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Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences Vol. 9, No. 4, December 2012, 279–281 BOOK REVIEW Social networks and natural resource management: uncovering the social fabric of environmental governance, edited by Orjan Bodin and Christina Prell, Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press, 2011, 376 pp., £35.00 (hardback), ISBN 978-0- 521-76629-6 What role does the structure of a social–ecological network play in achieving desired outcomes in natural resource management? Does network structure drive govern- ance outcomes, or vice versa, or is there a feedback between the two? What is the relationship between social network theory and other theories of social interaction? Anyone intrigued by questions such as these ought to get hold of Bodin and Prell’s Social Networks and Natural Resource Management. The book aims to provide a rigorous account of the social relational approach to natural resource management, as implemented through social network analysis (SNA). The social relational approach investigates how patterned relationships among actors within a system enable and constrain human action on natural resources. The book achieves its objective admirably well. Although this is an edited volume, a rigorous conceptual framework of SNA at the beginning of the book weaves the contributing case studies of natural resource management into an integrated whole. Case studies ranging from ﬁshing in Africa to park management in Sweden are divided into individual level, subgroup level, and network level analyses. Each case concludes with reﬂections on its signiﬁcance for the theory and methods of SNA in natural resource management. The concluding chapter is ambitious and successful in synthesizing the central theoretical and methodological challenges for future work in the ﬁeld. The authors have targeted their work to upper-level undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate students who are new to SNA but familiar with natural resource governance. Academics and professionals working in natural resource governance are also likely to ﬁnd the book very useful. The book achieves its conceptual rigor by ﬁrst introducing the basics of SNA, and then relating SNA to more general theories of social interaction (e.g. social capital, social learning, social movement) and to more speciﬁc theories of natural resource governance (e.g. adaptive co-management). A helpful diagram displays the relationships. Each case description highlights how the SNA applied in the case speaks to the more general issues of social interaction and natural resource governance. The concluding chapter ties these threads together into an articulation of future challenges. The conceptual rigor comes with a cost. Those familiar with alternative traditions of SNA may be surprised at the absence of any mention of, say, actor network theory. The omission is understandable, given the deep divisions that actor network theory has created in social sciences with its radical ISSN 1943-815X print/ISSN 1943-8168 online http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1943815X.2012.741980 http://www.tandfonline.com 280 Book Review reconceptualization of the very units that make up a network, such as actors (nodes) and social relations (links). Yet somehow justifying the exclusion would have facilitated interdisciplinary dialogue. Another example of the downside of conceptual rigor is the inconsistent way in which the authors treat social–ecological systems (SESs). They begin by recognizing that it is ‘‘diﬃcult to justify a dichotomy between social and natural systems’’ because of an ‘‘intimate coupling’’ between the two (p. 3). Yet they go on to characterize SESs as a dichotomy of social systems, natural systems, and linkages between the two. The concluding chapter wisely admits this conceptual weakness in its call for an analysis of networks made of more integrative social-ecological units, such as habitat patches. Occasionally the argument slips into outright scientiﬁc chauvinism. The chapter on the application of SNA to adaptability introduces the concept of ‘‘negotiated nonsense’’ – mutual understanding without scientiﬁc ecological knowledge – and argues that adaptability requires an input of scientiﬁc knowledge into the management process. One can only wonder how old cultures of natural resource management, such as reindeer herding, have succeeded in being so adaptable over thousands of years with nothing but negotiated nonsense to go by. The case studies oﬀer numerous illustrations of the power of SNA in reﬁning our understanding of the challenges of natural resource management. The case of Kenyan ﬁshing village convincingly shows how the lack of transformative collective action results from a network structure dominated by deep sea ﬁshers acting as ‘‘careless brokers.’’ SNA is also capable of debunking assumed indicators of an individual’s centrality in a society, such as years of practicing the livelihood or living in a community. A better indicator is the network analytical concept of power-based centrality, or a measure of the links of those individuals with whom a person is linked. In the case of natural park management in England, a clever technique was used to validate the stakeholder network. Respondents were presented with an initial stakeholder network with only organizational aﬃliations, to which they reacted with statements like ‘‘this must be such and such person,’’ thus enabling validation of the hypothetical network. The book carefully identiﬁes areas where SNA can contribute to broader theoretical and methodological discussion of natural resource management. The issue of causality is one such theme: Does network structure cause governance outcomes or vice versa? The book’s cases predominantly assume the ﬁrst direction of causality, but the concluding chapter has an intelligent discussion of the need to consider feedback between network structure and governance. This, the authors advise us, requires longitudinal analysis and modeling work. Another recurrent theme is the individualism versus holism debate: Are social systems better understood as systems of individuals who make rational choices or as systems of norms that individuals follow? SNA proposes that the debate is merely one of perspectives, because the system is one of emergent structures of social relations characterized by pro-socially behaving individuals. In a sense, the rigor of the conceptual framework of SNA and the elegance with which it is presented raises the reader’s expectations higher than the book can deliver. This would work beautifully as a textbook if it had a single bibliography at the end of the book rather than one after each chapter, if it included a more detailed index, if it showcased the software used in the analyses, and if it delved a bit more Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences 281 into the case details (for example, we land crabs would love to know and see the diﬀerence between ring nets, seine nets, and gillnets). Maybe in the next edition? Janne I. Hukkinen Environmental Policy Research Group (EPRG) University of Helsinki PO Box 18 (Snellmaninkatu 10) 00014 Helsinki Email: janne.i.hukkinen@helsinki.ﬁ 2012, Janne I. Hukkinen
Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences – Taylor & Francis
Published: Dec 1, 2012
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