Now showing 1 - 5 of 5
  • Publication
    Laudatio for Richard Kilminster
    ‘Laudatio’ means ‘I praise’ or ‘In praise of’. It is the term used in German for a speech of this sort, and I prefer it to the available English alternatives: ‘eulogy’ usually requires the lauded person to be dead; ‘tribute’ is not much better; and ‘encomium’ sounds like a letter of support for a job application. So ‘Laudatio’ it is – but the more important part of my title is ‘Richard Kilminster’.
  • Publication
    Childhood and Society: Civilisation as Deferred Gratification
    (Verlag Neue Praxis, 2018)
    There is nothing very controversial in the idea that learning to defer gratification is a central element in the socialisation of children. It could be called an individual civilising process, or just ‘growing up’. The argument of this paper is that the deferred gratification is also the central element in Norbert Elias’s theory of civilising processes as long-term social changes. If he had spoken more about deferred gratification and used the term ‘civilisation’ a bit less, some of the controversy about and misunderstanding of his theory might have been diminished. In Über den Prozess der Zivilisation he set out to demonstrate that the social standard of the capacity to defer gratifcation had over the generations become more demanding; the small child had further to travel in order to attain the standard required to qualify as adult behaviour and feeling.
  • Publication
    The political implications of figurational sociology
    By this title, I do not mean the short-term and party-political implications of figurational sociology, but something broader and longer-term in perspective. Starting in particular from the ‘Game Models’ set out in chapter 3 of Elias’s What is Sociology?, I want to pose the question of how little influence sociology has had on how people at large think about and understand how society works. In the main, they continue to think in psychologistic rather than sociological terms, notably by using what Godfried van Benthem van den Bergh has called ‘the attribution of blame’ as a means of orientation. What does a general deficiency in ‘joined-up’ thinking imply about the prospects of (relatively) democratic government in today’s highly joined-up world?
  • Publication
    Trump's America: International Relations and the Construction of They-Images
    (David Publishing Company, 2018-10-28)
    Unequal power balances (or power ratios) between human beings, including unequal power ratios between nations, distort mutual perceptions in systematic, recognizable ways. And changes in power ratios over time are associated with shifts in perception. The power position of the USA in global affairs affects Americans’ “we-images” of their own country and their (often inaccurate) “they-image” of the outside world. It also affects the outside world’s they-images of the USA. Norbert Elias’s theory of established-outsider relations is drawn upon to suggest how these may all be affected by the relative decline of American power
  • Publication
    Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations: An Overview and Assessment
    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.
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