Locations for BSA Conference

On Wednesday 6 April, registration for the British Sociological Association starts at 8:30 at the Peacock Theatre, LSE, which is on the right-hand side of Kingsway (facing north from Aldwych), on the corner with Portugal Street.

The two Elias sessions, at 9:30-11:30 and 12:00-13:30, are in Room 214 in the New Academic Building, which is just a short distance further up Kingsway, on the corner with Sardinia Street (the street that leads into Lincoln’s Inn Fields).

A map of the LSE campus can be downloaded at http://www.britsoc.co.uk/events/conference/useful.htm

Wellington Street, where we are having lunch afterwards in the Café Rouge, is in the Covent Garden area just a short walk over the other (west) side of Kingsway. It can be reached via various minor streets, but if you prefer not to take the risk of getting lost, just walk down Kingsway to the Aldwych, turn right (west) to where it meets the Strand, and then turn sharp right up Wellington Street until you spot the Café Rouge. Neither route is a great distance.


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Elias-I Blog up and running again

Thanks to Robert van Krieken, the Elias-I blog is up and running again. It looks a bit different, because for some unknown reason the old “theme” (layout) would not work – but otherwise it is much as before.

The maintenance work also triggered the transmission (or re-transmission)  of emails about several recent posts. This may be good news – perhaps the email is functioning properly for the first time, but only time will tell.

Stephen Mennell


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Lunch after BSA Conference Sessions, 6 April 2011

We have booked a table for lunch after the two sessions on Elias, which will take place on the first morning of the British Sociological Association’s conference. The sessions are from 9.30 to 11.30 and 12.00 to 13.30, and a late lunch will follow at 14.00, at:

Café Rouge

34 Wellington Street

Covent Garden

London WC2E 7BD

This branch of Café Rouge is very near the Royal Opera House, and only about 5 minutes walk from LSE.

Map: Click here <http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=34+Wellington+Street%2bWC2E+7BD%2bLondon%4051.5123108%2c-0.1208444&iwloc=addr&om=1>

Besides those who are participating in these two sessions, we hope that other Eliasians who are taking part in other sessions during the conference will be able to join us. Please let Katie Liston know whether you will be joining is for lunch, at: k.liston@ulster.ac.uk


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Figurations 34 in the post – at last

Figurations 34, which should have been posted out to readers at the beginning of December, has been posted today from Amsterdam. Apologies again for the delay.

To make matters worse, today we observed that the issue says “June 2010″ on the cover, rather than “December 2010″.  We are becoming fallible.

Stephen Mennell & Katie Liston

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2012: IISA and IIS both announce major conferences

As you may be aware both the International Institute of Sociology (IIS) World Congress (Delhi between 16–19 February) and International Sociological Association (ISA) Forum (Buenos Aires between 1–4 August) are being held in 2012. Obviously this is not ideal – especially for people resident in Europe, but also for anyone whose funds will not run to two such gatherings in a year – and we are wondering if it is feasible to organise sessions in India and Argentina.

The IIS has just issued its call for proposals for regular sessions and we have to establish whether there would be sufficient interest to request one or more sessions. Consequently, can you contact Robert van Krieken (robert.van-krieken@sydney.edu.au) and Stephen Vertigans (s.vertigans@rgu.ac.uk) before 28 February 2011 if you would be likely to submit a paper? It would also help us when deciding on potential themes if you could give us an indication about the possible topic. Further details of the conference can be found at http://www.iisoc.org/iis2012.

The details of the ISA programme in Buenos Aires have yet to be issued. To assist us in responding when the call for papers is issued, can you again let us know whether you are thinking about attending this conference?

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BSA Conference 6-8 April 2011 – TWO Elias sessions

From Katie Liston and Jonathan Fletcher (Convenors)

We are pleased at last to be able to notify participants, and especially those who have offered papers, that the British Sociological Association has now allocated a second session to Elias and figurational sociology at the conference at the LSE on 6–8 April 2011 marking the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the BSA

Details of the two sessions are given below. The first, as originally planned, will focus principally on Elias’s position as an outsider in British sociology. The second, additional, session includes papers on a wider set of concerns.

Those who are planning on attending this conference might also be interested in the sociology of sport stream, information on which is available on the conference website.

The presenters identified here should now contact the BSA office directly to register for the conference, ideally by the end of January. The BSA office has already received has over 700 bookings and the maximum capacity (per day) is 960 delegates.

You can book online at www.britsoc.co.uk/events/conference. In the meantime, abstracts should also be forwarded directly to Liz Jackson (liz.jackson@britsoc.org.uk) to complete the stream programme.

Open Stream 2: ELIAS

Session 1: Wednesday 6th April 2011 at 09:30–11:30

John Goodwin and Jason Hughes: Ilya Neustadt, Norbert Elias and the development of sociology in britain: formal and informal sources of historical data

Eric Dunning: Long-term patterns of sports-related violence: some figurational observations and related concepts

Marc Joly: Norbert Elias’s networks in the field of British Sociology before his appointment in Leicester

Norman Gabriel: Collar the lot! Norbert Elias on the Isle of Man

Hermann Korte: Norbert Elias at the University of Leicester

Session 2: Wednesday 6th April 2011 at 12:00–13:30

Marjorie Fitzpatrick: The hidden agenda for ‘absolutist’ monarchical power in the eighteenth century court society in England: the libretto of Handel’s Messiah

Matt Clement: Trade Unions: A Significant Social Figuration?

Abram de Swaan: On genocidal perpetrators

Miguel Fernadez Llanos: Norbert Elias meets Karl Marx at the British Museum: towards the civilizing process model of models

Michael Dunning: Figurational Sociology and the Study of British ‘Islamist Terrorism’

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Norbert Elias: Beyond Freud

Norbert Elias, Au-delà de Freud: sociologie, psychologie, psychanalyse (Paris: La Découverte, 2010). Edited by Marc Joly; translated from English and German by Nicolas Guilhot, Marc Joly and Valentine Meunier; with an afterword by Bernard Lahire. 215 pp. ISBN: 978-2-7071-5760-7.

This is arguably the most important ‘new’ book by Elias to appear in the last decade. Marc Joly has put together a collection of Elias’s writings that bear upon psychology and psychoanalysis, none of which has previously appeared in French. These include the essays on ‘Sociology and psychiatry’ (1969), ‘The civilising of parents’ (1980) and ‘civilisation and psychosomatics’ (1988), which have already been published in English and (in the first two cases) German. The volume also includes a translation of the transcript of Elias’s 1950 lecture, ‘The field of social psychology’, delivered at king’s College, London – which has been included in neither the Gesammelte Schriften nor the Collected Works.

But what makes this volume of the greatest significance is that Marc Joly has succeeded in making a coherent, readable and cogent text from the sprawling multivariate drafts of the major essay on ‘The Freudian conception of society and beyond it’ that Elias was writing in the months immediately leading up to his death in 1990.

Elias never made any secret of the profound influence that Freud had on his work from the 1930s onwards. The influence was in any case very obvious. Yet careful reading always revealed that, as Elias said himself, he was never an uncritical and orthodox adherent of psychoanalysis. Freud’s impact upon the human self-image remains profound, but today Freud’s ideas are markedly less fashionable among à la mode intellectuals – who seem generally to throw the baby out with much of the bathwater that arguably is indeed disposable. That is relevant to the reception of Elias’s work because, especially in the USA, the perception that Elias is ‘a Freudian’ tout court becomes an excuse not to read his works with the care and attention that is required. One problem is that Elias never set out at length where he stood in relation to Freud – what he agreed with, what he disagreed with, and why – until he attempted to do just that in the last months of his life.

In his last few years Elias was effectively blind. His last writings, including The Symbol Theory and the ‘Maycomb model’ essay, as well as his work on Freud, were dictated to assistants. Since he could not read the result, he had also had to rely on the assistants to read back what they had typed up from the previous day. This appears to have exacerbated Elias’s existing tendency to produce many different drafts of the same ideas. Nevertheless, in the case of The Symbol Theory (which he did more or less complete), Elias would not give permission to Richard Kilminster to take radical editorial initiative to eliminate false starts and repetitions and to sort out the material into some more coherent and systematic exposition. Precisely such radical editorial initiative is what Marc Joly, using his experience as a journalist, has achieved with the Freud papers – which, hitherto, had languished at the DLA in Marbach in a state that was thought to preclude publication.

The resulting 54-page essay (pp. 131–85) is highly convincing. It is in certain respects – to those familiar with Elias’s thinking – fairly predictable, but it is no less persuasive for all that. The first major section describes Freud’s as ‘a social theory founded on the opposition of individual and society’; like so many others up to the present day, Freud had no effective notion of social dynamics,. He was after all a psychologist, so it is hardly surprising if his thought was psychologistic – his explanations were sought in the properties of the individual human mind. In other words: homo clausus rides again. The next section of the text assembled by Joly follows logically under the heading ‘a myth of origins’. Next comes an extended discussion of ‘social repression and psychological represssion’. And then, in characteristic fashion, Elias moves on to advocate ‘a processual reorientation of Freudian concepts’. And finally: ‘beyond nature and culture’: or, Elias might have written, ‘In my beginning is my end’, for the problem of ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ had been one of his preoccupations from the beginning of his intellectual life.

Now that Marc Joly has shown what can be done with the Freud papers, we have plans to publish his edition of them in the original English. Watch this space to find out how we manage to squeeze them into the last volumes of the Collected Works that are now under preparation. In the meantime, if you read French, read this book.

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Norbert Elias Prize, 2011

The seventh Norbert Elias Prize will be awarded in 2011. The Prize consists in a sum of €1,000 and it will be awarded to a significant first major book published between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2010. First-time authors from any part of the world are eligible for the award.

The Prize is awarded ‘in commemoration of the sociologist Norbert Elias (1897–1990), whose writings, at once theoretical and empirical, boldly crossed disciplinary boundaries in the social sciences to develop a long-term perspective on the patterns of interdependence which human beings weave together’. This does not mean, however, that the prize-winning book will necessarily be directly inspired by Elias’s own work.

Previous winners of the Elias Prize have been:

1999 David Lepoutre, Coeur de banlieue: Codes, rites et langages (Paris: Odile Jacob, 1997)

2001 Wilbert van Vree, Meetings, Manners and Civilisation (London: University of Leicester Press, 1999)

2003 Nikola Tietze, Islamische Identitäten: Formen muslimischer Religiosität junger Männer in Deutschland und Frankreich (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2001)

2005 Jason Hughes, Learning to Smoke: Tobacco Use in the West (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003)

2007 Georgi Derlugian, Bourdieu’s Secret Admirer in the Caucasus: A World-System Biography (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

2009 Elizabeth Bernstein, Temporarily Yours: Intimacy, Authenticity, and the Commerce of Sex (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).

For the 2011 prize, the jury will consist of three previous winners of the prize, under the chairmanship of Wilbert van Vree.

Nominations for the prize should be sent to Marcello Aspria, Secretary to the Norbert Elias Foundation, by 30 April 2011, either by post to J.J. Viottastraat 13, 1071 JM Amsterdam, The Netherlands, or by email to elias@planet.nl

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The Society of Individuals published

The latest volume to appear of the Collected Works of Norbert Elias in English is:

Norbert Elias, The Society of Individuals (Dublin: UCD Press, 10 December 2010 [Collected Works. vol. 10]). xvi + 224 pp. ISBN: 978-1-906359-07-2.

Translated by Edmund Jephcott. German text edited by Michael Schröter. This volume edited by Robert van Krieken.

Philosophers and social scientists have for decades – centuries even – tied themselves in knots over the supposed problem of ‘individual’ versus ‘society’, and its offshoots such as ‘agency’ and ‘structure’.

Elias shows the falsity of problem, which ought to be easily resolved by thinking in terms of processes extending over the generations – though in practice the baleful influence of philosophy leads to its constant resurrection.

The Society of Individuals consists of three essays, the first written in 1939, the second dating from the 1940s and 1950s, and the third a final reflection composed in 1987 only three years before Elias’s death. In each, Elias takes the discussion to a new level, demonstrating that individualisation is an inherent component of the personal socialisation process and of inter-generational civilising processes, exploding the myth of the ‘We-less ego’, and introducing important conceptual innovations, including ‘I-identity’ versus ‘We-identity’ and the ‘We–I balance’.

Like previous volumes in the series, this too has been carefully edited and corrected, and explanatory notes have been added where necessary.


Norbert Elias (1897–1990)

Note on the text


Part I:  The Society of individuals (1939)

Part II:  Problems of self-consciousness and the human self-image (1940s–1950s)

1          Wishful and fearful self-images of human beings as individuals and of society

2          The thinking statues

3            Individualisation in the social process

Part III:  Changes in the We–I balance (1987)

Appendix I: Rainer Maria Rilke, ‘The Book of Pilgrimage’

Appendix II: Two poems by Goethe

Appendix III: Power Struggles and the concepts of ‘state’ and ‘society’

Appendix IV: Migration and the conflict of generations



This volume is published at the list price of €60.00, but it can be purchased direct from the publishers at the discount price of €48.00 – go to www.ucdpress.ie.

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Figurations 34 will be late!

Figurations, the Newsletter of the Norbert Elias Foundation, is normally posted to subscribers early in December, but we regret that – because of pressure of other work – we shall not finish Figurations 34 by then. The delay is due to us simply having so many other calls on out time. Please accept our apologies. The issue will be posted out in January.

Stephen Mennell, Editor

Katie Liston, Associate Editor

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