Field theory is waxing in the sociology of science, and Pierre Bourdieu’s work is especially influential. His characterization of field structure and dynamics has been especially valuable in drawing attention to hierarchical and center-periphery relations in science and technology, and to the stability and reproduction of science and technology practices. What field theory does less well, however, is to capture the existence of multiple (including marginal) logics around a given sociotechnical object. Nor does it capture the dynamics of a specific logic of neoliberal capitalism in the US: the cultural and economic value of entrepreneurship that emphasizes the continual reconfiguration of social relations, which has its roots in a longer US history of progress-through-reinvention, and is abetted by new technologies designed to continually “update” and remix. Much better at capturing these qualities, we argue, is an institutionalist theory in which dynamism, not stasis, is foregrounded, and there is room for multiple, contradictory, and non-cognitive logics to co-exist. Using the expansion of “alternative nutrition” in the US, we show that its formation took place via the conjunction of parallel streams of social action that encompassed diverse logics and encouraged creativity and hybridity. More generally, variability in field stability and qualities, not static fields, deserve analytic attention.
Moore, K. and Hoffmann, M. (2014), "“The Tip of the Day”: Field Theory and Alternative Nutrition in the US", Fields of Knowledge: Science, Politics and Publics in the Neoliberal Age (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 223-258. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0198-871920140000027016Download as .RIS
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