Social character and historical processes: a conference in honour of Stephen Mennell

On 7-8 January 2016, the School of Sociology, UCD, will hold a conference to honour the major contribution that Stephen Mennell has made to the discipline of sociology. Stephen who is now Emeritus, was a Professor at UCD from 1993 to 2009 and during those 16 years made a remarkable contribution to the academic and social life of the School. More recently he has spent almost a decade overseeing the publication of Norbert Elias’s Collected Works.

This conference aims to recognize and reflect on his important work, which includes numerous books and articles. In line with his prodigious output, the conference, as well as including sessions on all aspects of the work of Elias, will have panels on America and on food and eating.

It is hoped that there will be no conference fee. And while we will provide assistance, participants will be expected to cover their own travel and accommodation costs.

If you are interested in attending the conference and/or wish to give a paper please contact either Steven Loyal ( or Tom Inglis ( as soon as possible.



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Professorship, Comparative Sociology, Bremen

This post may be of interest to some readers of this blog:

The Institute of Sociology in the Department of Social Sciences, University of Bremen, invites applications for the following academic position, starting April 1 , 2016:

Professorship (W3)
Sociology with special focus on Comparative Sociology

civil servant position, tenured
Reference number: P278/15

Please submit your application including the reference number, CV (with copies of certificates), evidences of research and teaching experience (with a list of publications, research project experience, teaching evaluations), an outlined research and teaching concept and three publications until [= by] 24th April 2015 to:
Universität Bremen
Fachbereich8/ Sozialwissenschaften
Frau Banse – P278/15
28359 Bremen
or to Mrs. Banse (Administration of the Department of Social Sciences):

For further inquiries please contact Prof. Dr. Uwe Schimank (
For further information on appointment procedures at the University of Bremen please consult:

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Call for papers: Norbert Elias and Violence

Book project: Norbert Elias and Violence

Edited by: Tatiana S. Landini (Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo, Brazil) and François Dépelteau (Laurentian University, Canada)

To be published by Palgrave Macmillan

In 2013 and 2014, we launched the books Norbert Elias and Social Theory and Norbert Elias and Empirical Research. In the first one, we published texts comparing Norbert Elias to many important authors (Epicurus, Freud, Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Simmel, Mannheim, From, Arendt, Bauman and Bourdieu) and, on the second one, many important topics were analysed by using Elias´s framework (such as literature, capital punishment, prisons, sexual violence, life and death, court, state formation, relations between the sexes and sports).

In this new book we aim to focus on an important issue on Elias´s oeuvre: violence. The topic of violence permeates most of his books, with more or less emphases. Nevertheless, this topic is also very controversial in his writings. For his critics, Elias didn’t give enough attention to a problem that plays such an important role on modern societies and its formation. By focusing on pacification as an important direction of the civilizing process, Elias would have missed key aspects of this same civilizing process, such as violent processes of colonization, development of weapons of mass murder to be used in wars between and within states, and so on (though he talked about these topics a good deal in his later works). Readers sympathetic to his work, on the other hand, reinforce the key role played by violence during state formation processes, the possibility of decivilizing processes or spurts, changes in the balance between external constrain towards self-constraint, etc.

Violence is not presented in any definitive way in Elias´s books, thus opening the door to many interpretations and debates. State formation, the directions of civilizing and decivilizing processes, pacification, spurts of violence, war and aggression as a human condition, etc., are all topics related to violence that Elias discusses in his many books and that still need to be more debated and clarified.

We should welcome texts that analyse any of the above topics, or others related to violence on Elias´s oeuvre. We also welcome texts that used Elias´s framework to discuss any kind of violence or national situation in our contemporary world. As Elias used to say, theory and empirical research cannot be separated. Our final goal is to present texts that bring interesting light on the topic of violence through Elias´s eyes.

We welcome contributions from all the disciplines. Texts should written in English and be limited to 20 pages (Times New Roman 12, double space), including bibliography.

Deadline for receiving the texts: 1 August 2015.

Please submit your text by email (on Word) to:

Tatiana S. Landini (

François Depelteau (

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Last-minute Reminder: DEADLINE for session proposals, Vienna 2016


The International Sociological Association’s “Forum” will take place in Vienna, 10-14 July 2016.

BUT proposals for sessions have to be submitted RIGHT NOW! – by 15 March to be exact.

The theme of the Forum “The Futures We Want: Global Sociology and the Struggles for a Better World”, but as usual sessions on all aspects of sociology are possible.

Figurational sociologists are strongly represented among the members of ISA Working Group 02 – Historical and Comparative Sociology, and also in Research Committee 20 – Comparative Sociology. We ought to have a strong presence in  Vienna.

Session proposals must be submitted through the Confex system. You can find further details at:

Proposals should include a short description and the language (English, French or Spanish), as well as contact details of session organizer (name, affiliation, country, e-mail).

WG02 is allowed a total of 12 sessions, including a Business Meeting.

Please respond quickly to this reminder.

Stephen Mennell

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Cancellation of John Goodwin’s Inaugural Lecture, 24 March

Unfortunately, owing to unforeseen circumstances, Professor John Goodwin’s inaugural lecture has been cancelled and will be rescheduled to take place in the next academic year.


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Human Figurations 4 (2): Reflections on Global Power Relations

A special issue of Human Figurations has just been published. Its theme is ‘Reflections on Global Power Relations’. Its contents are:

Katie Liston: Editor’s Introduction

Stephen Mennell: ‘Explaining American hypocrisy’

Bruce Mazlish: ‘Rejected modernity’

Michael Mann: ‘Incoherent Empire revisited: against interventionism’

André Saramago: ‘Problems of orientation and control: Marx, Elias and the involvement–detachment balance in figurational sociology’

Probably the least expected essay is my own, on American hypocrisy in international relations. Unexpected, because we figurationists are noted for our preoccupation with ‘problems of involvement and detachment’ and a general avoidance of direct political controversy – which indeed is the topic of André Saramago’s paper. But Elias always allowed for the possibility of ‘secondary re-involvement’ following a ‘detour via detachment’. Here I discuss the origins of the conflict in Ukraine, using Eliasian ideas: the established–outsiders model, hegemonic fevers, and the duality of normative codes in nation states. I have always believed that Elias’s work was politically highly relevant, even if he tended to describe his aim less directly as ‘improving the human means of orientation’.

Bruce Mazlish focuses attention on the consequences, notably in the Middle East, of rejecting ‘modernity’.

Michael Mann revisits his 2004 book Incoherent Empire, written in the run-up to and immediately after the catastrophic American invasion of Iraq. While few lessons seem yet to have been learnt, Mann gives a good Machiavellian argument for why they need to be.

The special issue can be found at:*?rgn=full+text

Stephen Mennell

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Correction to Figurations 42 newsletter

The date for the planned conference at the University of Münster is 8–11 September 2016, NOT 15–17 September as announced in Figurastions 42.

Our apologies for this mistake.

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This conference may be of interest to subscribers. The theme of “Reconstruction” is welcome. It begins to look as though “social theorists”  are rediscovering the real world after some decades of what Ernest Gellner called “the tidal wave of cheap relativism that threatens to swamp the coming fin de millénaire‘ (and did swamp it). Some figurational contributions would thus be timely. Abstracts have to be submitted by 15 March.

Stephen Mennell

14th Annual Conference of the International Social Theory Consortium

Cambridge, UK, 18-19 June, 2015



With regard to developments in social theory, the past 30 years can be characterized as an Age of Deconstruction. Inspired by post-structuralism, post-modernism, critical theory, and science studies, as well as combinations of related approaches, theorists have endeavoured to shatter historical meta-narratives and struggled to include previously excluded standpoints in social thought. This important trend no doubt has informed our understanding of the role of discourse, difference and expertise in determining relations of power and inequality.

The central theme of the 2015 annual meeting of the International Social Theory Consortium (ISTC) will be “Reconstruction”, dedicated to taking account of and interrogating the possibility of picking up the pieces. Are there limits to the deconstruction project, and have these limits been reached? What are the possibilities for the ‘reconstruction’ of narratives of long-term historical change?  Is it possible to include and integrate the insights and contribution of various critiques of knowledge, while at the same time developing new forms of knowledge?  Can we submit the project of deconstruction itself to deconstruction?

Essential to such a project of “deconstructing deconstruction” would be a return to history—acknowledging its continuing importance as a social-theoretical category and frame, considering its persistent utility after decades of sobering realizations, and accepting the fact that, by most accounts, history has not reached its end. How would social science disciplines – e.g. economics – benefit from new perspectives on understanding long-term change?  What might, could and should a new philosophy of history – subsequent to so many ‘turns’ – look like?  What are the possibilities for practice in addressing social justice and democracy, with the benefit or in the absence of long-term historical consciousness?

While conference continues the ISTC’s tradition of encouraging…

Submission of abstract proposals on the entire range of topics under the general heading of social theory
…and we especially look forward to receiving submissions that…


  •   Frame contributions in terms of Reconstruction
  •   Relate existing research agendas and projects to Reconstruction
  •   Directly address the theme of Reconstruction

> Philosophy of History in an Age of Deconstruction
> Reconstructing Theories of the State and Politics
> The Limits, Horizons and Possibilities of Critique
> Knowledge, Authority and Expertise
> Historicizing Social Theory
> Reconstructing the (His)Story of Modern Societies
> Social Theory as the Link between the Past and the Future
> Social Theory after/beyond the Human
Please email abstracts to no later than 15 March 2015.
Eric R. Lybeck, Department of Sociology, Cambridge University
Harry F. Dahms, Department of Sociology, University of Tennessee-Knoxville
Please feel free to address any questions or concerns to Eric Lybeck ( or Harry Dahms (

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Writing workshops with Farhad Dalal

Some subscribers to the blog may be interested in these workshops, taught by Farhad Dalal, the group analyst and Elias enthusiast.
Non-Fiction Writing in the Company of Others – one year
Supervision as Inquiry – one day

You can download flyers here – Writing workshop              Supervision as inquiry

Non-Fiction Writing in the Company of Others

A  Year Long Writing Workshop for Established and Aspiring Writers.

The workshop is premised on the belief that the activity of writing is not only an intellectual challenge, but that it is also fraught with emotional difficulties. Writing is not only a test of intelligence and creativity, it is also a test of courage and stamina.
The intention is to build a close-knit group culture that is safe enough to enable participants to risk revealing their work, as well as risk voicing their sincere views on the work of others. The primary mode of exchange within the group will not be didactic, but conversational and dialogical in ways that draw on participant’s reflected experiences of each other’s work.

For whom? This year long endeavour will be of interest to you:

  •  If you are already in the midst of a project that you are developing into a book, journal paper, or talk, and would like to work on it in the company of others.
  •  If you have an idea but have not yet embarked on your project, or perhaps are unsure how to begin.
  •  If you find yourself prevaricating with some form of writer’s block.
  • If you have a wish to write, but don’t know where or how to begin

Over the Year:

  • 5 Residentials in  Totnes – Bi-monthly – Fri eve to Sun noon.
  •  5 x 2 hr individual meetings: in-depth feedback on ongoing work.
  •  Reading and feedback on each other’s work.

Participants: 4 to 6 (max)
Cost: £900  + stay during  residentials

About me:
Farhad Dalal brings a mix of skills and experience particularly suited to the task of facilitating this venture. Before becoming a psychotherapist, he taught in secondary schools in London. Over the years he has taught and helped a number of trainees write their clinical and theoretical papers. In university environments he has supervised a number of doctoral level learning sets. He has a track record as an established  writer, having published numerous papers and three books to date. More info on

Supervision as Inquiry

A Workshop for Experienced Therapists Interested to Explore the Premises of their Evolving Practice

Date: Sat, April 18
9 am to 6 pm
 Venue: Totnes, Devon
Cost: £90 (Lunch included)
Participants 4 to 6 (max)


Day to day psychotherapy practice continually tests established convention; one inevitably finds oneself breaking one or other of the ‘rules’. We either keep these slips to ourselves because of feeling ashamed, or we take them to supervision where they are often understood as some form of ‘acting out’. Despite this, over time this drift become consolidated as new norms which come to constitute ‘my way of working’. Consequently, therapists one can come to feel increasingly at odds with the ways of thinking in the community they trained with.

Are these really new ways of working and thinking, or mere lapses on the part of the practitioner born of drift, sloppiness and a lack of rigour? The workshop will invite participants to take up the transgressions as opportunities for inquiring into and questioning the taken for granted premises of the theories and ways of thinking that the therapist subscribes to.

Structure of the day
Group discussion will be the primary mode of engagement and learning.
Participants will be  required to prepare for the workshop by

  • doing some prescribed reading
  • bringing case material pertinent to the questions and themes of the workshop.

About me:
I am a training group analyst for the Institute of Group Analysis, London. I have supervised the work of counsellors and  psychotherapists from a range of schools working in a wide range of settings (statutory, voluntary, education & independent practice), for very many years.
My first training was in Humanistic psychotherapy, which was followed by a training in Group Analysis. I find that my way of working has drifted from a Humanistic ethos, to an ‘analytic’ stance, and then on  towards the ‘relational’.
Visit for two papers (and videos) that describe my  current  take on psychotherapy (‘Specialists without Spirit; Sensualists without Heart’: Psychotherapy as a Moral Endeavour’ and ‘A Rumination on Intimacy & its Defences in the Consulting Room’.

Copyright © 2015 SDPCS, All rights reserved.
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John Goodwin’s Inaugural Lecture at Leicester

Professor John Goodwin, Department of Sociology, University of Leicester, will give his inaugural lecture under the title The Sociogenesis of a Sociologist: Intersections of History and Biographyon Tuesday 24 March 2015.

The lecture will be at 5.30 pm in Lecture Theatre 1 in the Ken Edwards Building
Leicester LE1 7RH. A reception will follow afterwards in the City Lounge on the
first floor of the Charles Wilson Building.


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