Changing Social Networks Because of Changing Social Institutions

This idea was at the basis of my PhD in 1995, long ago. I studied whether social networks of people in the former GDR changed as a consequence of the political transition in the 1990s. My argument was that networks ‘react’ to social institutions because these create problems for which they provide no standardized solution. For example, in the former GDR, institutions created the problem for individuals whom to trust and where how to accomplish goods short in supply. Both problems were solved by the structure and content of personal networks in this time: a highly dense niche network of trustworthy others, surrounded by a sparsely connected, rather diverse network of weak ties, which were able to help with the organization of goods. After the upheaval, these structures clearly changed: niches became more ‘open’ and the weaker ties became more connected.