Mark Granovetter receives 2021 Frontiers of Knowledge Award
Stanford Sociologist Mark Granovetter receives Frontiers of Knowledge Award for research in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Mark Granovetter, the Joan Butler Ford Professor in the Department of Sociology in the School of Humanities and Sciences (H&S), has received a 2021 Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Humanities and Social Sciences category for discovering the importance of an extended network of “acquaintances” in economic and social life.
The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards recognize fundamental contributions in eight domains—Basic Sciences (physics, chemistry, and mathematics); Biology and Biomedicine; Information and Communication Technologies; Ecology and Conservation Biology; Climate Change; Economics, Finance and Management; Humanities and Social Sciences; and Music and Opera. The recipients of the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards receive 400,000 euros (about $437,670 USD), a diploma, and a commemorative artwork representing the eight categories.
Granovetter’s research focuses on the way people, social networks, and social institutions interact with and shape one another. His many papers and books include the widely cited papers “Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness” and "The Strength of Weak Ties" (American Journal of Sociology, 1985 and 1973 respectively).
Although it was written nearly 50-years ago, “The Strength of Weak Ties” is still relevant today, especially for big data and technology mediated networks. This groundbreaking paper revealed, among other findings, that when people are searching for a job, weak social ties, such as those between acquaintances, are often more advantageous than the close connections between family or friends because weak ties are bridges to other networks of people with new information and opportunities.
“What I find astonishing,” Granovetter said in the award citation, “is that 97 percent of the citations received by my paper on the strength of weak ties date from the year 2000 onwards.”
The award citation highlights Granovetter’s contributions stating, “Granovetter’s innovative perspective is the foundation of contemporary economic sociology. His substantial reputation rests on a select set of highly influential articles, all of which represent significant scientific advances that are relevant not only to sociology and economics but also to social psychology, political science, communication, marketing, and computer science.”
Upon learning he’d been honored with the prize Granovetter said, “I am especially pleased to receive the BBVA Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Social Sciences because though I am a sociologist by trade, the award spans all the social sciences. My particular specialty of economic sociology brings together at least two disciplines, while my longstanding interest in social networks is now shared by many economists, including my Stanford colleague Matthew Jackson, another recent BBVA awardee.
Granovetter’s recent work addresses the social foundations of the economy and he is currently working on the second volume of a two-part book series. The first volume, Society and Economy: Framework and Principles (2017), examines the role of social networks, norms, trust, power, and institutions in the economy using a theoretical lens.
Granovetter said this award “encourages his work” on the second volume of the series, Society and Economy: Cases and Applications (Harvard University Press, forthcoming), which will explore the role of personal relations in the economy, corruption, corporate governance, organizational form, and the emergence of new industries.
Since the awards were established in 2008 by the BBVA Foundation, a total of 12 Stanford faculty have received BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards in various categories.