Civilising processes: exhibition at Gasworks, London

Gasworks, an arts centre in Vauxhall, London, announces a programme of exhibitions inspired by Norbert Elias’s On the Process of Civilisation. Curated by Robert Leckie, The Civilising Process is a 14-month programme of exhibitions and events at Gasworks inspired by Elias’s most famoous book.  Running from September 2013 until November 2014, the programme comprises five exhibitions, a programme of interdisciplinary events, contributions to Gasworks’s online platform Pipeline and a printed publication.

For further details, see:

Gasworks is in Vauxhall, south of the Thames – near The Oval, overlooked by the famous gasometers familiar to cricket-lovers. The address is: 155 Vauxhall Street London SE11 5RH. Nearest Underground stations are Vauxhall and Oval.


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Early deadline for World Congress, Yokohama, 2014

The attention of subscribers to this blog is drawn to the rather early deadline for the online submission of abstracts of papers for presentation at next year’s XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology: Facing an Unequal; World – Challenges for Global Sociology, Yokohama, Japan, 13–19 July 2014.

The deadline is 30 September 2013.

Many subscribers are members of ISA Working Group 02 (Historical and Comparative Sociology) and/or Research Committee 20 (Comparative Sociology). For details of their planned sessions (including sessions organised by Stephen Vertigans, Robert van Krieken, Fumiya Onaka, José Esteban Castro and Stephen Mennell), see:

WG02 –

RC20 –

Pre-registration for the World Congress is already open. In order to be included in the programme participants (presenters, chairs, discussants etc.) need to pay registration fees by 1 April 2014.

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Human Figurations journal – next issue now live online

Issue 2.2 of the Human Figurations journal is now live online at the following location:
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2014: Conference to mark completion of Elias Collected Works

From the Past to the Present and towards Possible Futures: The Collected Works of Norbert Elias

College Court, University of Leicester, 20th–22nd June 2014

Call for Papers

‘One cannot ignore the fact that every present society has grown out of earlier societies and points beyond itself to a diversity of possible futures.’ 

‘Today we have basically lost the ability to think of a future. Most people do not want to go beyond their present – they do not like to see themselves as a link in the chain of generations’ – Norbert Elias, 1987

In 2014 the eighteenth and final volume of the Collected Works of Norbert Elias in English will be published by University College Dublin Press.

The mammoth undertaking, in association with the Norbert Elias Foundation, Amsterdam, and under the stewardship of Professor Stephen Mennell, has taken a decade to bring to fruition. It brings together the entire corpus of Elias’s works, featuring many writings previously unpublished or not hitherto translated into English, faithfully representing his core ideas and his overall sociological position.

The conference marking the completion of the whole project will appropriately be held at the University of Leicester, where Elias lived and taught from 1954 to 1977. It both honours Elias’s association with the University of Leicester, and recognises the widespread, international and interdisciplinary interest in his work, and its resurgence within the University and more generally within the human sciences.

Craig Calhoun, Director of the London School of Economics, has agreed to give the opening address.

The conference is organised around some of Elias’s key works: On the Process of Civilisation; What is Sociology?; The Established and the Outsiders; Quest for Excitement; and Essays I: On the Sociology of Knowledge and the Sciences.

Despite its focus on the Collected Works of Elias, the spirit of this event is one of openness to, and dialogue with, competing sociological positions. It will pose questions including:

·         How might Elias’s work be employed to address some of the challenges of the human sciences in the twenty-first century?

·         Elias was not a sociologist in the narrow sense: he aimed at a grand sociological, historical, psychological synthesis. Did he succeed?

·         To what extent does Elias’s work provide a means of redressing the fragmentation of the human sciences and, especially, reintegrating sociologists who have intellectually migrated to different, increasingly diverse, specialisms and sub-disciplines?

·         Is Elias’s critique of sociologists’ ‘retreat into the present’ still valid today? What role might Elias’s work have in the more general ‘relational turn’ that has become a major topic of discussion in recent years?

·         Is it possible to reconcile Elias’s ‘figurational’ sociological practice – marked by its emphasis on long-term processes and its caution regarding the intrusion of ‘heteronomous values’ – with the institutional demands for short-term ‘impact’, ‘accountability’, and the increasing emphasis on the short-term practical and monetary value of social scientific research for specific ‘user groups’?

·         Can Elias’s approach be squared with recent calls for a more ‘public’ sociology, and indeed, more explicitly politically-involved and directed ‘partisan’ scholarship’?

In addition to a series of postgraduate workshops and keynote presentations on these and related central concerns, the conference will feature five parallel streams organised according to Elias’s key works as follows:

On the Process of Civilisation

Civilising processes, decivilising processes, ‘dyscivilising’ processes and debates about processual ‘directions’

Violence, war, terror and international relations in long-term developmental perspective

Sociogenetic and psychogenetic relationships

Critiques, revisions and extensions to Elias’s magnum opus

(Contributors may also wish to refer to related works, such as The Court Society, Humana Conditio and Essays II: On Civilising Processes, State Formation and National Identity)

What is Sociology?

Power, figurations, interdependence, and theoretical debates about them

Sociogenesis of sociology and the concept of ‘society’

Game models and relational thinking

Structure/agency and the society of individuals

(Contributors may also wish to refer to related works, such as The Society of Individuals and Essays III: On Sociology and the Humanities)

Essays I: The Sociology of Knowledge and the Sciences

Knowledge and scientific establishments

The politics of figurational sociology

Problems of method and methodology

Unplanned long-term processes versus planning and policy

Prospects for a grand synthesis of history, psychology and the social sciences

Elias’s sociological practice

(Contributors may also wish to refer to related works, such as Involvement and Detachment and The Symbol Theory)

Quest for Excitement

Sport, social bonding and violence

Mimetic and leisure activities

Work, leisure and consumption

Gender, power and identities in the spare time spectrum

The Established and the Outsiders

Community studies and community relations

Blame and praise gossip in the formation of communities

Developments in established–outsider relations theory

Ethnicity, migration and locality

Abstracts of no more than 500 words for the conference should be submitted to the conference organisers, John Goodwin ( and Jason Hughes ( not later than 31 December, 2013.

Abstracts must:

·         Specifically address one or more of the conference themes (and specify preferred stream)

·         Include details of institutional affiliation

·         Be written in English, since all presentations will be in English

Abstracts received after the closing date will not be considered. Registration for the conference will open 3 February 2014.

Further information about the Collected Works of Norbert Elias

Besides containing many texts never before published in English, or not published at all, the Collected Works contain new editions, extensively amended, annotated and cross-referenced. Intending contributors to the conference are recommended to consult the new editions.

1        Early Writings

2        The Court Society

3        On the Process of Civilisation

4        The Established and the Outsiders (with John L. Scotson)

5        What is Sociology?

6        The Loneliness of the Dying and Humana Conditio

7        Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in the Civilising Process (with Eric Dunning)

8        Involvement and Detachment

9        An Essay on Time

10      The Society of Individuals

11      Studies on the Germans

12      Mozart and Other Essays on Courtly Art

13      The Symbol Theory

14      Essays I: On the Sociology of Knowledge and the Sciences

15      Essays II: On Civilising Processes, State Formation and National Identity

16      Essays III: On Sociology and the Humanities

17      Interviews and Autobiographical Reflections (Autumn, 2013)

18      Supplements and Index to the Collected Works (Spring 2014)

For further information, see the UCD Press website:

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RC20 at ISA World Congress Yokohama, 13–19 July 2014

Under the auspices of Research Committee 20, Comparative Sociology, the sessions listed below of particular interest to figurational sociologists are being organised at the ISA World Congress of Sociology, Yokohama, Japan, 13–19 July 2014.

Please note that the deadline for submission of abstracts is 30 September 2013.

Abstracts must be submitted online at

Please feel free to discuss intended submissions with Stephen Vertigans (

 5/ Culture and the Media in a Long-Term Perspective

(organisers: Robert van KRIEKEN, University of Sydney, Australia & Stephen VERTIGANS, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)

Cultural forms of behaviour, glorification of celebrity and standards of media reporting are increasingly of cause for political and civil concern. Conversely apologists for the freedom of the press are often the most fervent opponents to shifting forms of cultural and sexual expression.  In this session emergent facets of cultural norms and values and the evolution or regression of media reporting are explored through historical developments. Part of the session will be allocated to analysis of the apparent contradictions between demands for personal freedom and attempts to restrain the cultural opportunities of others.

10/ Civilising and Decivilising Processes in the Financial Crisis

(organisers: Robert van KRIEKEN, University of Sydney, Australia & Stephen VERTIGANS, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)

Although periods of recession tend to be mostly associated with economic downturns, their legacies extend way beyond financial impacts.  Deep and global recessions contribute to long term shifts in civilising and decivilising processes as access to resources narrows, parameters of the established and outsiders shift, tensions that financial upturns help to contain become reignited and forms of cultural and political expression become more imaginative and challenging. Therefore this session will explore some of the changing processes which the financial crisis has instigated and will identify local, national and global consequences.

11/ Environmental and Energy Shifts in Time and Place

(organisers: Robert van KRIEKEN, University of Sydney, Australia & Stephen VERTIGANS, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)

Session will explore how perceptions of the environment and energy have shifted and the concomitant impact on ways of thinking and behaving across different societies.  Papers on a range of issues are invited, including global warming, ‘peak oil’, carbon footprints, risk and desertification that discuss state, NGO, TNCs, civilian and international agency actions and reactions.  Contributors could examine what the fundamental arguments mean in terms of de-civilising and civilising processes and the consequences for longer-term forms of human interrelationships.

16/ RC04/RC20 Joint Session

The Comparative Sociology of Examinations

(organisers: Fumiya ONAKA, Japan Women’s University & Shinichi AIZAWA, Chukyo University, Japan).

Examinations have been functioning as a crucial mechanism for producing, reproducing and legitimizing inequalities. From another viewpoint, however, they have also constituted a tool for social promotion. It is important to analyze carefully the way they work in order to understand inequalities in present-day societies. Obviously enough, modes of examination differ greatly from one society to the next (in Japan we used to talk of ‘examination hell’). What we would like to encourage is a ‘Comparative Sociology of examinations’. This, in some way, can equally be seen as a comparative analysis of our discipline because the topic can be treated in a very different way by various schools of thought (e.g. Marxian theories of inequality, Durkheimian theories of socialization, Weberian theories of modernization, and Eliasian theories of civilization). We welcome case studies that would contribute to the international comparison of examinations.

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Studies on the Germans published

Norbert Elias, Studies on the Germans: Power Struggles and the Development of Habitus in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Dublin: UCD Press, 2013 [Collected Works, vol. 11]). xxvi + 529 pp. ISBN: 978-1-906259-08-9. €60.00 / £50.00. Translated by Eric Dunning and Stephen Mennell, edited by Stephen Mennell and Eric Dunning. 

Studies on the Germans, the antepenultimate volume of the Collected Works, has now been published by UCD Press. As usual, the volume can be bought at a 20 per cent discount (€48.00) if ordered direct from the Press via the website ( 

In this new edition, Elias’s original English text of the extremely important essay ‘The breakdown of civilisation’ – his major treatment of the rise of Nazism – is published for the first time. When Eric Dunning and Stephen Mennell translated the book for the first edition (The Germans) in the early 1990s, they did not have access to all of Elias’s original English drafts the essay, so they translated Michael Schröter’s German translation back into English. Now, however, as editors of the Collected Works edition, they have been able to locate all the English texts on which Schröter drew, and so it has been possible to reconstruct the full version in Elias’s original English. 

Other essays include those on duelling and its wider social significance, as well as on nationalism, civilisation and violence, and post-war terrorism in the Federal Republic of Germany. In this edition, they are presented in a more logical and easily followed order, dealing with nineteenth and twentieth-century German history in more nearly chronological sequence. 

Most important, however, all the essays have been extensively annotated by the editors, especially to make clear many historical references that Elias – quite unrealistically – took for granted that his readers would understand without further explanation. Readers with only a sketchy knowledge of German history and culture will find the new edition much more rewarding. In their Note on the text, moreover, the editors set Studies on the Germans in the context of the famous Historikerstreit – the bitter dispute among historians in the 1980s about the interpretation of the uniqueness or otherwise of Germany’s path of development – and of sociological contributions such as those of Dahrendorf and Bauman. 


Norbert Elias, 1897–1990

Note on the text Introduction

Civilisation and informalisation: changes in European standards of behaviour in the twentieth century

Honour, duelling and membership of the imperial ruling class: being judged worthy to give satisfaction

A digression on nationalism

Civilisation and violence: on the state’s monopoly of physical force and its breaking

The breakdown of civilisation

Terrorism in the Federal Republic of Germany: expression of a conflict between generations

Thoughts on the Federal Republic



I The German aristocratic code and ‘proof by ancestry’

II On the interpretation of Mozart’s scatological remarks 

III Why I began to study the problem of ‘civilisation’

IV On the relative independence of the high nobility from the imperial court

V Sieyès, the Third Estate, and changing feelings of identity

VI Machiavelli’s policy prescriptions

VII Nationalism and middle-class morality in Victorian Britain

VIII Conflicts trigger aggression

IX On the ethos of the Wilhelmine bourgeoisie

X Pro-war literature during the Weimar Republic (Ernst Jünger)

XI On the character of conflicts in the early Weimar Republic

XII Conditions for the attainment of the domestic and foreign goals of the old elite

XIII The decay of the state monopoly of force in the Weimar Republic

XIV The stab in the back

XV Lucifer upon the ruins of the world

XVI The meaning of the word Reich – excerpt from Das Fischer-Lexikon

XVII An empire dies

XVIII The awareness of powerlessness – note added in 1984

XIX Marxism and terrorism: a terrorist’s explanation

XX George Orwell, ‘England Your England’ 

Textual variants
































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New Facebook page

Apologies: The correct link is below:

There is now an official Facebook page dedicated to Norbert Elias. You can ‘like’ here:

or click the ‘Like’ button to the right of this blog post.

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New Facebook page – correct link

Apologies: The correct link is below:

There is now an official Facebook page dedicated to Norbert Elias. You can ’like’ here:

or click the ‘Like’ button to the right of this blog post.

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XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology, 2014

The next ISA World Congress of Sociology will be held in Yokohama, Japan, 13–19 July 2014.

The list of sessions organised by Working Group 02, Historical and Comparative, Sociology is now available online at:

Please note that online abstract submission started on 3 June and runs through 30 September. So those who intend to participate in Yokohama need to be formulating the abstract of their papers now.

Many figurationists are also members of Research Committee 20, Comparative Sociology, or of other RCs. The same deadlines apply across the board.

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Stefanie Ernst’s Inaugural Lecture

Professor Stefanie Ernst will give her inaugural lecture in the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster on Friday 12 July 2013, at 12 noon in Room SCH5, Scharnhorststraße 121, Münster.

Her topic will be: ‘Die Meisterklasse: Vom Werden einer Figuration”

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