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The Civilizing Process

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  504 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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Philippe Malzieu
Nov 06, 2015 Philippe Malzieu rated it it was amazing
Norbert Elias,great sociolog, pure product of european culture in what it has of better. I have read one of his most famous book many years ago " La dynamique de l'Occident ". It highlighted the formation of Europe from the political organization of states. I discover this book which is a kind of mirror of it because it takes place at the domestic level. How gets organized the life at the concrete level of the individuals people : sexual behavior, way of knowing how to being at the table, things ...more
Mar 06, 2010 Tara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: more
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
Nov 24, 2008 Daniela rated it really liked it
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
Jun 07, 2010 Ed rated it really liked it
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
Nils Samuels
May 10, 2007 Nils Samuels rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 12, 2009 Bill rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 01, 2014 Matt rated it it was amazing
Simply spectacular. Must read. I don't even know where to begin besides saying "yes" to this one.
Fred R
Oct 31, 2012 Fred R rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 13, 2008 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2008
*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
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
Dec 14, 2009 M. Ritchey rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 11, 2010 Kakanier rated it did not like it
Shelves: geiwi, geschichte
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.
Dec 10, 2009 Bernd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
It definitely influenced me on how I think about cultures. It provides a useful way to approach and address problems withing a community/culture.
Jun 29, 2007 Brad rated it really liked it
Wherein one can learn that it is considered impolite in some circles to piss on the curtains.
Jul 30, 2012 I-kai rated it really liked it
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 about Norbert Elias...

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