Norbert Elias (1897-1990) is now widely regarded as one of the greatest sociologists of the 20th century. The challenge and profundity of his work are still being assimilated. Some have suggested that in time, he will be regarded as the Copernicus or Darwin of sociology, the man who set the subject on its scientific course. These four volumes provide a comprehensive and penetrating survey of Elias's life and work. They pinpoint the main fields of research which Elias and his followers (...) have explored: the civilizing process; state-formation; knowledge, religion and science; informalization; power; established-outsider figurations in fields such as class, gender and race; the sociology of the body; the sociology of the emotions; the sociology of leisure, sport and the arts; the sociology of the professions; medicine and psychoanalysis; crime and punishment; drug use and abuse. The collection also explores the various critiques of Elias's `figurational' or `process' sociology and counter-critiques by Elias's followers. The volumes successfully locate the work of Elias and his followers in the context of modern sociology, especially in relation to writers such as Mannheim, Adorno, Parsons, Goffman, Foucault and Bourdieu. In the penetrating, original and informative Introduction, Eric Dunning and Stephen Mennell elucidate Elias's sociological contributions and the bearing his life experiences had on his work. The collection is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the sociological contribution of Norbert Elias. The collection is organized in the following 4 volumes: Volume 1 Focuses on Elias's work in the context of his life and career, and reviews his place in the contemporary social sciences, especially in relation to such figures as Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu. Also discussed in this volume are Elias's pathbreaking contributions to such issues as: the 'agency-structure' dilemma; habitus; power; involvement and detachment; knowledge and the sciences; time; and the relations between history and sociology. Volume 2 Addresses Elias's major empiricallybased contributions to sociological theory, especially the theories of the civilizing process, state formation and established-outsider figurations. Also discussed are informalization and de-civilizing processes, and the applications of the established-outsider theory to such fields as race, gender and sexuality. Volume 3 Examines figurational contributions to special areas of sociology such as: the sociology of the body; the sociology of the emotions; the sociology of everyday life, sport, leisure, lifestyles, taste, music and the arts; deviance and crime; the sociology of health and illness; psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and psychology; death and dying; and drugs and tobacco use. Volume 4 Focuses on criticisms of Elias's work and the responses of Elias and his sociological followers. Key themes are: civilization and the Holocaust; sports violence, especially soccer hooliganism; the meanings and value of concepts like 'development', 'evolution' and 'change'; and the relative merits of long-term and short-term approaches. The end of the volume returns to the issue of Elias's place in contemporary sociology and the growing worldwide recognition of the significance of his contribution. Eric Dunning is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Leicester; Stephen Mennell is Professor of Sociology, University College Dublin. (shrink)
In recent years, Sir Jack Goody has published a series of essays criticizing Norbert Elias’s theory of ‘civilizing processes’. In all of them, Goody — himself a West African specialist — makes clear that his disagreement with Elias dates back to their acquaintance in Ghana. The date is highly significant for it is unlikely that Goody’s opinions of Elias’s ideas were initially formed by his reading of Elias’s publications. There were also important differences between them in their approaches to theories (...) of long-term social development. Despite appearances to the contrary, Elias and Goody have in fact much in common intellectually. Goody is one of the most historically orientated of anthropologists, and many points of contact with Elias are evident in his work on literacy, food, or The Domestication of the Savage Mind. Both swam against the ahistorical current of their respective disciplines and both rejected the old notion of ‘progress’. Elias’s fault is that occasionally his formulations may appear to give the opposite impression. Goody’s fault, perhaps, is that — in spite of his own historical perspective — under any model of a structured process he suspects there lurks a vision of progress and of European superiority. (shrink)
(1994). A survey in England. World Futures: Vol. 39, The Evolution of European Identity: Surveys of the Growing Edge A Report by the European Culture Impact Research Consortium (EUROCIRCON), pp. 11-24.
Norbert Elias's The Civilizing Process, which was published in German in 1939 and first translated into English in two volumes in 1978 and 1982, is now widely regarded as one of the great works of twentieth-century sociology. This work attempted to explain how Europeans came to think of themselves as more “civilized” than their forebears and neighboring societies. By analyzing books about manners that had been published between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries, Elias observed changing conceptions of shame and embarrassment (...) with respect to, among other things, bodily propriety and violence. To explain those developments, Elias examined the interplay among the rise of state monopolies of power, increasing levels of economic interconnectedness among people, and pressures to become attuned to others over greater distances that led to advances in identifying with others in the same society irrespective of social origins. Elias's analysis of the civilizing process was not confined, however, to explaining changing social bonds within separate societies. The investigation also focused on the division of Europe into sovereign states that were embroiled in struggles for power and security.This article provides an overview and analysis of Elias's principal claims in the light of growing interest in this seminal work in sociology. The analysis shows how Elias defended higher levels of synthesis in the social sciences to explain relations between “domestic” and “international” developments, and changes in social structure and in the emotional lives of modern people. Elias's investigation, which explained long-term processes of development over several centuries, pointed to the limitations of inquiries that concentrate on short-term intervals. Only by placing short-term trends in long-term perspective could sociologists understand contemporary developments. This article maintains that Elias's analysis of the civilizing process remains an exemplary study of long-term developments in Western societies over the last five centuries. (shrink)
The article presents a figurational sociological perspective on the recent history of the discipline of economics in the wake of the global financial crisis or ‘Great Recession’ that began in 2007–8. It is argued that the orthodox mainstream of economics has provided ideological cover for abstract individualism, for short-term greed, and for the denial of the wider social responsibilities of business and finance. The faith in ‘free markets’ has been associated with a blindness to power relationships and an indifference to (...) economic inequality. Orthodox economics is congruent with the mythical American Dream. The article draws upon the writings of Norbert Elias to reflect upon economics, and then in turn uses those reflections to raise some questions about Elias’s theories, particularly his ideas concerning functional democratization and increasing pressures towards more habitual foresight. (shrink)
Norbert Elias (1897–1990) achieved international recognition as a major sociologist only towards the end of his long life. As a German Jewish refugee in England, he did not even gain a secure academic post (at the University of Leicester) until he was 57. Apart from his magnum opus, Über den Prozess der Zivilisation [The Civilizing Process], which was published obscurely in 1939, all his other books and most of his essays were published after his formal retirement. These personal recollections date (...) from that last highly productive part of his life, when he gradually attracted an extensive international following. They depict his foibles, some endearing, some that seemed perversely to stand in the way of his growing reputation. (shrink)