Political Field Dynamics and the Elite’s Interest in Democracy: Insights from the Political Elite’s Role in Consolidating Indian Democracy

  • Sourabh Singh


In this article, I argue that democracy scholars cannot explain the political elite’s interest in democracy consolidation processes because they have yet to conceptualize the relation between the political elite and structure. This shortcoming can be rectified by using Bourdieu’s field theory insight that subjectivity and structure are constructed, reproduced, or altered due to contests among field actors over the symbolic capital of their field. I illustrate the significance of this solution by using it to explain the stability of Indian democracy during the early postcolonial period. Using data on the Indian political elite’s trajectories in institutional politics and observations on their everyday politics, I show that their differing interest in democracy during the early transition period was shaped by their unique political habitus, which was structured by their conflicts since the late colonial period to establish their respective political capital as the symbolic capital of the Indian political field. The general lesson to be learned from this study is that in order to comprehend democracy consolidation processes, it is important to shift attention from static, disjointed models of the political elite’s subjectivity and structure to the history of contests among the political elite over the symbolic capital of the political field, which couples the political elite’s subjectivity and structure.


Political elite subjectivity/structure Field theory Symbolic capital Indian democracy 


Compliance with Ethical Standards



Conflict of Interest

Author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyRutgers, The State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA

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