Field Theory, Role Theory and Role Conflict: Reappropriating Insights from the Past

Will Atkinson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This paper puts Bourdieu’s influential field theory into dialogue with the classic sociological tradition of role theory. I argue that while role theory per se is certainly problematic, it nonetheless bore the virtue of conceptualising in clear terms something amply borne out by empirical research but underemphasised in Bourdieu’s account of the social world: that people are situated in more than one social structure, with differing salience to them, and that this can have profound effects on their experience, their wellbeing and their practice. Following Bourdieu’s own prompts, I thus appropriate and recast selected insights from role theory to elaborate field theory so that it might articulate how experience and practice are structured by multiple fields, introducing the notions of field-set, meta-habitus, lifeworld horizon, illusio space and greedy fields.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Classical Sociology
Early online date25 Oct 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Oct 2023

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Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


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