Call for expressions of interest, encyclopedia entries

Dear all,
The editorial team for the forthcoming Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Social Theory is looking for contributors for a number of entries in the Social History section. The length required is indicated, and sadly there’s no fee involved.

If you think you’d like to write one of these entries, please get in touch with me at and let me know.

Warmest regards (from Sydney, literally!)

Annales School-B 3,500-4,000
Bendix, Reinhard-D 1,000-1,500
Braudel ,Fernand –D 1,000-1,500
British Marxist Historians (Cambridge Historians)-D 1,000-1,500
Dumezil, G. –D 1,000-1,500
Elias, Norbert
(including Civilizing Process, Figurational Sociology, Process Sociology)- 3,500-4,000
Empires, rise, decline and fall – B 3,500-4,000
Evolutionary Theory-B 3,500-4,000
Historical sociology-D 1,000-1,500
Laslett, Peter-D 1,000-1,500
Nelson, Benjamin –D 1,000-1,500
Gibbon, Edward –D 1,000-1,500
Spengler, O –D 1,000-1,500
Toynbee, A.J. –D 1,000-1,500
Turner, F. (frontier) –D 1,000-1,500


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Flip Schrameijer: Elias and mental health/illness


Recently I joined a community called ResearchGate, which requires one to show one’s academic credentials before being admitted. (Although sometimes one wonders …)

The other day I responded to this question: “Does anyone have advice on where to look for theorizing about mental health/illness outside of the psy-disciplines – for example sociological theory?”

Since most of you can’t immediately access this site, I quote my response in full. I’m well aware of not being fully acquainted with what has been produced on this subject by the “Elias-community”, so I’m open to suggestions and corrections.

“For a sociologist who has worked in mental health / psychiatry for more than 30 years, this is an easy question, but only if taken literally. I recommend looking in Elias, Norbert, (2009), ‘Sociology and Psychiatry’, in Essays III: On Sociology and the Humanities (Dublin: UCD Press, 2009 [Collected Works, Vol. 16], pp. 159–79.
The article is mainly about the different perspectives sociologists (such as Elias) and psychiatrists generally have on people. For those unfamiliar with Elias’ sociology its very hard to do his views justice in a few words since they radically deviate from mainstream ways of looking at people and societies. For those acquainted with his work, most of what he says here is familiar, since they are recurrent themes throughout his vast oeuvre. Time and again he has criticized the tendency in philosophy and the humanities to regard people as basically separated from the social world – as we say – ‘around’ each individual, with which one may or may not ‘interact’. Psychiatry adopts a special version of what Elias calls the homo clauses (‘the dominant concept of the human being of contemporary industrial societies’) namely homo psychiatricus, which is:
“a human being stripped of most attributes that one might call ‘social’, such as attributes connected with the standing of his or her family, with educational attainments, occupational training and work, or national characteristics and identifications. The individual person is seen essentially as a closed system whose own internal processes have a high degree of independence in relation to what appear as ‘external’ or social factors. In general, the latter are evaluated as peripheral when a person is considered psychiatrically. They can be ‘taken off’ as it were, like a patient’s clothes in a doctor’s surgery.”

He recognizes – indeed his chef d’oeuvre is, among other things, about its ‘sociogenesis’ – people do experience themselves in this manner, and yet its not an adequate view. The individual cannot be separated from such things as his or her national identification; this is part of what people are. He goes on to illustrate this view with the example of the loss of a loved one of which it is impossible to say it either happens in or outside a person.

So, one might react in part to your question with the counter-question which sociology you mean. In my opinion it may be clear that ‘mental illness’ as it is commonly understood, belonging to the domain of psychiatry, provides insufficient common ground for a fruitful discussion from the perspective of this sociology. (There is common ground elsewhere, though, such as with psychoanalysis and developmental psychology – but that’s another story since those don’t primarily concern ‘mental illness’.)

Finally one might ask what you mean by ‘mental illness’. Schizophrenia, for instance, was considered to be mainly caused by ‘unhealthy’ family relations by a number of world-acclaimed psychiatrists as little as 30 years ago, until the pendulum ‘in the field’ swung back to a new version of the mainly biological view from the first half of the last century. Autism was ‘discovered’ only 69 years ago and has undergone baffling changes in the way it was interpreted in psychiatry. ‘Hysteria’ was the classic ‘female malady’ in the mid-nineteenth century and had all but vanished a century later. So ‘mental illness’ is obviously something else in different ages and societies. In sociological theorizing about it, one should not take ‘mental illness’ as a given. On the other hand, a social construction, such as Scheff, Goffman or Szasz would have it in the 1960s, it isn’t either: the phenomena which are labelled mental illnesses have a reality beyond such constructions.”


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Happy New Year!

Best wishes for 2013 from the Norbert Elias Foundation.

This blog has been inactive for a couple of months, because – for some reason that we are still investigating – the great majority of users’ email addresses were deleted.

We have now restored the users’ list, using a backup file which, however, was 18 months out of date. So please let us know any corrections, or if you no longer wish to subscribe, by emailing the Foundation at

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Group on Early Childhood

After the recent successful conference in Copenhagen a few of us thought it would be a good idea to find out a little more about who is applying Norbert Elias’s perspective to childhood. We are hoping that we could all get together to present papers in this area and related themes (education) at conferences on Elias and international conferences in sociology. In the longer term we also hope to conduct some much needed comparative research on the way that different forms of habitus influence institutional child-care arrangements. 

Norman Gabriel (Plymouth University), Eva Gulløv, Laura Gilliam, Dil Bach (Aarhus University) and Paddy Dolan (Dublin Institute of Technology).

Please send expressions of interest to:  

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More “classic essays” on the NEF website

Five more essays by Joop Goudsblom have been posted on the Norbert Elias Foundation website, on the page entitled “Some classic essays”.


The aim of providing this page is to make available the texts of some essays which, although perhaps well known in a subterranean way among members of the figurational research network, have either not previously been published in English or are difficult to obtain. We are paying particular attention to articles published in the now-defunct Amsterdams Sociologisch Tijdschrift. We should welcome suggestions for further essays, from that journal or elsewhere and by other authors, which could usefully be posted on this page.

The five new essays are:

Johan Goudsblom, ‘Public Health and the Civilising Process’, Millbank Quarterly 64: 2 (1986), pp. 161–82.

Johan Goudsblom, ‘On High and Low in Society and in Sociology: A Semantic Approach to Social Stratification’, Sociologisch Tijdschrift 13: 1 (1986), pp. 3–17. [Note that for a few years in the mid-1980s, the Amsterdams Sociologisch Tijdschrift dropped ‘Amsterdam’ from its title.]

Johan Goudsblom, ‘The humanities and the social sciences’, in E. Zürcher and T. Langendorff (eds), The Humanities in the Nineties: A View from the Netherlands (Amsterdam: Swets & Zeitlinger, 1990), pp. 24–41. [Traces the relationships between the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences at the present day are traced back to the structure of early European universities.]

Johan Goudsblom, ‘The Theory of the Civilising Process and Its Discontents’ – a review of the reception of and debates about Elias’s theory, prepared for a conference in 1994 and hitherto published only as a working paper of the Amsterdam School for Social Research.

Johan Goudsblom, ‘Christian religion and the European civilising process: the views of Norbert Elias and Max Weber compared in the context of the Augustinian and Lucretian traditions’, Irish Journal of Sociology 12: 1 (2003), pp. 24–38.

Johan Goudsblom, ‘Norbert Elias and American Sociology’, Sociologia Internationalis 38: 2 (2000), pp. 173–80.

These essays join four others that were posted previously:

Godfried van Benthem van den Bergh, ‘Attribution of blame as the past and present means of orientation: the social sciences as a potential improvement’ – original long version, previously unpublished.

Eric Dunning, ‘In defence of developmental sociology: a critique of Popper’s Poverty of Historicism with special reference to the theory of Auguste Comte’, Amsterdams Sociologisch Tijdschrift 4: 3 (1977), pp. 327-49.

Johan Goudsblom, ‘The Paradox of Pacification’, not previously published in this form. In Dutch, the substance of the argument appeared in the chapter ‘De monopolisering van georganiseerd geweld’, in Goudsblom’s book Stof waar honger uit ontstond: Over evolutie en sociale processen (Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 2001), pp. 94-111.

Robert van Krieken, ‘Occidental self-understanding and the Elias–Duerr dispute: “thick” versus “thin” conceptions of human subjectivity and civilisation’, Modern Greek Studies 13 (2005), pp. 273–81.




























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Now hiring: Five Posts in Sociology — University of Amsterdam

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology currently has  openings for

Five Assistant /Associate Professors in Sociology

For 38,0 hours per week (1.0 fte).

The new assistant /associate professors are currently expected to spend 60 percent of their time on teaching and 40 percent of their time on research. Both activities include administrative tasks.

One post will be in cultural sociology, another in urban sociology.

Further information

For more information about this position, please contact Prof. Dr. Jan Rath, Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, tel. +31-20-525-2505, email, or go to any of these websites:

website UvA

website AISSR

website Center for Urban Studies

website Amsterdam Centre for Inequality Studies

website Global Health

website Graduate School

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CfP: ‘Civilising Bodies’ – University of Exeter 25-26 April 2013

CALL FOR PAPERS – Civilising Bodies: Literature, rhetoric, and image, 1700 to the present day

25th-26th April 2012 Exeter University

The Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter is holding an interdisciplinary conference open to postgraduates and academics at any level, taking place on the 25th and 26th April 2013.

Contact: Jessica Monaghan and Sarah Jones:

The narratives, discourses, and imagery of bodies and their relationship with civilisation have affected a diverse range of media, from novels, poetry, and political tracts to art and film, and we are eager for submissions examining a wide a range of sources from 1700 to the present day.

We welcome abstracts that examine issues surrounding the themes of bodies and civilisation and their relationship to literature and the arts from researchers of any discipline, including History, Art History, Film Studies, Cultural Studies and Literature.

Topics and themes may include:

· Discourses of progress

· Concepts of savagery and barbarism

· The science of race

· Ailments of civilisation

· Medicine and modernity

· Mental health

· Sexuality and the body

· Issues of class and gender

· The politics of medical language

· Theoretical or speculative pieces

Guest Speakers: Dr Lesley Hall (Wellcome Library), Professor Mark Jackson (University of Exeter)

We invite applicants to submit abstracts of up to 300 words for 20 minute papers (previously unpublished), sent by 14th January 2012 with the “subject” of the email as ‘Civilising Bodies abstract’.

Once the deadline has passed a panel will review the abstracts anonymously and applicants will receive a decision and feedback on their submissions. If your paper is not selected we very much hope you will still be able to attend the conference and participate in the discussion.

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Graz session on national habitus: call from Dieter Reicher

The conference on “Habitus, War and Civilization” (Graz, 25-27 April 2013) now includes a session on “national habitus”.
If you are interested in giving a paper on national habitus next April, please send Dieter Reicher  an abstract. There is also the plan to publish a reader on national habitus if a certain number of valuable articles is available. Perhaps we can discuss this matter in Graz in April 2013.
Deadline for submission of abstract is: 1 November 2012
(please send the abstracts to:
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Pieter Spierenburg, Violence and Punishment

Pieter Spierenburg’s new book, Violence and Punishment, has been published by Polity Press.

Pieter has written a short article, “Are we living in a punitive age?”, on the Polity blog. See:


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Summing up: Should the “figurati” become “public intellectuals”?

[I asked John Lever and Matt Clement to sum up the recent discussion about whether the “figurati” should become “public intellectuals”. Ryan Powell also chipped into the summary below.]

To some extent, the debate about the engagement of “figurati” in current affairs appears to be a generational problem between a more established group of academics following a pure reading of Elias’s work and a younger generation of scholars/ researchers writing about contemporary issues problems. Whilst many of the younger generation would no doubt agree with Artur Bogner’s claims about the significance of the pluralism of values, the problem of making normative judgments, and by the fact that any such engagement is unlikely to be successful, this should not deter sociologists from attempting to have influence. As Ryan Powell and others suggest, one can – whether we agree with the process or not – take a long-term detached perspective whilst engaging with contemporary concerns.   Moreover, to see figurational sociologists as detached from their world, at rest rather than a part of changing reality, misses the active way in which they both shape and are themselves shaped in the process of civilisation.  John Rodgers maintains ‘The Civilizing Process has often appeared to be a theory exclusively about the socially integrative aspects of modernity … what Eliasian process-sociology needed to preserve its currency was a coherent theory of the de-civilising processes inherent in neo-liberalism’.1 The UK riots, and Eurozone anomie in Athens, Dublin and Madrid, are surely of paramount interest to students of human figurations.  Weimar sociologists saw their time as one of ‘world crisis’ – Elias was one of many who talked of riding the storm of social contention that blew Germany to its nemesis, intervening in the public sphere as he implored trade union leaders to resist the Nazis and acted as ‘cleaner’ to protect the Frankfurt School sociologists and their families.2 For him, involvement was unavoidable.

New levels of involvement and detachment are now possible in the virtual world and new social media can help us to many of the concerns expressed, if – as Robert van Krieken suggests – we can get people contributing to any new media/ forum on a regular basis. To be successful it is also important for sites/blogs to be innovative and fresh and do something new – and to also send out emails/updates to members. Having debates between figurationalists around the world in a virtual realm would be a good starting start point, as would tweeting these debates to the wider world. As anyone who has used twitter knows only to well, it does no take very long if you are commenting on current affairs and issues – even if it is only by posting links to relevant papers at an appropriate time – to get the attention of politicians, lay people, scholars and, of course, absolute lunatics; but that is the nature of the beast, and of course, an opportunity. There are a number of sociology websites and blogs that tweet about contemporary issues and concerns on a regular basis, whilst of course maintaining a balance between involvement and detachment. Adopting such an approach would allow the “figurati” per se, rather than individuals within it, to become a public intellectual.

1 Rodger, J. (2012) ‘Wacquant and Elias, Advanced Marginality and the Theoryof the De-civilising Process’, in Squires, P. and Lea, J. (eds.) Criminalisation and Advanced Marginality (BristolPolicy, 2012),  p. 1.

2 Elias describes these events in Reflections on a Life (Cambridge: Polity, 1994) and The Germans: Power Struggles and the Development of Habitus in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Cambridge: Polity, 1996), p. 221.

[At the moment, discussion on the blog is handicapped by the fact that although subscribers  receive email notification of new posts, but not about new comments on the posts. We hope to fix this soon. In the meantime, the discussion  summarised here can be found by clicking on “Comments”. – SJM]


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