Field analysis in cultural sociology: some critical reflections

Savage, Mike and Silva, Elizabeth (2013). Field analysis in cultural sociology: some critical reflections. Cultural Sociology, 7(2) pp. 111–126.



The idea of field analysis has been championed as an alternative to ‘variable based’ accounts of social life, and offers the potential for cross-fertilisation with complexity theory and forms of ‘descriptive’ research. Yet, the Bourdieusian roots of field analysis pose challenges as well as advantages, given the widespread critique of reductionist elements in Bourdieu’s thinking. This introduction lays out how Bourdieu conceives field analysis and some of the ambivalences this might give rise to.
The papers in this special issue explore through worked examples how field analysis might be radicalised and made more dynamic. We focus on three main issues: (1) understanding emerging field dynamics which challenge the influential model that Bourdieu uses in Distinction, (2) showing its potential for comparative analysis and (3) recognising the role of materiality in cultural relations.
These papers therefore allow for varied engagements with the theoretical underpinnings of the classical formulations of field theory via empirical analyses of both ‘established’ and ‘new’ fields to explore the trajectories of possible developments.

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