A Theory of Fields

Paperback | April 1, 2015

byNeil Fligstein, Doug McAdam

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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 economicand 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. Atthe 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 othersimplement 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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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 economicand political sociology to construct a general...

Neil Fligstein is the Class of 1939 Chancellor's Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. A renowned scholar of economic sociology, organizations, and political sociology, he is the author or coauthor of six books, including The Architecture of Markets and Euroclash: The EU, European Identity...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9.21 × 6.1 × 0.91 inPublished:April 1, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190241454

ISBN - 13:9780190241452

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Table of Contents

1. The Gist of ItIntroductionThe Central Elements of the TheoryOther PerspectivesConclusion2. Micro-FoundationsIntroductionMeaning and MembershipThe Collective as Existential RefugeSocial SkillSocial Skill in ActionThe Scope of the TheoryInstitutional PoliticsSocial movementsMarkets and the EconomyThe Nonprofit SectorConclusion3. Macro ImplicationsIntroductionThe "Embeddedness" of Strategic Action FieldsAn Excursus on Formal Organization and BureaucracyThe State as a system of strategic action fieldsThe Impact of State Fields on Non-state strategic action fieldsThe Dependence of States and State Fields on Non-state strategic action fieldsInternal Governance UnitsHigher Education and the ProfessionsConclusion4. Change and Stability in Strategic Action FieldsIntroductionCurrent DebatesThe Emergence of Strategic Action FieldsSustaining a SettlementSettlements and RupturesReestablishingField StabilityThe Relationship between Social Skill and the State of the Strategic Action FieldSocial Skill and the Emergence of FieldsSocial Skill and the Reproduction of FieldsSocial Skill and the Transformation of FieldsConclusion5. Illustrating the PerspectiveIntroductionThe Civil Rights Struggle, 1932-1980Setting the StageThe Field of Racial PoliticsDestabilizing ChangesThe Episode of Contention and the Rise of the Civil Rights MovementA New SettlementThe Declining Salience of the Cold War DynamicThe Revenge of the Dixiecrats and the End of the New Deal Electoral RegimeThe Rise of Black Power and the Rupture in the Movement strategic action fieldsThe Institutionalization of the Civil Rights Movement and Its Impact on Other Strategic Action FieldsSumming upThe Transformation of the U.S. Mortgage Market, 1969-2010The Dominant Strategic Action Fields of the Mortgage Market, 1934-1987Changes that Destabilized the Mortgage Market, 1969-1987Settlement and the new Strategic Action FieldThe Rise of the Industrial model of the MBS market, 1993-2007The Causes of the CrisisThe Impact of the Strategic Action Field based on the Industrial model on other strategic action fieldsConclusion6. MethodsIntroductionThe RoadmapHow to Tell if a Strategic Action Field ExistsEmergence, Stability, and Crisis, Part 1The Problem of the State in Relation to Strategic Action Fields Emergence, Stability, and Crisis, Part 2Social Skill, Strategic Action, and the Question of EntrepreneurshipConsidering Different Philosophies of Science and Methodological StrategiesA Positivist Approach to Strategic Action FieldsRealist Approaches to Strategic Action FieldsThe Problem of EmpiricismConclusion7. A Theory of Strategic Action FieldsSo what is new here?The Problem of the Accumulation of Knowledge in the Social SciencesThe Surprising Discovery of FieldsToward a Collaborative Program of Theory and Research on FieldsBibliography

Editorial Reviews

"...an important work that has been at least two decades in the making. Fligstein and McAdam began forming the key insights of the book during their time at the University of Arizona in the 1980s and 1990s, mingling ideas from McAdam's work in social movement theory with Fligstein's politicaltheory of markets. I hope that field theory will continue to evolve as a deductive theory for explaining how actors' relative positions shape their actions, how positions evolve over time, and how changes in position create instability in fields. This book serves as a useful launch point for thistype of analysis." --Administrative Science Quarterly