American Sociological Association

What Is Relational Structure? Introducing History to the Debates on the Relation between Fields and Social Networks

In this article, I argue that the current views on the relation between fields and social networks are based on two false premises: first, that fields and social networks are mutually exclusive forms of relational structure, and second, that the objective form of relational structure is an a priori fact. The main point of this article is that fields—defined as sites of contest among their inhabitants known for using their symbolically charged capitals to define hierarchical relations among them—create historical conditions for social networks to emerge as the objective form of relational structure. Following this point, I argue that relational sociologists must reconstruct the notion of relational structure by focusing their epistemological lenses on the history of contests among the relevant field’s actors over the symbolic value of their field-specific capitals. I illustrate this insight on relational sociology using Bourdieu’s political field theory.


Singh, S.





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