Fielding supranationalism: the European Central Bank as a field effect

Stephanie L. Mudge, Antoine Vauchez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The European Central Bank (ECB), like all European institutions, poses basic problems of definition and comparability. Mobilizing Bourdieusian field theory (BFT) to resolve them, we map out the ECB’s deep investments in scientific prestige and scholarly productivity – that is, its hyper-scientization – and the ambiguities therein, and then set out to explain them. Mobilizing diverse sources that include official documents, on-site interviews, and comparative data, we argue that hyper-scientization is a field effect expressing the ECB’s origins and cross-location in three worlds: financial institutions, professional economics, and European politics. We then trace out the signs and symptoms of cross-location. First, we trace the origins of the ECB’s directorate for research, DGR, which differentiated the ECB from most other European central banks at the time of its founding. Thus invested, the ECB accelerated its scholarly activities in step with the internationalization and scientization of economics. But this also expressed the ECB’s stake in European authority struggles: research exchanges are a means of building relationships with national central banks, which was especially crucial in the lead-up to the European Union’s (EU) 2004 enlargement. We thus argue that there is more to the ECB than its independence and policy operations, and that some of its most striking features are best explained as effects of its multiple field locations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-169
Number of pages24
JournalSociological Review
Issue number2_Suppl
StatePublished - Jul 2016


  • economics
  • European Central Bank
  • European integration
  • expertise
  • field effect
  • field theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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