On the concept of "field" in Bourdieu's work

Date: 25/03/2014

Time: 12:15-13:30

Location: Room T3-07

Speaker: Rob Timans


The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930 – 2002) is arguably one of the most important social scientist of the last half of the 20th century. His body of work, which encompasses numerous books and articles, has been translated into many languages, and the number of book- and article length discussions of his work by others shows no signs of abatement. On the contrary, the flow of books and articles about his work, as well as the applications of his concepts in new theoretical and empirical contributions only seems to be increasing. This can be explained by the richness of his work that not only crosses many disciplinary boundaries and seeks to overcome many entrenched oppositions and dichotomies, but also spans the whole spectrum of theoretical and empirical social science. A number of his key insights, like the differentiation of various forms of capital and the importance of habitus in shaping the life course and opportunities of individuals, have not only found wide acceptance in the social sciences but are also part and parcel of our everyday language.

For this talk I have chosen to focus mainly on one key concept that is an integral part of Bourdieu’s conceptual framework, i.e., the concept of a field. I will say a bit about the history of this concept in the social sciences and about Bourdieu’s understanding of it, and discuss its implications for doing empirical research. I will also try to indicate how this has influenced my own study of the Dutch corporate elite.