Working Papers

Toward a General Theory of Strategic Action Fields


In recent years there has been an outpouring of work at the intersection of social movement studies and organizational theory. While we are generally in sympathy with this work, we think it implies a far more radical rethinking of structure and agency in modern society than has been realized to date. In this article, we offer an over brief sketch of a general theory of strategic action fields (SAF). We begin with a discussion of the main elements of the theory, describe the broader environment of fields in which any given SAF is embedded, consider the dynamics of stability and change in SAFs, and end with an extended example intended to illustrate how adoption of our perspective would fundamentally change the interpretation of one of the more consequential “episodes of contention”—the civil rights revolution—to take place in the U.S. over the past 50 years.