Revista Internacional de Sociología
Network structures are being used to explain social interactions within and between organisations in many ways that have become very influential. Many of the sociological features of organisations are captured very effectively by network descriptions, but such descriptions also retain serious limitations. Some network theories, for example, are composed of fragmented and internally inconsistent theories, while others depend upon essentialist and reductionist models. Perhaps a more serious problem is that networks describe relationships rather than explain the mechanisms through which these relationships function. This paper introduces the notion of assemblages as a corrective to these problems. The concept offers a clear, though suitably complex, framework with which to clarify the dynamics and structures that afford engagement and enable collective action among diverse elements of organisations. Using brief examples from recent research in the innovation literature, supported by an empirical case study in the Spanish ceramics sector, this paper will illustrate how reconceptualising network relationships in terms of their assemblages enables a more robust and consistent theoretical grounding for network research.