The Civilizing Process
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The Civilizing Process

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4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  349 ratings  ·  16 reviews
"The Civilizing Process" stands out as Norbert Elias' greatest work, tracing the "civilizing" of manners and personality in Western Europe since the late Middle Ages by demonstrating how the formation of states and the monopolization of power within them changed Western society forever.
Paperback, Revised edtion, 592 pages
Published July 13th 2000 by Wiley-Blackwell (first published 1939)
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Daniela
For Elias, people learn to obey a code of conduct, people are restrained and refined, and emotions are culturally constructed. He discusses sophistication of speech and our elaborate and refined use of language. He claims we have made it second nature to adopt a social milieu. Elias has a formula for the book - socio-genetic and psychogenetic (micro and macro) - consisting of three parts: 1. courtesy (middle ages, sixteenth century - time when Erasmus wrote his text) 2. civilitai (court society)...more
Tara
Mar 06, 2010 Tara rated it 5 of 5 stars
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This book was so cool. But that is just me. I think you would have to be a real history geek to enjoy it, but there is this whole section on medieval manner books that is hilarious. Norbert is trying to demonstrate the shift in consciousness that occurred as people lived in more complex societies, rather than on isolated feudal estates. His point is that behavior that we currently take for granted-- manners, civility--- had to be learned over time. The books he quotes were written for adults try...more
Ed
Using etiquette books from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries, Elias fashioned a theory of the evolution of our emotional lives and our notions of our self that is provocative and profound. Since he tried to explain many of the things that interested Foucault, I was happy to learn that the journal Foucault Studies had a special issue earlier this year comparing Elias' ideas with those of Foucault. It might have changed my life if I had read this book thirty years ago when I first not...more
Fred R
I read this book as filling in the gaps between Bourdieu and Gregory Clark. That is, fleshing out the connection between class-stratified aesthetics and macro-social secular shifts in behavior. Bourdieu seemed to think of aesthetics as ultimately arbitrary, serving only to signal and reinforce class distinctions, but I think if he were more rational, he could have seen how involved aesthetics (such as, for instance, the trend towards smaller knives at the dinner table) are with real social facto...more
Emily
*The Civilizing Process* is dense, discursive, Germanic, and in some ways pre-professional in its sociology (Elias has to argue at length, for example, for a discipline of historical psychology that is now well-established), but also fascinating and, in places, hilarious.

The first third of the book details the historical development of manners in the West (primarily France, Germany and England) through a survey of etiquette instructions from the early middle ages to the nineteenth century. This...more
Victoria
Very much a product of its time, this work argues for a correlation and indeed even causation between increasingly affected manners and the formation of centralized states. Part one is perfectly unreadable; part two is perfectly hilarious (if only because it borrows liberally from such masters of civil manners as Erasmus and Giovanni della Casa); part three is completely intolerable if you have an intellectual aversion to the word "feudalism" and get hives just from thinking about it; and part f...more
M. Ritchey
It is hard to explain this amazing book. Elias begins by explaining the difference between French and German cultures, tracing centuries of social/political/economic changes to come to some wild (in a good way) conclusions about "how come the French ended up like this and the Germans ended up like this?" Even though his parents died in the Holocaust, he's not German-bashing. His conclusions are so interesting and well-researched, tracing the rise of continental philosophy, the fall of aristocrac...more
dsneaks
I had to read this for a Contemporary Social Theory Course I am currently taking. This has by far been my favorite reading for the course. This reading shows the development of norms in relation to eating habits and bodily functions. This was soo interesting and I love it! Its such an interesting read learning about how things we do without thinking about it developed and how people had to be taught things like not picking up feces and smelling it.
Nils Samuels
Dense, academic, and sprawling in its scope, this book gets at the root impulses that people use to separate themselves from each other: manners, class, money. The time period is the Middle Ages, the basement from which we have constructed our sense of modernity. Affective restraint figures prominently in the brinkmanship of class, consciously and unconsciously. Elias's argument has altered how I see the world.
Matt
Simply spectacular. Must read. I don't even know where to begin besides saying "yes" to this one.
Kakanier
Märchenbuch. Wenn euch die Geschichte gefällt, könnt ihr's glauben. Die Wirklichkeit ist reicher als die Erzählung und der Autor hat erwiesenermaßen in zumindest einem Fall gegen sein eigenes besseres Wissen geschrieben. "Der Mythos vom Zivilisationsprozeß", geschrieben als Reaktion auf das Büchlein, von Dürr befasst sich ausführlich mit dieser Buntheit.
Bernd
Hervorragender soziologischer Klassiker aus den 30iger Jahren des 20. Jahrh., in dem Elias wie aus dem Vogelblick die Muster der gesellschaftlichen Zivilisationsentwicklung aufdeckt. Teilw. monotone Wiederholungen, sprachlich ungewohnt, aber verständlich. Insgesamt: sehr erhellend.
Bill
The methodology is extremely effective and well-outlined. Good for its subject matter and conclusions, but also its methods. This book was quite an experience to read and was very influential in my intellectual development.
Kinga
It definitely influenced me on how I think about cultures. It provides a useful way to approach and address problems withing a community/culture.
Brad
Wherein one can learn that it is considered impolite in some circles to piss on the curtains.
I-kai
lots of interesting info on everyday life but with broad, sweeping interpretations
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Norbert Elias was a German-Jewish sociologist who later became a British citizen, though he is often referred to as a Dutch thinker, and made his home in Amsterdam in his latter years.

Elias's theory focused on the relationship between power, behavior, emotion, and knowledge over time. He significantly shaped what is called process or figurational sociology. Due to historical circumstances, Elias h...more
More about Norbert Elias...
The History of Manners (The Civilizing Process, Vol. 1) تنهاییِ دمِ مرگ Mozart: Portrait of a Genius The Court Society The Established and the Outsiders

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