Field Theory

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= Research theory, using the concept of Social Field


On field theory:

"Today we associate field theory with Pierre Bourdieu (1993, 1996), yet this theory has a far longer history originating in physics and Gestalt psychology (Martin 2003). Bourdieu was critical of social network analysis (SNA) for what he regarded as its naïve commitment to interaction as the basis of human life and developed his field theory in opposition to SNA. He argued that by concentrating on people’s visible interactions and ties, SNA practitioners fail to grasp the invisible network of objective relations binding human agents within a common cultural space (e.g. France) and its fields of practice (art, sociology, photography, etc). For Bourdieu, SNA conflates structure with interaction, exaggerating the importance of ‘social capital’, i.e. the capital that accrues from social connections, whilst neglecting other species of capital such as cultural and symbolic capital (Knox et al 2006). For example, two Parisian artists who have never met may nonetheless possess similar amounts of symbolic capital (prestige, renown, etc) and occupy neighbouring positions within the field of art. In Bourdieu’s field theory, it is agents’ relative positions and amounts of fieldspecific capital that matter, not with whom they interact." (

More Information

  1. Martin, J. L. (2003) ‘What Is Field Theory?’, American Journal of Sociology 109: 1- 49.