Employment Relations as Networks: Methods and Theory

October 01, 2020

Employment Relations as Networks: Methods and Theory


Bernd Brandl, Professor in Management, Durham Business School: bernd.brandl [at] durham.ac.uk

Bengt Larsson, Professor in Sociology, University of Gothenburg: bengt.larsson [at] socav.gu.se

Alex Lehr, Assistant professor of Empirical Political Science, Radboud University, a.lehr [at] fm.ru.nl

Oscar Molina, Associate Professor of Employment Relations, Autonomous University of Barcelona, oscar.molina [at] uab.es


Publisher: Routledge, Research on Employment Relations


We would like to invite you to contribute a chapter in an edited book focusing on the use of social network analysis for understanding employment relations. The book aims to be the first comprehensive collection and reference work to apply fundamental concepts, methodological approaches and research directions from social network analysis to the field of employment relations. In this way, it provides an important step towards making the study of employment relations itself relational.

Background and idea of book

Traditional approaches in the wide field of employment relations focused on a small and clearly delineated set of actors, such as trade unions and employers’ organizations, operating within the constraints given by formal and nationally confined institutions. Employment relations processes and outcomes were hence understood as a consequence of the distribution of power resources among a relatively small numbers actors within relatively stable and distinctly national institutional frameworks.

However, the increasing internationalization of economies and societies in recent decades has led to an exponential growth of mutually (inter)dependent actors in employment relations. At the same time, existing formal national institutions have been under substantial pressure; their functions partially replaced by informal relationships. In contemporary employment relations, actors can hence be viewed as nodes in multiple large local and global networks. These networks provide structures for mutual influence and linkages both within as well as across borders and different institutional frameworks. Rather than being tied internally to specific organizations, power resources exists in and through the network ties of actors in employment relations. 

A shift in perspective is hence necessary, past the nationally bounded actor-institution dichotomy, and towards an understanding of employment relations as fundamentally mediated by complex and emergent networks that connect a multitude of actors within and between countries.

This volume provides a starting point for such a paradigm shift, by integrating state-of-the-art theories and methods from social network analysis into the tradition of existing employment relations research. In doing so, it develops a theoretical and methodological toolkit for understanding the structure of networks and the mechanisms that operate within them in shaping employment relations processes and outcomes, such as wages, labor market policies and labor conflicts.


This book aims to bring together different perspectives and dimensions of networks in employment relations and to be the first systematic collection of social network analyses in the field of employment relations. The editors therefor welcome scholarly submissions from academics and researchers across all relevant disciplines, provided they specifically address the role of networks in employment relations. The book also allows authors to think outside the box and contribute theoretical and empirical work that challenges existing ways of thinking. Hence, the book aims to integrate all novel and state-of-the-art theories and methods from social network analysis into the tradition of existing employment relations research. A list of potential topics is provided below, but we also encourage the submission of other topics that are relevant to the main theme of the book.

  • Social network analysis and collective bargaining
  • Trade unions and social networks
  • Networks in transnational action
  • Employer Organizations and social networks
  • Network-based trust, cooperation or conflict in employment relations
  • The role of networks at the workplace
  • Network effects and mechanisms in employment relations
  • Social network data in employment relations research


Submission process

Please submit a 500-word abstract of your proposed paper to Bernd.brandl [at] durham.ac.uk, bengt.larsson [at] socav.gu.se, a.lehr [at] fm.ru.nl, oscar.molina [at] uab.es on or before 1st October 2020.

The editors will then evaluate the contributions using the following criteria: applicability to the book’s aim and scope; scientific merit (e.g., novelty of idea, research design, methodology, analyses); likelihood of successful completion within timeline; and fit with other submissions. If the submissions meet these criteria, we will then invite the contributors to submit a full chapter, which will then be reviewed again, on or before 1st February 2021.

Chapters must be original and should not be previously published or simultaneously been reviewed elsewhere for publication. All manuscripts will be subject to a blind peer-review process before they are accepted for publication. More details on the paper submission process will be provided once your proposal has been accepted. The editors have an agreement with Routledge, to have this book published by autumn 2021. For any further inquiries, do not hesitate to contact one of the editors above.