Conceptualising networks as assemblages: Examples from the Spanish ceramics sector

Revista Internacional de Sociología

Network structures are being used to explain social interactions within and between organisations in many

ways that have become very influential. Many of the sociological features of organisations are captured

very effectively by network descriptions, but such descriptions also retain serious limitations. Some network

theories, for example, are composed of fragmented and internally inconsistent theories, while others depend

upon essentialist and reductionist models. Perhaps a more serious problem is that networks describe relationships

rather than explain the mechanisms through which these relationships function. This paper introduces

the notion of assemblages as a corrective to these problems. The concept offers a clear, though suitably

complex, framework with which to clarify the dynamics and structures that afford engagement and enable

collective action among diverse elements of organisations. Using brief examples from recent research in the

innovation literature, supported by an empirical case study in the Spanish ceramics sector, this paper will

illustrate how reconceptualising network relationships in terms of their assemblages enables a more robust

and consistent theoretical grounding for network research.