Professor of Sociology, teaches courses on sociological theory, network analysis, political and economic sociology, and the sociology of culture. Other interests include politics in early modern states, the network organization of the Renaissance economy, Adam Smith's social theory, and the culture of videogaming.
Paul McLean's research has focused on exploring the connections between multiple kinds of social networks—marriage networks, economic networks, and political patronage networks chiefly—and describing the cultural practices and identities that actors adopt to move within and across these networks. He has examined the development of elaborate strategies of self-presentation and the emergence of a quasi-modern conception of the self in Renaissance Florence in articles (AJS 104: 51-91 , CSSH 47: 638-64 ) and in his book, The Art of the Network (Duke UP, 2007).
His recent book, Culture in Networks (Polity, 2017) provides an overview of research on the culture-networks link across a variety of interfaces, both historical and contemporary—including research on diffusion, social movement mobilization, clientage structures, topic modelling, the formation of tastes, organizational cultures, and social media usage.
Some of his work on Florence has been collaboratively produced, including studies of Florentine market structure and organizational emergence with John Padgett of the University of Chicago (T&S 26: 209-44 , AJS 111: 1463-1568 , Journal of Modern History 83: 1-47 ), and work on the structure and 'logics' of interpersonal credit exchange with Neha Gondal of Boston University (Social Networks 35: 499-513 , Poetics 41: 122-50 , EJS/AES 55: 135-76 ). He is currently pursuing an interest in consumer credit in the Renaissance.
In addition, McLean has examined the political organization of Polish elites in the early modern period (T&S 33: 167-212 , Annals 636: 88-110 ), looking at that organization and its evolution as the product of multiple-network dynamics. More recent interests include the idea of chance in the Renaissance, the social theory of Adam Smith, networking dynamics and career trajectories in academia, divisiveness in contemporary American political culture, and the organization of videogame play (Soc Forum 27: 961-85 ).