14 Pages

Networks and actor-network theory

Mulgan (1997: 20) comments that the ‘defining feature of this world is connexity’. The potential decision influence of interrelated networks of actors is receiving a resurgence of attention (although without the closed-system limitations of its heyday in the early 1970s), drawing particularly on research from disciplines such as anthropology, sociology and social work (see, for example, Willmott, 1986; Mulgan and Landry, 1995; Burns and Taylor, 1997) and recognition of the importance of the networks which people call upon as part of their coping strategies in ‘everyday life’ (Gilroy and Speak, 1998; Healey, 1998b). Networks may be understood as complex sets of social relations along which energy flows. The planning system directs, prevents and stimulates such flows in various directions, based on some, often unarticulated, concept of the ‘public good’ or ‘public interest’.