Chapter

Fields and Games

John Levi Martin

in The Explanation of Social Action

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199773312
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199897223 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199773312.003.0008
Fields and Games

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Thinking through the general characteristics of field theories in the physical sciences suggests their strengths and weaknesses for the social sciences; in particular, field theories are attractive where mechanisms and functions (the two other leading contenders) are implausible. Further, field theories allow us to reframe the issue of “lawfulness” without resort to paradox. Rather than laws, we find rules, but a consideration of the use of rules in informal games leads to conclusions diametrically opposed to those that have conventionally been drawn from game-analogies. For rules are not definitions such that contravention leads to incoherence—they are continually updated senses of pattern, and guesses as to the internalization of patterns by others. As we explore how actors internalize these patterns, we gain insight on how they extract disposition from position.

Keywords: field; game; rules; laws; institutions

Chapter.  27096 words. 

Subjects: Social Theory

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