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Position taking and field level change: Capability Brown and the changing British landscape

Wild, Andrew; Lockett, Andy; Currie, Graeme


Associate Professor

Andy Lockett

Graeme Currie


How does a social actor in a disadvantaged position achieve field-level change? Using a longitudinal case of “Capability” Brown, an individual rising from humble origins to shape and refine the British landscape, we examine how an actor’s unfolding efforts to move from a social position at the periphery of a field, to a social position at the centre of a field, may present them with opportunities to influence field level change. In doing so we employ Bourdieu’s (1977) Theory of Practice, and unexplored notion of “position taking” (Bourdieu, 1993). We argue that an actor’s tactics to shape change, and position-taking to enhance social position, should be considered in conjunction with one-another, and that position-taking strategies may be viewed as a core component of the work undertaken by social actors in trying to influence field-level change. Further, we suggest that tensions between an agent’s accumulated capital and the social position typically afforded to their role in the field, may lead to efforts to “take” or “create” new positions, providing opportunities to influence the developing institution, with symbolic capital playing a pivotal role.


Wild, A., Lockett, A., & Currie, G. (2020). Position taking and field level change: Capability Brown and the changing British landscape. Human Relations, 73(3), 351-377.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 26, 2018
Online Publication Date Mar 26, 2019
Publication Date Mar 1, 2020
Deposit Date Jan 14, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jan 15, 2019
Journal Human Relations
Print ISSN 0018-7267
Electronic ISSN 1741-282X
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 73
Issue 3
Pages 351-377
Keywords Social Position, Agency, Social Actor, Field-level Change, Institutional Change
Public URL
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