Fields, Logics, and Social Movements: Prison Abolition and the Social Justice Field Articles uri icon



publication date

  • May 2013

start page

  • 286

end page

  • 309


  • 83

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0038-0245

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1475-682X


  • This essay argues that field analyses of social movements can be improved by incorporating more insights from Pierre Bourdieu. In particular, Bourdieu's concepts of logic, symbolic capital, illusio, and doxa can enrich social movement scholarship by enabling scholars to identify new objects of study, connect organizational- and individual-level effects, and shed new light on a variety of familiar features of social movements. I demonstrate this claim by delineating the contours of one such field, the social justice field (SJF). I argue that the SJF is a delimited, trans-movement arena of contentious politics united by the logic of the pursuit of radical social justice. Drawing upon existing scholarship, as well as my own research on the prison abolition movement, I argue that the competitive demands of the field produce characteristic effects on organizations and individual activists within the field. I conclude by considering how a Bourdieuian approach can provide fresh insights into familiar problematics within the social movements literature.