Field Theories of Urban Collective Action: A Comparative Assessment

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 13:00
Oral Presentation
Anna DOMARADZKA, University of Warsaw, Poland
Mario DIANI, University of Trento, Italy
Over recent years several versions of field theory have been applied to the study of urban collective action. Reviewing weaknesses and indeterminacies of existing theoretical lines, Martin (John L. Martin, “What is Field Theory?” American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 109:1, 2003: 1-49) argued that each has an important contribution for the social sciences, giving us the possibility of joining the analytic insights given by field theory to a more grounded line of research.

In our own work we have drawn upon, with variable amounts of adaptation, classic neo-institutionalist arguments à la DiMaggio and Powell (Mario Diani, The Cement of Civil Society: Studying Networks in Localities. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015) and Fligstein and McAdam’s concept of “strategic action fields” (Anna Domaradzka and Filip Wijkstrom, “Game of the City Re-Negotiated: The Polish Urban Re-Generation Movements as an Emerging Actor in a Strategic Action Field,” Polish Sociological Review 3, 2016: 291–308). In his own version of field theory, Nick Crossley (Towards Relational Sociology. London: Routledge, 2011; Networks of Sound, Style and Subversion. The Punk and Post–punk Worlds of Manchester, London, Liverpool and Sheffield, 1975–80. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015) has proposed a novel integration of Bourdieu’s perspective on fields with the tools of social network analysis.

In our paper we contrast these approaches and discuss their comparative fruitfulness for the analysis of collective action in urban settings, drawing upon our empirical work on Poland, South Africa and the UK. We focus on “right to the city” frame used by civil society actors in local and international context, to better illustrate the explanatory capacity of field and network theories.