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The Art of the Network: Strategic Interaction and Patronage in Renaissance Florence (Politics, History, & Culture) [Paperback]

Paul D. McLean

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Book Description

22 Jan 2008 Politics, History, & Culture
Writing letters to powerful people to win their favour and garner rewards such as political office, tax relief, and recommendations was an institution in Renaissance Florence; the practice was an important tool for those seeking social mobility, security, and recognition by others. In this detailed study of political and social patronage in fifteenth-century Florence, Paul D. McLean shows that patronage was much more than a pursuit of specific rewards. It was also a pursuit of relationships and of a self defined role in relation to others. To become an independent individual in Renaissance Florence, one first had to become connected. With The Art of the Network, McLean fills a gap in sociological scholarship by tracing the historical antecedents of networking and examining the concept of self that accompanies it. His analysis of patronage opens into a critique of contemporary theories about social networks and social capital, and an exploration of the sociological meaning of "culture." McLean scrutinized thousands of letters to and from Renaissance Florentines. He describes the social protocols the letters reveal, paying particular attention to the means by which Florentines crafted credible presentations of themselves. The letters, McLean contends, testify to the development not only of new forms of self-presentation but also of a new kind of self to be presented: an emergent, "modern" conception of self as an autonomous agent. They also bring to the fore the importance that their writers attached to concepts of honour, and the ways that they perceived themselves in relation to the Florentine state.

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"The Art of the Network is a magnificent contribution to the social history of Renaissance Florence and the sociological study of how networks manifest themselves in complex societies. Paul D. McLean addresses with gusto such fundamental issues as the nature of social capital, the preservation of self, and the development of the 'individual' in European history. This will be a controversial book for all the right reasons."--William J. Connell, Seton Hall University, editor of Society and Individual in Renaissance Florence "Paul D. McLean weaves slants from Bourdieu and Swidler and Goffman together into his own trenchant vision of networking as identity process. You get analytic power along with rich historical understanding wrung from recalcitrant handwriting and ambiguous pronouncements in hundreds of letters across two centuries. Yet McLean is also witty and playful. His brief conclusion is an account of agency and culture so lucid as to be transposable to studies of your own."--Harrison C. White, Columbia University, author of Identity and Control: A Structural Theory of Social Action

About the Author

Paul D. McLean is Associate Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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