Understanding field dynamics

Fligstein and McAdam (2011) argue that fields may be viewed rather like a Russian doll. The ACM field sits within the AGM field and this sits within the larger political field. As well as outlining the interaction in an empirical sense, this chapter has a wider theoretical purpose; I argue that fields are not necessarily fixed, they are fluid. It is well established that forms of capital may be converted into political and social advantages for certain groups within a field

(Bourdieu, 1984, 1996). However, I wish to change the focus and consider how fields may be transformed if there is an influx of superior capital. I argue that elites may convert and transform an unfavourable field to one that is conducive to their political agenda through the deployment of their superior resources in the form of economic, cultural, social and symbolic capital. In this case I argue that political elites with superior resources entered the AGM field and imposed a new agenda, which changed the dynamics between the anti-capitalist and the alternative globalization agents and the constitution of that field to such an extent it became a different field, albeit temporarily. Therefore, it left the anti-capitalist activists within the AGM field with inferior forms of capital at a disadvantage, and in a subordinate section of the new AGM field.

To make my claims, I draw on an empirical case study, which analyses three political and social movement mobilizations that occurred over a period of a week during the G8 summit in the UK in July 2005. These include the very high-profile Make Poverty History (MPH) coalition and the less well-known and much smaller and politically contentious G8 Alternatives and Dissent! networks. It is my contention that Bourdieu's concepts of field and capital may be adapted to demonstrate how elites, through governance units, used superior forms of capital to change the dynamic within a field, which at once furthered their own agenda and controlled those involved in contentious anti-capitalist politics during the week of the summit meeting.

This is a particularly significant contribution for two reasons. First, I argue that a field may be transformed, which has theoretical importance when trying to understand the dynamics within a given social world and this is something that has not been explored to any great extent. Second, I use empirical evidence which suggests that elites sought to re-legitimize themselves by investing in popular campaigns because they were facing popular discontent because of perceived policies and practices (Hertz, 2001; Klein, 2000; Starr, 2000). Supranational institutions had had years of being criticized and were faced with a range of social and political forces arguing for an alternative globalization. It was against this backdrop that elites changed the political dynamic from one in which they were at a disadvantage to a position of advantage. At the same time, those who engaged in contentious politics, who were challenging elites and were previously in an advantageous position, became marginalized. This substantive empirical contribution, combined with Bourdieu's theoretical technologies, explains the interrelations between the three main mobilizations that occurred during the week of the summit meeting, whereas existing literature tends to focus on one specific mobilization, with maybe a brief mention of one of the other two (Barr and Drury, 2009; Gorringe and Rosie, 2008; Hubbard and Miller, 2005). To this end, I provide a narrative using empirical evidence which connects the ACM field and the wider AGM field, showing how the different politics can clash when elites enter the AGM field offering to support an adapted agenda. This strengthens my claim throughout the book that the AGM is best understood as a field and not as a homogeneous movement. Moreover, this chapter demonstrates how the local (on-the-ground activism) and the global (international politics) are connected, as in Burawoy's (2000) global ethnography.

 
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