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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Social Skill and the Theory of Fields

  • Author(s): Fligstein, Neil
  • et al.

The problem of the relationship between actors and the social structures in which they are embedded is central to sociological theory. This paper suggests that the "new institutionalist" focus on fields, domains, or games provides an alternative view of how to think about this problem by focusing on the construction of local orders. This paper criticizes the conception of actors in both rational choice and sociological versions of these theories. A more sociological view of action, what is called "social skill", is developed. The idea of social skill originates in symbolic interactionism and is defined as the ability to induce cooperation in other. This idea is elaborated to suggest how actors are important to the construction and reproduction of local orders. I show how its elements already inform existing work. Finally, I show how the idea can sensitize scholars to the role of actors in empirical work.

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