New Book: Excitement Processes

Jan Haut, Paddy Dolan, Dieter Reicher and Raúl Sánchez García (eds), Excitement Processes : Norbert Elias’s unpublished works on sports, leisure, body, culture (Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2017), 322 pp. ISBN: 9783658149116.

This book contains some of the most important of Elias’s writings that have remained hitherto unpublished. It contains four papers by Elias himself, together with reflections on them by leading scholars of the present day on leisure, sport and culture. Besides the four editors, there are essays by Helmut Kuzmics, Dominic Malcolm, Jim Sharpe and Michael Atkinson.

The most substantial of Elias’s papers published here for the first time is ‘Spontaneity and self-consciousness’, written first in 1958 and then enlarged in 1962. Stephen Mennell suggests in his Conclusion, this paper really ought to have been published as the very first chapter in Quest for Excitement. It contains, among other gems, Elias’s first use of the key idea of ‘controlled decontrolling of emotional controls’, a far clearer exposition of what he meant by ‘kitsch’ than can be found in the earlier essay from 1935, and major discussions of jazz and dancing. Elias’s later references to dancing (for example, passing remarks in What is Sociology?), now need to be read against the background of this paper. In the same way, the great essay in Studies on the Germans on duelling in Wilhelmine Germany now reads like the final chapter of a book which began with the paper on ‘Boxing and duelling’ that now appears in this book.

The full contents are:

Introduction: Reconstructing Elias’s work on leisure, sports and the body – Dieter Reicher, Jan Haut, Raúl Sánchez García and Paddy Dolan

Section 1: Leisure and culture

Spontaneity and self-consciousness – Norbert Elias

Elias’s early approach to leisure activities: Notes on Spontaneity and self-consciousness – Dieter Reicher

Civilisation, happiness and the thinking millipede: A commentary on Norbert Elias’s Spontaneity and self-consciousness – Helmut Kuzmics

Section 2: Sportisation and ‘modernisation’

Fragments on sportisation – Norbert Elias

Completing sportisation: Elias on the diffusion and differentiation of sport in ‘modern’ society – Jan Haut

Elias on the development of modern sport: empirical error, interpretive insight and conceptual clarification – Dominic Malcolm

Section 3: Sport, violence and state formation

Boxing and duelling – Norbert Elias

Boxing and duelling: Critical remarks on Elias on violence and state formation from an historical perspective – James Sharpe

Class relations and the development of boxing: Norbert Elias on sportisation processes in England and France – Paddy Dolan

Revisiting duelling and fencing in the sociology of Norbert Elias – Raúl Sánchez García

Section 4: The body

The ‘rediscovery’ of the body – Norbert Elias

Elias’s contribution to the sociology of the body: The rediscovery of the hinge – Michael Atkinson

Conclusion – Stephen Mennell

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New Book: The Social Organisation of Marketing: A Figurational Approach

The Social Organisation of Marketing: A Figurational Approach to People, Organisations, and Markets

Editors: John Connolly and Paddy Dolan

The book examines the social processes which have shaped the development and organisation of various marketing practices and activities, and the markets associated with them. Drawing on the figurational-sociological approach associated with Norbert Elias the contributors explain how various markets and related marketing practices and activities are organised, enabled and constrained by the actions of people at different levels of social integration. Collectively, The Social Organisation of Marketing provides insights into topics such as the consumption and of wine in China, the advertising of Guinness, the management of on-line communities in Germany, the corporate social responsibility strategies of multinational energy corporations in Africa, the concept of talent management in contemporary organisations, the child consumer in Ireland, and the constraining and enabling influences of the American corporate organisational structure.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 The Social Organisation of Marketing: An Introduction

John Connolly and Paddy Dolan

Chapter 2 Wine and China: Making Sense of an Emerging Market with Figurational Sociology

Jennifer Smith Maguire

Chapter 3 Figurational Dynamics and the Function of Advertising at Arthur Guinness & Sons Ltd, 1876–1960

John Connolly

Chapter 4 Unintentional Social Consequences of Disorganised Marketing of Corporate Social Responsibility: Figurational Insights into the Oil and Gas Sector in Africa

Stephen Vertigans

Chapter 5 Organisational Dynamics and the Role of the Child in Markets

Paddy Dolan

Chapter 6 Ballet for the Sun King: Power, Talent and Organisation

John Lever and Stephen Swailes

Chapter 7 “Friends and Followers”: The Social Organisation of Firms’ Online Communities

Ad van Iterson and Johanna Richter

Chapter 8 Organisations and American Collective Self-Understanding

Stephen Mennell

Chapter 9 Figurational Theory, Marketing and Markets: Moving from Description and Technological Empiricism to Empirical–Theoretical Explanations

John Connolly and Paddy Dolan

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CfP ISA Toronto 2018: Elias, Habitus and Organizations

ISA XIX World Congress of Sociology, Toronto:
CfP RC17 Sociology of Organisation session on “Elias, Habitus and Organizations: Civilizing and decivilizing processes in organizational life”

Abstracts must be submitted by 30 September through the ISA conference website.

This session focuses on the various ways in which the ideas and arguments of Norbert Elias and those influenced by him concerning processes of civilization and decivilization can contribute both to enduring questions in the sociology of organizations and to more recent developments in organizational life.

Possible themes and topics include, but are not confined to:

  • The relevance of Elias’s analysis of court society for contemporary organizations.
  • The distinctive contribution of Elias’s analysis of habitus in analysing organizational subjectivity.
  • Case studies of organizational dynamics and change drawing on Elias’s concepts of habitus, figuration, established/outside relations, and technological development
  • Changes in the labour process and shifts in relations between different forms of work within organizations.
  • The changed role of the human body within organizational life, and how this can be understood in terms of the civilizing process.
  • The specific theoretical significance of Elias’s work for organizational studies, in relation to theorists such as Goffman, Foucault, Latour or Luhmann.
  • The ways in which Elias’s account of the development of the civilizing process can cast new light on the history of organizational life.

Other topics and research concerns in the utilization of Elias and figurational sociology to analyse organizations, including those that draw on other sub-field in sociology, such as economic sociology, the sociology of work, the sociology of gender,  or science and technology studies, are also welcome. The session is open to scholars at all levels, and we will welcome contributions from PhD students and all early-career researchers.


ROBERT VAN KRIEKEN | Professor of Sociology

Department of Sociology & Social Policy A26 | The University of Sydney NSW 2006 | Australia

President, ISA Research Committee 17 Sociology of Organisations
Visiting Professor, University College Dublin

School of Social & Political Sciences | Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences
Rm 111, RC Mills Bldg A26 | T +61 2 9351 4990 | F +61 2 9036 9380

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Andrew Abbott: Processual Sociology

The prominent and outstanding American sociologist Andrew Abbott – who is, among other things Editor of the American Journal of Sociology – recently published a book entitled Processual Sociology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016). Like his earlier book Time Matters: On Theory and Method (2001), Processual Sociology is a collection of essays, but a more systematic exposition of his views, The Social Process, is foreseen. These writings are plainly important and deserve the close attention of those of us who follow in Norbert Elias’s footsteps on the path of ‘figurational’ or ‘process sociology’. And indeed Abbott would appear to be at least a fellow-traveller of ours.

Yet, astonishingly, Abbott makes not a single reference to Elias. It would seem that Elias’s work remains more or less invisible to American sociologists. Almost all references to his work by Americans are solely to On the Process of Civilisation, and even then almost entirely to the (original) first volume, from which they mistakenly extract the static, unprocessual, concept of ‘civility’.

It is very regrettable that Americans largely remain profoundly unaware of Elias’s wider writings, and especially his process-sociological theory of knowledge (notably Essays I: On the Sociology of Knowledge and the Sciences, vol. 14 of the Collected Works, 2009).

I reflect that Elias was right, in the last decade of his life, to advocate that we use the term ‘process sociology’ rather than ‘figurational sociology’. Unfortunately, ‘figurational sociology’ had by then become too firmly rooted, and ‘process sociology’ has not caught on so widely. ‘Figuration’ has never become a self-explanatory term, and I rarely use it myself; Elias introduced it as shorthand, especially to avoid the static idea of ‘system’, and never intended it to be a load-bearing structure. It can become a barrier, making us sound like an eccentric sect rather than people with important things to say to social scientists at large.

Be that as it may, we should not reciprocate trans-Atlantic ignorance. Abbott’s work is clearly of great interest.

I should like to invite blog subscribers to read Processual Sociology and to send me their thoughts about it, whether in the form of shorter comments or longer essays. We could perhaps form them into a symposium and offer it for publication in Human Figurations.

Stephen Mennell


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RC 56 : Historical Sociology

DEADLINE : Abstracts must be submitted by 20 September 20th 2017, through the ISA conference website

Combat at a distance is not new and precedes what Elias called “the civilizing process”, but the development and generalization of firearms in warfare taking place between 1300 and 1600 seems, remarkably, to coincide with it.

The relations between the “process of civilization” and new types of weapons are striking and ambiguous. On the one hand, these transformations enabled killing on a new dimension and scale. And since the World Wars not only soldiers but also great parts of the civilian population fall victim to mass killings because of new types of weapons. On the other hand, fencing, suffocating, stabbing, seem to lose their importance in the killing from a distance. The atomic bomb kills millions but it needs only a person pushing a button. Drone warfare is also an example of what may call ironically ”civilised warfare”. There is no need for the spontaneity, affectivity and other forms of fierce emotions that one could find on the battlefields of the past.

This session invites sociologists, socio-historians and historians to question the transformation of the manners of making war and violence in its complexity. The intervention could consider the proxemic dimension (Hall, 1966) of a battle, but also the representation of violence at any given time, or the fact that some modalities of violence are considered less “respectable” than others, paradoxically independently of the number of victims they claim.

Organizers :

– Dieter REICHER, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Graz, Austria.

– Ilan LEW, Research Associate in Sociology, University of Geneva – PhD Candidate CADIS-Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.


Bombes atomiques, armes à feu, mitrailleuse, tranchées, sont le lot de la modernisation de la violence de masse au fil du temps, qu’elle soit dirigée contre d’autres soldats ou face à certaines catégories de population dans les innombrables situations de guerres civiles.

Les relations entre le « processus de civilisation » (Elias, 1939) et l’avènement de l’arme à feu dans l’activité guerrière en Occident, comme dans le développement de l’armement moderne, sont aussi frappantes qu’ambivalentes.

D’une part, et ce de manière très emblématique durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, les populations civiles constituent un lot immense des victimes de la violence de guerre, du fait même de la portée meurtrière des nouveaux types d’armements.

D’autre part, l’usage du poignard et de l’épée, le fait d’étouffer l’ennemi semblent perdre de leur importance avec le meurtre à distance. La bombe atomique tue des millions de personnes alors qu’il n’est nécessaire que d’une seule personne pour appuyer sur un bouton. La guerre des drônes peut également constituer un bon exemple de ce qui pourrait être ironiquement appelé « la guerre civilisée ». C’est tout un champ lié à l’affectivité et à la férocité liés au champ de bataille du passé, dont les composants de la guerre ne semblent plus avoir recours aujourd’hui.
Cette session invite des sociologues, socio-historiens et historiens à questionner ces transformations dans les manières de faire la guerre et de faire violence au fil du temps. Les interventions pourront notamment se pencher sur la dimension proxémique (Hall, 1966) de la bataille, mais aussi à des enjeux d’images et de représentation de cette violence. Selon le contexte historique, certaines modalités de violences sont considérées comme moins “respectables” que d’autres, et ce indépendamment du nombre de victimes infligées.

Organisateurs de la Session :

– Dieter REICHER, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Graz, Austria.
– Ilan LEW, Research Associate in Sociology, University of Geneva, Switzerland

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ISA XIX World Congress of Sociology, Toronto: CfP RC56 Sessions

Abstract submission is now open for the ISA World Congress next year. Abstracts must be submitted by 30 September through the ISA conference website. ​The sessions include the following topics:

Comparative and Historical Sociology of Women’s Careers

Confucius’ Trap

Figurational Dynamics, Changing Power Balances, and Organisational Formation

Historical Trends, Future Anticipations 

Historical and Comparative Sociology of Examinations

History Makers: Leaders, Rulers, Roles, Systems

Radicalisation and the Rise of the Outsiders

Warfare, Distance and Civilizing Processes

We look forward to seeing you in Toronto!

Paddy Dolan

Secretary/Treasurer, ISA RC 56 Historical Sociology

School of Languages, Law & Social Sciences

Dublin Institute of Technology | Room RD 105

DIT Grangegorman | Dublin 7 | Ireland

Tel: +353 1 402 4212

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Established and Outsiders at the Same Time – free online

Established and Outsiders at the Same Time: Self-Images and We-Images of Palestinians in the West Bank and in Israel“, ed. Gabriele Rosenthal, Göttingen: Göttingen University Press, 2016.

The online version of this book is available free – at

Palestinians frequently present a harmonizing and homogenizing we-image of their own national we-group, as a way of counteracting Israeli attempts to sow divisions among them, whether through Israeli politics or through the dominant public discourse in Israel. However, a closer look reveals the fragility of this homogenizing we-image which masks a variety of internal tensions and conflicts. By applying methods and concepts from biographical research and figurational sociology, the articles in this volume offer an analysis of the Middle East conflict that goes beyond the polar opposition between “Israelis” and “Palestinians”. On the basis of case studies from five urban regions in Palestine and Israel (Bethlehem, Ramallah, East Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa), the authors explore the importance of belonging, collective self-images and different forms of social differentiation within Palestinian communities. For each region this is bound up with an analysis of the relevant social and socio-political contexts, and family and life histories. The analysis of (locally) different figurations means focusing on the perspective of Palestinians as members of different religious, socio-economic, political or generational groupings and local group constellations – for instance between Christians and Muslims or between long-time residents and refugees. The following scholars have contributed to this volume: Ahmed Albaba, Johannes Becker, Hendrik Hinrichsen, Gabriele Rosenthal, Nicole Witte, Arne Worm and Rixta Wundrak.

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Liz Stanley: The Racializing Process – free download


Dear Colleagues,

For the five days between 1 and 5 July, Liz Stanley’s new book is available free for downloading for reading on all tablets and related devices, in a special Amazon promotion. The paperback is also available at £5.99 for those who prefer a non-digital reading experience.

The Racialising Process explores how white people from the 1770s to the 1970s in South Africa depicted whiteness and its racialised Others of black, coloured, Indian Chinese and other groups, focusing on their letters. It discusses many detailed examples drawn from a wide array of letters and explores the complexities in what people wrote and how to interpret this. It shows that there has been a long term racialising process with distinctive features organised around regulation and categorisation, making the South African experience significantly different from the ‘de/civilising process’ that the sociologist Norbert Elias identified in Europe.

For more information and for the free download, please go to your ‘local’ Amazon and search on the book title or author name, while the Introduction is available for reading now at

Happy Reading!

Dr Emilia P Sereva
Research Assistant, Whites Writing Whiteness, School of Social & Political Science, Chrystal Macmillan Building, University of Edinburgh, UK. and

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Human Figurations 6: 1 – Contents of latest issue

Title Author(s)
Editor’s Introduction Liston, Katie
Apologia pro vita sociologica sua: social character and historical process, and why I became an Eliasian sociologist Mennell, Stephen
The sociogenesis of terrorism as part of English–Irish relations during the nineteenth century Dunning, Michael
On the Habitual Dimension of Problems of Democratisation; Using the Example of Egypt after the Arab Spring Alikhani, Behrouz
The Cooley-Elias-Goffman Theory Scheff, Thomas
Informalisation and Evolution: Four Phases in the Development of Steering Codes Wouters, Cas

Dr Barbara Górnicka


Human Figurations Journal  

E-issn: 2166-6644

Published by MPublishing, University of Michigan Library

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Memorial Service for Bruce Mazlish

A memorial service for Bruce Mazlish will be held on Thursday 20 April at 13.00 EST in the Samberg Conference Centre, 6th Floor, 50 Memorial Drive, Cambridge MA. Any readers of this blog in the greater Boston area may like to attend.

Bruce Mazlish died in November 206 at the age of 93. He taught history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology over six decades. He sought to bridge the sciences and humanities, and his publications ranged widely, from psychohistory and the history of the social sciences to what he called “the new global history”. He was a long-term admirer of the work of Norbert Elias, and gave me great encouragement when I was writing my book The American Civilizing Process.

The New York Times obituary focused especially on Bruce’s celebrated biography of Richard Nixon: see


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