Tag Archives: social movement theory

Pamela Oliver’s McCarthy Lecture: The Ethnic Dimensions

A recent mobilizing ideas post showed Dr. Pamela Oliver receiving the McCarthy award.

Some of you may have noticed that she was standing in front of a Power Point presentation and, like me, you may have wondered about the content of the lecture.

Dr. Oliver has kindly provided a summary of the lecture, which I have posted below, and has provided a link to her presentation slides (all 138
!). Continue reading

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A Theory of Fields: A Review

By David Hess

A Theory of Fields, by Neil Fligstein and Doug McAdam. Oxford University Press, 2012.

A Theory of Fields is the product of the longstanding collaboration that began during the 1980s, when Neil Fligstein and Doug McAdam were colleagues at the University of Arizona. They define a strategic action field as a “constructed mesolevel social order in which actors (who can be individual or collective) are attuned to and interact with one another on the basis of shared (which is not to say consensual) understandings about the purposes of the field, relationships to others in the field (including who has power and why), and the rules governing legitimate action in the field” (p. 9). They distinguish fields from the concept of “institutional logics,” which they see as implying too much consensus among actors and focusing too much on reproduction (p. 11-12).

Field theory is of general importance in the social sciences because it provides a way to balance tendencies toward structural determinism and agency as well as micro and macro scales of analysis. There are many theory traditions of field sociology, and F&M provide a discussion of some of them, but in terms of accumulated symbolic capital such as citations, Bourdieu’s field theory is clearly the leader and arguably the most intellectually significant point of comparison.  Having found a somewhat loose appropriation of Bourdieu’s field sociology to be valuable in the study of science, technology, social movements, and society, I am sympathetic with F&M’s use of Bourdieu’s work and willingness to modify it as they see fit. Continue reading

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No-degree social movement thinkers

Who do you think of when you think of a social movement theorist? A professor? Two of the authors who have taught me the most about social movement strategy have only high school degrees:  Linda Stout and the late Bill Moyer. I very rarely see either of them cited in the social movement literature. I suspect that their books haven’t reached all their potential audiences in part because of the authors’ lack of college credentials.

Firsthand activist experience is often thought of as fodder only for case studies, not for generating broad theory. But both of these authors could create useful new concepts precisely because of their long, long activist experience. Continue reading

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