Soldiers of the Cross: Calvinism, Humanitarianism, and the Genesis of Social Fields

Publication Date: 
July 2016
Sociological Theory

“Field theory has largely treated the cultural dimensions of social fields as an emergent property of objective field structures. This article reconsiders the role of culture in fields by studying the development of the logics that govern their emergence. As a study case, it examines the rise of the field of transnational humanitarianism by focusing on the early endeavors of the International Committee of the Red Cross (established 1863). The article shows that the specific nineteenth-century strand of Calvinist doctrine espoused by the early Red Cross activists motivated and shaped the genesis of the humanitarian field through its convictions about the nature of war, state and society relations, and charity. Activists drew on this doctrine to justify and advocate the establishment of a permanent, independent, and neutral humanitarian field. Thus, the article argues that preexistent belief systems have a key role in differentiating new fields from existing social institutions.” 
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