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Norbert Elias and Human Interdependencies

Norbert Elias and Human Interdependencies

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Norbert Elias and Human Interdependencies
    Book Description:

    While the opposing paradigms of globalization and fragmentation compete in often bloody and destructive ways in the world today, this book convincingly reminds us of the importance of finding out more about the complex and changing ways in which we are connected. The authors demonstrate that the more we understand our connectedness and deal with its consequences, the less dependent and helpless we become. The critical, multidisciplinary perspectives they offer cover a wide range of subjects, from the world wide web to medieval poetry, nations and gender, cancer narratives and money, emotion management and the financial markets, and the American civilizing process and the repression of shame. The contributions bear witness to Elias's innovative achievements while the authors continue his stunning explorations, extending them into other areas of the humanities and the sciences, and presenting their own wide-ranging and penetrating insights into our mutual dependence.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6928-7
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    For Norbert Elias (1897-1990) there were few, if any, more urgent tasks than learning about human interdependencies. Early on, he argued the need for a more open and fuller consideration of the complex and continually changing ways in which we are connected. In his view, there “can be no ‘I’ without ‘he,’ ‘she,’ ‘we,’ ‘you’ or ‘they.’ It is plainly very misleading to use such concepts as ‘I’ or ego independently of their position within the web of relationships to which the rest of the pronouns refer” (1978c, 124). Yet in the course of the “civilizing process,” as Elias saw...

  6. 1 Perspectives on a Long Life: Norbert Elias and the Process of Civilization
    (pp. 13-31)

    Norbert Elias was born in 1897, at the end of the nineteenth century, in Breslau, Silesia. He died in 1990, towards the end of the twentieth century, in Amsterdam. He spent a third of his life in London and Leicester in bitter exile. From 1962 to 1964 Elias taught at the University of Ghana in Accra. He made his first extended visit to Germany in 1965, teaching first as a visiting professor in Münster, Westphalia, and later at Konstanz and Aachen. Finally, he spent the years from 1978 to 1984 at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Bielefeld.

    The list...

  7. 2 The Other Side of the Coin: Decivilizing Processes
    (pp. 32-49)

    Decivilizing processes are what happen when civilizing processes go into reverse. But that is a deceptively simple statement. As usual when working with Norbert Elias’s theories, we need to think in terms of a tension balance between conflicting pressures. It could be argued that decivilizing trends, or decivilizing pressures, arealwayspresent. Indeed, civilizing processes arise (as blind, unplanned processes) out of people’s struggles to solve the problems posed to them in their lives by decivilizing pressures – for example, the threat of violence and insecurity. So we need to think of civilizing and decivilizing pressures as pushing against each other,...

  8. 3 The Integration of Classes and Sexes in the Twentieth Century: Etiquette Books and Emotion Management
    (pp. 50-83)

    This chapter constitutes a summary of the preliminary results of a larger comparative study of changes in twentieth-century American, Dutch, English, and German etiquette books. A central hypothesis is that major directional trends in dominant codes and ideals of behaviour and feeling, as reflected by changes in etiquette books, are closely connected with trends in power relationships and emotion management.

    In the twentieth century an important common trend in all four countries has been the diminishing of differences in power between all social groups; workers and women have come to be represented in the centres of power, and national states...

  9. 4 Exploring Netiquette: Figurations and Reconfigurations in Cybernetic Space
    (pp. 84-98)

    The March 1997 issue ofScientific Americancontains a special section on the Internet called “Bringing Order from Chaos.” The section includes eight articles written by leading professionals in the computer industry, people whose work it is to develop the new realities of the information society. Articles deal with, among other things, how to search the Internet (Lynch 1997), the kind of interfaces that are being developed to that end (Hearst 1997), the software aimed at insuring privacy (Resnick 1997), techniques for making information available in digital form (Lesk 1997), and last but not least, programs designed to preserve the...

  10. 5 Unpacking the Civilizing Process: Interdependence and Shame
    (pp. 99-115)

    This chapter is an attempt to identify and elaborate basic concepts and method in the work of Norbert Elias. Needless to say, these remarks are not dicta but only reflections occasioned by my reading of his work, particularly the translations ofThe Civilizing Process, The Established and the Outsiders, What Is Sociology?, Involvement and Detachment,andThe Germansand the valuable summaries by Mennell. I seek to connect Elias’s basic themes with recent work in family systems and in the sociology of emotions.

    I am writing this chapter in homage to Elias’s work. Pericles, in his funeral oration for those...

  11. 6 On the Relationship between Literature and Sociology in the Work of Norbert Elias
    (pp. 116-136)

    There are few great sociologists whose work reminds one of literature as strongly as does that of Norbert Elias. This observation seems to be true in more than one respect, for readingThe Loneliness of the Dying,a book written in old age and after severe illness, generates a nearly cathartic effect stimulated by an unpretentious language that does not deny fear, grief, or sadness. But at the same time, one listens to a human being who, being aware of theconditio humana,is nonetheless able to find courage and meaning in it. Avoiding the technical and formalized “new–speak”...

  12. 7 The Trials of Homo Clausus: Elias, Weber, and Goethe on the Sociogenesis of the Modern Self
    (pp. 137-148)

    In spite of differences in style, method, and even empirical focus, the sociological projects of Weber and Elias can be understood to converge on a single question: through what processes of social and political control has the modern self been put on trial? Though they may appear to disagree over the exact date of birth of European modernity – of its characteristic economic and political institutions and its distinctive modes of social and personal experience – they nevertheless share a concern with explaining why the emergence of new forms of social regulation is accompanied by techniques for subduing the natural world and...

  13. 8 Civilizing Sexuality: Marie de France’s Lay with Two Names
    (pp. 149-158)

    At the end of the epilogue to herFables,Marie de France does something relatively unusual: “At the end of this text, which I have recited in French, I shall name myself so that you remember: Marie is my name; I am from France. It may be that many scholars will take my labour for themselves; I do not want anyone to do this” (1991, lines 11-17).¹ Of course, saying that your name is Marie and that you are from France is not particularly helpful, but the very presence of a woman’s name in a literary text is significant. In...

  14. 9 Writing in the Face of Death: Norbert Elias and Autobiographies of Cancer
    (pp. 159-174)

    InThe Loneliness of the Dying, Norbert Elias writes about the problems of aging in modern societies. Many of his observations also apply to those who must live with a life-threatening illness. Cancer, for example, is a serious illness that disrupts life in many ways. Not only do patients find it difficult to cope with their overwhelming emotions of fear, loss of control, and sustained uncertainty; they must also face the fears and insecurities of family, friends, and colleagues who do not know how to respond to an unexpected brush with mortality. However, cancer patients find support among each other...

  15. 10 The Changing Balance of Power between Men and Women: A Figurational Study of the Public and the Private Spheres in Western Societies
    (pp. 175-190)

    Apart from the self-dynamics of the debate on construction and deconstruction, most representatives of today’s feminist approaches endorse the following basic consensus: to be a woman or a man is always based onsocial processesand is not simply a biological fact. The perception of gender is linked to an interactive process of gender performance, on the one hand, and gender perception, on the other. Consequently, this process varies within and between different societies. One will “have” a gender only if one has it for others (Hirschauer 1993b, 34). Like many other sociologists,¹ but more insistently, Norbert Elias continuously hesitates...

  16. 11 Symbol and Integration Process: Two Meanings of the Concept “Nation”
    (pp. 191-212)

    This chapter deals with the long-term development of the concept and idea of “nation.” I will argue that nations should no longer be seen as entities in the same way as states or communities. They are best understood as either symbols and ideal images or as integration processes. The first difficulty in thinking about nations from a process perspective is that in ordinary language “nation” has become a static, unchanging entity. As Elias would have said, “The time has come for a great spring cleaning.”

    The idea of the nation as the unit on which states should be based developed...

  17. 12 The Second Pillar of State Power: Figurational Explorations of the State and Money
    (pp. 213-225)

    InThe Civilizing Process,Norbert Elias compares the French court with a stock exchange, in which “people ... exert pressure and force on each other in a wide variety of different ways” (1994b, 475). By this, he means that people’s physical behaviour is being shaped without the threat of physical force. He describes the way of life at court in the following manner:

    Every individual belongs to a “clique,” a social circle which supports him when necessary; but the groupings change. He enters alliances, if possible with people ranking high at court. But rank at court can change very quickly;...

  18. 13 The American Civilizing Process
    (pp. 226-244)

    Sombart once famously asked, “Warum gibt es in den Vereinigten Staaten keinen Sozialismus?” The question which prompted this paper is an adaptation of that one: “Warum gibt es in den Vereinigten Staaten keinenEliasismust?”

    I have long been puzzled by the failure of Norbert Elias’s work to make much significant impact among sociologists in the United States – still the world’s largest, best organized, and perhaps most influential bloc of sociologists. In Europe, Elias is at present less used and cited than Habermas, Foucault, or Bourdieu, but there is a significant minority of social scientists and historians actively employing his ideas....

  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 245-266)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 267-272)