Summary: The benefits of weak ties have been strongly established in the sociological literature. Weak ties, as defined by Granovetter (1973), are “indispensable to individuals' opportunities and to their integration into communities” (1378). In this clip from the TV show Breaking Bad, Walt needs the services of a person who can make people "disappear" because Gus Fring, the leader of the drug ring in Albuquerque, has threatened to kill him and his family. Only Saul Goodman, Walt’s less than scrupulous lawyer, has the contact information for this person. Throughout the show, Saul calls on his network of contacts to deal with situations that Walt and his partner Jesse find themselves in, but don’t have the knowledge or resources to solve themselves. Without Saul, Walt has no way of getting in touch with these people. In sociological terms, there is a structural hole between Walt and the network of fixers and associates that help Walt achieve his objectives, and that structural hole runs through Saul. It’s through a relatively strong tie with Saul that Walt has access to a whole host of knowledge, skills, and resources he might not otherwise have. Also, because Walt’s brother-in-law Hank, who is a DEA agent, is being threatened as well, Walt wants to warn Hank that he’s in danger. But because Walt is embedded in a network of DEA agents (“I go to their Christmas parties. They know my voice.”), he needs Saul to set up the phone call to warn Hank that he’s in danger. This is an example of the way being embedded into networks sometimes prevents us from accomplishing things we might otherwise be able to do. This clip pairs up well with Dalton Conley’s explanation of the concept.
Submitted By: Wesley Shirley