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Network Influence, Strong Social Constructivism and the Backgrounds of Conversion

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Chapter Summary

To what extent are network theory and strong social constructivism able to explain why people convert? This chapter shows that these theories pertain more to converts to groups that are socially and theologically stricter and more enclosed, and less to converts who join the more open and liberal groups. Originally, network theory (what Christian Smith calls network structuralism) came out of dissatisfaction with what some call variables sociology. While combining various theoretical orientations such rational choice and cultural theory, Smilde's Reason to Believe indicates that deprivation interacts with social networks in producing conversion careers to Evangelicalism. In understanding the role of "accounts" in shedding light on why someone converts to a specific group, the chapter relies on Ulrike Popp-Baier's concept of religious experience. The "personal powers" of reflexivity and agency have received more attention in recent scholarship, as in Margaret Archer's recent works.

Keywords: Evangelicalism; network influence; network theory; strong social constructivism; Ulrike Popp-Baier



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