Professor in Political Science and Computer and Information Science

David Lazer

Political Networks

Politics is necessarily a relational construct

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There are a variety of canonical definitions of politics—the study of power; the study of the authoritative distribution of resources, and so on—but they all have embedded in them a relational notion. Consider that core construct of political science: power. One should not ask "who is powerful"-- rather, one should ask who has power over whom. Power is not an attribute of (say) an individual, but is a statement of a particular structure of interdependence. The President of my university may have some power over me—but the President of another university would not; and surely that power vis a vis particular individuals is finely differentiated.

Political science largely drifted away from this construction of politics, in part because of powerful statistical methods that assume independence among units (often a reasonable assumption for statistical models, but a problematic axiom for the study of social systems). My research has tried to bring this network dimension into the study of politics, with studies ranging from the spread of trade agreements in the 19th century (I argue that the spread was emergent rather than a reflection of hegemonic preferences), to interest groups, to social influence on political opinions.

I have also served as a founder and host (in 2008 and 2009) of the annual Political Networks conference.

2008: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/netgov/html/colloquia_NIPS_conference_schedule.html

2009: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/netgov/html/colloquia_HPNC2009.htm

Political Networks: Publications List

Publications list

D. Lazer, “Networks in Political Science:  Back to the Future”, PS:  Political Science& Politics, 44, 2011:  61-68.

 D. Lazer, B. Rubineau, C. Chetkovich, N. Katz, and M. Neblo “The coevolution of networks and political attitudes,” Political Communication 27(3), 2010:  248–274.

 D. Lazer, “Regulatory Capitalism as a Networked Order:  The International System as an Informational Network,”  Annalsof the American Academy of Political and Social Science, March, 2005.

 D. Carpenter, K. Esterling, and D. Lazer, “The Strength of Strong Ties: A Model of Contact-Making in Policy Networks with Evidence from U.S. Health Politics,” Rationality and Society, November 2003.

 D. Lazer, and V. Mayer-Schönberger, “Governing Networks,” Brooklyn Journal of International Law, 27(3), 2002.

 D. Lazer, “Regulatory Interdependence and International Governance,” Journal of European Public Policy, April 2001, 474-492.

 D. Lazer, “The Co-evolution of Individual and Network,” Journal of Mathematical Sociology, January 2001: 69-108.

 D. Lazer, “The Free Trade Epidemic of the 1860s and Other Outbreaks of Economic Discrimination,” World Politics, July 1999.

 D. Carpenter, K. Esterling, and D. Lazer, “Strength of Weak Ties in Lobbying Networks:  Evidence from Health-Care Politics in the United States,” Journal of Theoretical Politics, October 1998.

Journal Article
Publication date: 
09/2016
Authors: 
Wei Wang
Ryan P. Kennedy
David Lazer
Naren Ramakrishnan

There have been serious efforts over the past 40 years to use newspaper articles to create global-scale databases of events occurring in every corner of the world, to help understand and shape responses to global problems.

Journal Article
Publication date: 
06/2015
Authors: 
Yu-Ru Lin
Drew B. Margolin
David Lazer

The increasing abundance of digital textual archives provides an opportunity for understanding human social systems. Yet the literature has not adequately considered the disparate social processes by which texts are produced.

Journal Article
Publication date: 
07/2015
Authors: 
David Lazer
Anand E. Sokhey
Michael Neblo
Kevin M. Esterling
Ryan P. Kennedy

Do formal deliberative events influence larger patterns of political discussion and public opinion? Critics argue that only a tiny number of people can participate in any given gathering and that deliberation may not remedy - and may in fact exacerbate - inequalities. We assess these criticisms with an experimental design merging a formal deliberative session with data on participants' social networks.

Journal Article
Publication date: 
02/2017
Authors: 
Ryan P. Kennedy
Stefan Wojcik
David Lazer

This study reports the results of a multiyear program to predict direct executive elections in a variety of countries from globally pooled data. We developed prediction models by means of an election data set covering 86 countries and more than 500 elections, and a separate data set with extensive polling data from 146 election rounds. We also participated in two live forecasting eperiments.

Journal Article
Ballot Box
Publication date: 
02/2017
Authors: 
Ryan P. Kennedy
Stefan Wojcik
David Lazer

This study reports the results of a multiyear program to predict direct executive elections in a variety of countries from globally pooled data.

We developed prediction models by means of an election data set covering 86 countries and more than 500 elections, and a  separate data set with extensive polling data from 146 election rounds.

Journal Article
Political Communication - Journal Cover
Publication date: 
08/2012
Authors: 
David Lazer
Brian Rubineau
Carol Chetkovich
Nancy Katz
Michael Neblo

How do attitudes and social affiliations coevolve? A long stream of research has focused on the relationship between attitudes and social affiliations. However, in most of this research the causal relationship between views and affiliations is difficult to discern definitively: Do people influence each other's views so that they converge over time or do they primarily affiliate (by choice or happenstance) with those of similar views?

Keywords: 
social network
social influence
homophily