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Mesolevel Networks and the Diffusion of Social Movements: The Case of the Swedish Social Democratic Party

Peter Hedström, Rickard Sandell and Charlotta Stern
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 106, No. 1 (July 2000), pp. 145-172
DOI: 10.1086/303109
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/303109
Page Count: 28
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Mesolevel Networks and the Diffusion of Social Movements: The
Case of the Swedish Social Democratic
Party
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Abstract

In analyzing the spatial diffusion of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, this article introduces the notion of a mesolevel network. A mesolevel network is a social network that differs in three important respects from interpersonal microlevel networks directly linking prior and potential adopters of a practice to one another: (1) it is generated by a different causal process than the microlevel network; (2) it tends to be much sparser than the microlevel network; and (3) the typical edge of a mesolevel network bridges much longer sociometric and geographic distances than the typical edge of a microlevel network. These types of mesolevel networks are important because they can dramatically influence the speed at which a contagious practice will diffuse. The mesolevel network focused upon in this article is the network that emerged out of the travel routes of political agitators affiliated with the Social Democratic Party. Computational modeling shows that the diffusion of the Social Democratic Party is likely to have been considerably influenced by the structure of this network. Empirical analyses of the founding of party organizations during the period 1894–1911 support these theoretical predictions and suggest that this mesolevel network was of considerable importance for the diffusion of the Swedish Social Democratic Party.

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