Frank Partnoy


The distinction between “material” and “existential” plays a prominent role in A Theory of Fields, and it played a prominent role in discussions at the Berle VII Symposium. In general, the authors advocated the importance of the ongoing use of social skills and the collaborative efforts to seek meaning, particularly in ways beyond the merely “material.” However, the extent to which rules might matter in these efforts was less clear. Overall, Fligstein and McAdam seek to use the concept of a strategic action field to develop a theory of social change and stability. Yet social change and stability are inextricably linked to law, legal regimes, and regulatory structures. During the Berle VII Symposium, I raised the point about the absence of law and regulation from the theory of strategic action fields. I attempted to demonstrate that law and regulation matter, substantially, in the application of Fligstein and McAdam’s theory. The two authors seemed open during our discussions to the notion that law might be added as a theoretical “friendly amendment” to their theory. With their openness as a motivation, I attempt in this brief Article to sketch how one might make such an addition to their theory.