What is a global field? Theorizing fields beyond the nation-state

Larissa Buchholz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

81 Scopus citations


While scholarship on global and transnational fields has been emerging, hitherto contributions have rarely or not explicitly discussed how Bourdieu's field theory has to be altered when its use expands from a national to a global scale. Starting from the premise that a global field is not a national field writ large, this paper discusses strategies and elements for revising field theory for use beyond national borders. Specifically, the article first proposes analogical theorizing as a systematic approach for extending and modifying the tools of field theory at a global level. Analogical theorizing offers a method for constructing the object in a global context in a way that goes beyond rescaling and minimizes the risk of deductive reification. Against this background and drawing from research on the global visual art field, the article offers criteria for delineating a global field and distinguishes relative functional and vertical autonomy. Finally, it discusses how the concept of ‘relative vertical autonomy’ contributes in three ways to the development of global field analysis: for theorizing emergence; examining global-national interdependencies; and denationalizing Bourdieu's concept of ‘national capital’.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-60
Number of pages30
JournalThe Sociological Review Monographs
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016


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