A Theory of Fields
Finding ways to understand the nature of social change and social order-from political movements to market meltdowns-is one of the enduring problems of social science. A Theory of Fields draws together far-ranging insights from social movement theory, organizational theory, and economic and political sociology to construct a general theory of social organization and strategic action. In a work of remarkable synthesis, imagination, and analysis, Neil Fligstein and Doug McAdam propose that social change and social order can be understood through what they call strategic action fields. They posit that these fields are the general building blocks of political and economic life, civil society, and the state, and the fundamental form of order in our world today. Similar to Russian dolls, they are nested and connected in a broader environment of almost countless proximate and overlapping fields. Fields are mutually dependent; change in one often triggers change in another. At the core of the theory is an account of how social actors fashion and maintain order in a given field. This sociological theory of action, what they call "social skill," helps explain what individuals do in strategic action fields to gain cooperation or engage in competition. To demonstrate the breadth of the theory, Fligstein and McAdam make its abstract principles concrete through extended case studies of the Civil Rights Movement and the rise and fall of the market for mortgages in the U.S. since the 1960s. The book also provides a "how-to" guide to help others implement the approach and discusses methodological issues. With a bold new approach, A Theory of Fields offers both a rigorous and practically applicable way of thinking through and making sense of social order and change-and how one emerges from the other-in modern, complex societies.
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African Americans American analysis argue Bourdieu broader central chapter civil rights movement Cold War collective action conception conflict cooperation Countrywide Financial create crises crisis cultural dependent destabilizing DiMaggio Dixiecrats dominant economic economic sociology empirical episode of contention existential existing external federal field of racial field theory firms Fligstein groups GSEs hierarchical IGUs important incumbents and challengers industry institutional institutionalized interaction interests internal governance units issue loan banks MBSs McAdam microfoundation mobilization modern mortgage market nonstate fields nonstate strategic action opportunities organizational percent perspective Pierre Bourdieu players political coalition position problem racial politics rational choice theory relations relationships reproduce role routine rules savings and loan scholars securitization settlement shared situation skilled actors skilled social actors skilled strategic actors social movement social skill social space society sociology stability strategic action fields structure struggle subfields theory of fields transformation understanding