I've been defending the social value of professional networking over at the anagorism blog, and wanted to make a comment here. The argument (as I understand it) is about how much of a role direct social interactions should play in the establishment of economic relationships, and how much this match-making process can be formalized.
My belief is that there are situations where formalization (e.g. credentials, match-making services) can be useful, but that such situations should be viewed as the exception rather than the rule. Rather, in my vision of a "good society", most relationships (including economic relationships) would be established by networking (e.g. recommendations from trusted sources). I view this as the contrast between a mass-society on one hand, and a personal society on the other. In one society, humans are commodities to be fit into predefined categories by managers, while in the other society, humans define their own needs and pursue these needs with their friends and trusted colleagues.
There are all types of problems with the formalized society, ranging from its inability to innovate to the problem of establishing universal trust in the managers. Granted, the network society can have its own problems -- two of them being wasteful competition and nepotism. I won't address the former, because I don't think it is really solved by formalization. While the later (nepotism) isn't solved by formalization either, the anagorist position provides a clear challenge for finding ways to minimize it in a network society.
The main way to accomplish this is to identify socially privileged networks (e.g. government, academia), and assure that they have some sort of open access point by which outsiders can gain access. In academia, there is a semi-formalized admission process for university, after which students can approach professors and try to develop relationships. I am usually up for establishing new access points, but am opposed to proposals that would formalize the entire system from top to bottom.
The thing that really bugs me about anti-networking critiques is that they build on the corporatist assumption that jobs are something that a deity-like employer creates, and then bestows upon an imbecile worker. In the world I live in, and the wold I want to live in, the worker plays an equal role in creating the job. I think this is undeniably true in an abstract sense (supply and demand together determine the quantity produced), but I also see it in the individual hiring decisions of managers. Managers do not necessarily decide to hire a person and then go seeking a person to fill that slot -- often they hire employees opportunistically; it is only after a prospective employee approaches them and says "here I am, here's what I can do" that the employer decides to take on the project that the employee can work on. There are a lot of pieces that have to come together to make a project work, and it takes efforts to bring them together. If you can bring your skills to someone who has the complementary pieces already, you can make things happen.