Taste matters: Cultural capital and elites in proximate Strategic Action Fields

Crawford Spence, Chris Carter, Javier Husillos, Pablo Archel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Recent literature suggests that elites are increasingly fragmented and divided. Yet there is very little empirical research that maps the distinctions between different elite groups. This article explores the cultural divisions that pertain to elite factions in two distinct but proximate Strategic Action Fields. A key insight from the article is that the public sector faction studied exhibits a much broader, more aesthetic set of cultural dispositions than their private sector counterparts. This permits a number of inter-related contributions to be made to literature on both elites and field theory. First, the findings suggest that cultural capital acts as a salient source of distinction between elite factions in different Strategic Action Fields. Second, it is demonstrated how cultural capital is socially functional as certain cultural dispositions are strongly homologous with specific professional roles. Third, the article demonstrates the implications for the structure of the State when two culturally distinct elites are brought together in a new Strategic Action Field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-236
Number of pages26
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Strategic Action Fields
  • auditors
  • austerity
  • cultural capital
  • elites
  • new public audit
  • public service
  • taste

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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