology. White’s influence on modern social networks can’t be overstated. His work at Harvard in the 1960s, his subsequent work, and the work of his students form the bedrock of using social networks to model social structure.

The book is complex, and most people find it challenging to read. I would be happy to talk to you about this. The project has many levels, including anti-essentialism, that he puts into practice in the book. His major “objects” are treated as emergent, which makes it hard to be clear about the “things” and their properties.

Identities emerge from social structure and have their persistence due to our unceasing efforts at control.

An excellent place to get an overview of the book is from my review in Social Networks.

The book appears here because I contributed to the 2nd editions, and I am an author of Chapter 3. I made suggestions for the book and worked with the other contributors to create the references and I indexed the book.


I was in a class that Mark Granovetter (Strength of Weak Ties) was teaching. said, “If you want a more nuanced viwe of social network that most people have, you might want to read Identity and Control.  I warn you, though, most people find it very challenging.”  That was throwing down the gauntlet ,   

If you are up to the challenge and get stuck, write me

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