Human Figurations journal now live online.

Human Figurations: Long-term Perspectives on the Human Condition is a new journal supported and sponsored by the Norbert Elias Foundation. The unifying theme of the journal Human Figurations is a broad concern with long-term processes of the development of human society and the human condition.

The first issue, with constributions by Peter Burke, Olle Edström, Barbara Evers, Johan Goudsbloom, Andrew Linklater, Joseph Maquire, , Peter Westbroek and Gary Wickham is now live online.

While Elias is best known for his theory of civilizing processes, he wrote on an astonishing range of topics, including violence, war, sport, ageing and dying, time, work, art, music, poetry, utopias and the relations between the sexes. Fundamentally, he advanced what have been called both a ‘post-philosophical’ theory of knowledge and the sciences, and an ‘historical social psychology’. His conception of the discipline of sociology was far broader than that which has now become institutionalized in the rather narrow departments of sociology in contemporary universities. In consequence, he inspires researchers from many disciplines, especially people working in the interstices between conventional disciplines: history (especially world historians and social historians), criminology, international relations, anthropology and political science. Human Figurations will attract contributions from across these fields, the unifying theme being a broad concern with long-term processes of the development of human society and the human condition.

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Funeral of Professor Willfried Spohn

It is with deep sorrow that we let you know that our friend and colleague Willfried Spohn was killed on Monday 16 January in a car accident while driving from Berlin to Wrocław. His funeral will take place on Thursday, 26 January, at 12 noon at the Friedhof Lichterfelde, Moltke Strasse 41a, 12203 Berlin.

Willfried was Professor of Economic and Social Sciences at the Willy Brandt Centre for German and European Studies, University of Wrocław. He was a co-founder of the International Sociological Association’s Thematic Group 02 Historical and Comparative Sociology, and its President from 2007 until 2010. Since the upgrade to Working Group status in 2010, which involved the incorporation of members of the Figurational Sociology Ad Hoc Group – a merger to which his contribution was central, Willfried Spohn had been WG02 Vice-President and an active and enthusiastic member, organiser, and dedicated participant in WG02 activities.

We were looking forward to several sessions Willfried had organised at the IIS congress in Delhi in February and at the ISA Forum in Buenos Aires in August. For those of you participating in those sessions, we will let you know in due time about the new arrangements.

We mourn the loss of a dear friend and a most accomplished and admirable scholar and colleague. Our thoughts are with his wife Ewa and his sons Max and Philipp.

Stephen Mennell

Manuela Boatca

ISA WG02 Historical and Comparative Sociology


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CfP: Copenhagen deadline extended to 25 January

A large number of abstracts has already been submitted for the Copenhagen conference, but the organisers – Lars-Bo Kaspersen and Norman Gabriel – have nevertheless extended the deadline until 25 January to enable intending participants to gather their thoughts after Christmas. Revised details of the conference are pasted below.

Norbert Elias and Figurational Sociology: Prospects for the Future Copenhagen, 2–4 April 2012

Call for papers

Department of Political Science & Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 2–4 April, 2012.

The focus of this three-day conference will be on the development of figurational sociology in relation to other disciplines.  In ‘What is Sociology?’, Elias argues that sociology needs to develop new ways of ‘thinking’ about its relationship with other disciplines like biology and physics. But since that time, we have seen a rapid expansion of these academic disciplines, yet there has not been sufficient time to consider the theoretical implications of what this would mean for the future development of a figurational sociology. This conference will bring together sociologists, together with other important and relevant cognate disciplines – such as history, political science and economics – to explore attempts that integrate different disciplinary perspectives.

Keynote speakers include: Richard Kilminster, University of Leeds; Abram de Swaan, University of Amsterdam; Stephen Mennell, University College Dublin; Johan Goudsblom, University of Amsterdam; Søren Nagbøl, Aarhus University; Nina Baur, TU Berlin; Stefanie Ernst, Universität Magdeburg; Stephen Quilley, Keele University.

It will address these issues by focusing on the following themes: The first day will explore the ‘boundaries’ and relationships between figurational sociology and the following disciplines: 1) Politics 2) Economics 3) History 4) Psychology 5) Biology 6) Anthropology.

The second day will further discuss the major themes that emerge from this ‘boundary’ work across disciplines, considering some of their strengths and limitations in relation to the following 1) Survival Units 2) Organisational Sociology and Economic Sociology 3) Civilizing Processes 4) Informalising Processes 5) The expanding Anthroposphere (Environmental issues)

The conference will consist of plenary sessions with keynote speakers, followed by themed parallel sessions.

The new deadline for submitting abstracts of papers is 25 January 2012. These should be no more than 150 words and submitted to the conference email address: We look forward to seeing you in Copenhagen!

Lars Bo Kaspersen, University of Copenhagen,

Norman Gabriel, University of Plymouth,


Practicalities and formalities

Registration: Please register by sending a mail to Mette Cruse Skou with your name, affiliation, address, phone number and email address.

Conference  fee: 50 euro covering lunches, coffee/tea and fruit. Students: 15 euro. The conference fee needs to be paid at the conference venue /registration desk when the conference starts.

Venue: University of Copenhagen, CSS (Social Science campus), Øster Farimagsgade 5, Copenhagen K – see

Accommodation: There are plenty of hotels in Copenhagen. However, we have reserved rooms at two hotels close to the venue and the city. You need to book your own hotel room by mail or phone.

Ibsens Hotel Vendersgade 23 DK-1363 København K. T: 33 13 19 13 F: 33 13 19 16 E: Reservation: +45 33 95 77 44   Prices: Single Room: 985 DKK per room per night (includes breakfast). Double Room: 1.240 DKK per room per night (includes breakfast).

Hotel Kong Arthur Nørre Søgade 11 DK-1370 København K. T: +45 33 11 12 12 F: +45 33 32 61 30 E: Reservation: +45 33 95 77 22   Prices: Single Room: 1.225 DKK per room per night (includes breakfast). Double Room: 1.520 DKK per room per night (includes breakfast).

Don’t forget to mention that you are participating in conference organized by University of Copenhagen (Department of Political Science/ Sociology)

Sponsors: The Norbert Elias Foundation, Amsterdam The Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen The Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen


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A sociology vacancy that mentions Elias!

The University of Leeds specifically mentions expertise on Elias (among others) in its advertisement for a vacant post in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy.


Is this a first?

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Habermas and Elias

I’m in the middle of looking at what Habermas means by ‘refeudalization’ (in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere), and it turns on his conception of ‘representative publicity’, one of his even more inelegant terms – the thing is that where he does talk about ‘representative publicity’, or the structuring of society and politics that constitutes it, it sounds a lot like an account of court society, with Habermas making very similar observations to Elias, citing Huizinga, etc. So, if anyone’s already looked at the Habermas – Elias connection in this respect, it’d be nice to hear from you…because, he seems to be arguing with the concept of refeudalization that the ‘structural transformation of the bourgeois public sphere’ constitutes a kind of ‘return’ to court society (representative publicity). Which strikes me as interesting.

Robert van Krieken

NOTE: Robert van Krieken will be giving a lecture on “The Refeudalization of Society? – On the new aristocracy and celebrity society – from Habermas to Elias” at UCD, Dublin, on 26 January 2012, at 15:00 in Room F102 in the Newman Building on the Belfield campus. All welcome.

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ISA World Forum, RC20, Buenos Aires 1-4 August 2012

For some reason we haven’t posted this CfP on the blog earlier, but there is a session within RC 20 Comparative Sociology in the ISA World Forum in Buenos Aires, 1-4 August 2012, set aside for Eliasian or figurational papers. The twist is that the deadline for submitting abstracts is 15 December, so you’d need to get a proposal to Stephen and or myself by 10 December, to give us time to look over them. The session has been defined in the broadest possible terms, so it’s really very open-ended. Do please send us an abstract if you’re interested, by 10 December, and we’ll get back shortly after.

Comparative studies of historical and contemporary civilising and decivilising shifts in politics, culture and morality

Robert VAN KRIEKEN, University of Sydney, Australia,
Stephen VERTIGANS, Robert Gordon University, UK,

This session will include comparative sociological research in the following areas:

a) The interrelationships between social justice and levels of pacification and, conversely, injustice and forms of violence;

b) Civilising processes and democratisation: comparative studies of civilisation in relation to democratic transformations around the world;

c) The rise of cross-boundary NGOs such as those associated with environmental, human rights and anti-capitalist movements and concomitant changing power relations;

d) Cultural comparators which are indicative of dynamics of civilising processes. Possible examples include emotions, literature, media, sexuality and sport.

Other topics which fit under the general heading will also be considered

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CfP: Reinventing Elias – Amsterdam, 22-23 June 2012

Conference – Reinventing Norbert Elias: for an open sociology

Amsterdam, 22–23 June 2012

[NOTE: Abstracts (max 250 words) are to be submitted by 1 February 2012, to:

Please include in your abstract: name, affiliation, email address, phone number; as well the panel for which you want the abstract to be considered. You will receive notice of acceptance by 15 March 2012.]

This conference aims to investigate the relevance of the figurational or ‘process sociology’ of Norbert Elias for current sociological theory and research. The organising committee, consisting of social scientists from several Dutch universities and a renowned Australian expert, hope to attract scholars from around the world to join us in discussing and rethinking Norbert Elias’s sociology for the twenty-first century. How can figurational sociology contribute to current sociological debates? What is the place of Elias in today’s social scientific landscape? How can the insights and concepts of figurational sociology be developed further? Are Elias’s critiques of mainstream sociology still valid? Is figurational sociology a paradigm in itself, or rather a perspective to be used alongside others?

In recent decades, Norbert Elias has acquired a place in the pantheon of modern classical sociologists. His work is well known outside of the direct circles of his students, friends and collaborators in Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. Many of Elias’s insights have been incorporated in current sociological work. Elias is now recognised as pioneer in such divergent fields as relational sociology, historical sociology, the sociology of sports, culture, organisations, and emotions.

The conference will be held at the University of Amsterdam, where Elias spent the last decade of his long and productive life. The Netherlands, and the University of Amsterdam in particular, became an important international centre for figurational sociology. However, in the past decade, figurational sociology has lost its dominant position at the University of Amsterdam, increasingly becoming one paradigm among many.

For this conference, we have invited four plenary speakers: two young sociologists who have used Elias’s work in new and creative ways, and two established scholars who are well-versed in process sociology. The conference will be preceded by a short intensive course on Elias and process sociology, which will be open to interested PhD candidates from the Netherlands and beyond. This course will be taught by renowned figurational sociologist Robert van Krieken (University of Sydney) in conjunction with Bart van Heerikhuizen (UvA). Professor van Krieken will also take part in the panel discussion at the end of the conference.

The paper sessions for this conference are organised around themes that are both central to the work of Elias, and at the heart of present-day sociological debates: sociology and history; bodies and biology; emotions and affect; and national habitus and cross-national comparison. Separate calls for papers for each of these topics can be found below.


1          Selected papers from this conference will be included in an edited book or a special issue of a journal.

2          The short intensive course preceding the conference is intended to attract and inform young researchers with an interest in figurational/process sociology and more generally in relational sociology.

3          By bringing together different ways of working with Elias’s legacy, the conference seeks to arouse interest in new ways of using this legacy, among students and academics, and to specifically look for ways to link Eliasian sociology with current sociological debates. The aim is to contribute to the elaboration and expansion of an open sociology: a broad and open approach, a preference for comparative and historical questions, mixed methods, an interest in the sociology of emotions, and a marked disregard of disciplinary boundaries.

4          Finally, we hope to strengthen, consolidate, and expand the international network of scholars with an interest in relational and process sociology.

Call for Papers, by theme

1            Sociology and History
Organisers: Marcel Hoogenboom (University of Utrecht) and Rineke van Daalen (University of Amsterdam)

Almost without exception, the founding fathers of sociology put great emphasis on the importance of history in sociological analysis. Comte, Marx, Weber, Elias and even Durkheim – without hesitation all would have endorsed Norman Gottwald’s maxim that ‘history without sociology is blind, sociology without history is empty’. Yet after 1945, mainstream academic sociology did not give much attention to history, nor to long-term social change. Norbert Elias’s historical sociological approach reconnected sociology to the dynamic classics and distanced itself from American functionalism.

For young sociologists in the 1970s, this came as a relief. The boundaries between sociology and history became more diffuse; historical sociology and social history bloomed. But in contemporary sociology, especially in the Netherlands, an historical perspective is virtually absent, and the distance between sociology and history has grown. At best, the development of a certain social phenomenon is treated as some kind of ‘historical background’ instead of seen as a fundamentally formative force and explanatory principle.

This session focuses on questions like: Do sociologists need history? Do sociologists and historians need each other? In what ways can sociologists incorporate history into their work? What do they miss by ‘hodiecentrism’, restricting their research to static relations in the present? What could historical sociological analysis contribute to dominant debates in current sociology? Why has historical sociology become a relatively unimportant branch of sociological research and teaching?

2          Bodies and Biology
Organiser: Rogier van Reekum (University of Amsterdam)

Social scientific theorising and research have recently seen a marked increase in attention for bodily practices and processes. Parallel to that development, there has been a return of interest in biology: both regarding its impact on actual behaviour, and regarding the relationship between biology and long-term historical processes. This seminar aims to investigate the relevance of the body and biology for social science. Elias, for his part, developed a strong focus on bodily processes and the ways in which these were themselves transformed through (very) long-term processes. The control of the body is a major element in the civilising process. Elias stressed the embeddedness of habitus formation within wider chains of dependence and longer phases of change. How can appreciation of the bodily aspects of social practice and (very) long-term processes help us in our sociological theorising and research? If so, can insights from evolutionary biology be successfully utilised? We invite anyone working on these issues to submit a paper. We are open to both empirical research and theoretical explorations.

3            Emotions
Organisers: Christien Brinkgreve (University of Utrecht), Jacob Boersema (University of Amsterdam), Don Weenink (Wageningen University)

Emotions are a crucial part of social life, and in that respect also an important topic for sociology. Emotions are individually embodied but always embedded in social relations, referring to others, and formed in relations and interactions with others.

Emotions are also social in the sense that, in Arlie Russell Hochschild’s terms, people use the ‘feeling dictionaries’ and ‘feeling bibles’ that are characteristic of the societies in which they live.

But emotions are elusive. How can sociologists give emotions the sophisticated attention they deserve? Which is their specific domain, the sociological niche between other disciplines, in the study of emotions? In the work of Norbert Elias emotions play a crucial role, and the way he connected relations and emotions has been very inspiring for a whole generation of sociologists. But his focus is on the social regulation of emotions.

In recent decades, there has been much research in psychology and the neurosciences that can be also useful for sociology. What insights from these disciplines are relevant for sociologists studying emotions? How can they incorporate these insights, particularly but not only with regard to the study of long-term social processes? We invite people working on these themes and issues to submit a paper – we are open to theoretical reflection and empirical research, with a preference for the combination of both.

4. Sociological comparison and national habitus
Organisers: Giselinde Kuipers (University of Amsterdam  & Erasmus University Rotterdam) and Johan Heilbron (Erasmus University Rotterdam & Centre de sociologie européenne, Sorbonne–Paris)

National comparison has always been central to process sociology. In The Civilizing Process, Elias contrasted Germany and France, to better understand the dynamics of state formation and civilisation. Later, Elias’s comparative approach was expanded to Europe, North America, and Asia. Similar social processes – state formation, civilisation, informalisation, globalisation – often develop and work out differently in different national contexts. Comparison, therefore, allows researchers to uncover underlying mechanisms of social processes.

National comparison also allows us to recognise and understand the specificities of different nations. In The Germans, Elias coined the notion of ‘national habitus’ to explain how, in the course of state formation, inhabitants of a particular nation become more similar in outlook and emotional make-up.

This panel invites both theoretical and empirical papers concerned with national comparative research from the perspective of figurational or process sociology. Especially in Europe, where large-scale quantitative comparative research has become the dominant form of social research, we feel process sociology can make a timely and critical contribution.

We are specifically interested in two issues. First, we are looking for papers engaging with national comparison in the current age of increasing globalisation and trans-nationalism. How do national contexts and trans-national processes interact and intersect? What do we compare when we compare nations in the twenty-first century? Second, we look to revitalise and expand the concept of ‘national habitus’. How can we understand national difference and specificity not only at the level of institutions and processes, but also at the level of embodied, everyday practice?



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New Issues in Process Sociology: One-day conference, Berlin 5 December 2011

The conference will be held at Wissenschaft Zentrum Berlin [WZB], on 5 December 2011

The aim of this  conference is to examine and discuss both interpretations of Elias’s thought and new empirical applications of his ideas – including their application to the financial crisis that started in 2008. Some of the diverse themes that will be discussed by a number of eminent scholars include: Elias and market processes; Elias’s poetry; Studies on the Germans and long-term processes of violence.

Attendance at the conference is free of charge, but places are limited. If you would like to attend please email either Reinhard Blomert at or Steven Loyal at

Draft programme Continue reading

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Call for Papers: Emotions and Power

Call for Papers: Emotions and Power:  Special Issue of the Journal of Political Power

Editors: Jonathan G. Heaney and Helena Flam

Power permeates all human relationships. It is constitutive of society, economy and politics. Its study has enriched scholarship and research within a wide range of disciplines, including sociology, political science, philosophy, and anthropology. It has been at the centre of social and political theory.  By contrast, emotion, has traditionally had a more difficult time within these same disciplines.  However, since the 1990’s there has been a widespread recognition of the fundamental role it plays in social life.  Today, research that focuses on emotion is at the forefront of contemporary social science.  Although both power and emotion are essential features of the conduct and constitution of social life, research on these two phenomena – whatever their conceptual guises – has tended to run in parallel, without explicitly engaging the other.  It seems to us that the time is ripe for exploring the connections between these two fundaments of society.  To this end we would like to invite submissions that address both, either empirically or theoretically.  We are particularly interested in papers that seek to investigate the interrelated role that both power and emotions play in specific arenas or around specific topics.  For example, papers that address emotions and power in organisations, in social movements, in politics, in media, in welfare and warfare, in families, in education and so on, are especially sought, though submissions are not limited to these fields of inquiry.  Papers addressing emotions, power and gender are also particularly welcome.  Initially, we are seeking long abstracts of two or so pages, outlining the overall approach and argument of the paper prior to full submission.  A shortlist will be selected from these and individuals will be invited to then submit full papers for review.

Expressions of interest should be sent by 16 December 2011 to

The final collection will be submitted to the Journal of Political Power (Routledge), either as a standalone special issue or as a theme within an issue, depending upon the number of high standard submissions we receive. Once submitted to the Journal, the papers will be subject to a full anonymous peer review process. They should be about 8000 words in length of text and must address both concepts to be considered for inclusion.  They should also follow the Journal of Political Power style and referencing guidelines, available here.  Details of the author’s institutional affiliation, full address and other contact information should be included on a separate cover sheet along with a note on the exact length of the article.  Two copies of each manuscript should be submitted electronically. One with the authors details attached and one anonymous for peer review. All editorial communications should be addressed to:

E-Mail: and

Alternatively if the author cannot submit electronically in the last instance please mail to: Jonathan Heaney, Department of Political Science and Sociology, Aras Moyola, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.

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Elias mailing list restored

Although the new blog (which you can find at, top right-hand corner) is now working perfectly, we discovered that a large proportion of subscribers’ email addresses had somehow been deleted. Continue reading

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