Originally published in German in 1939 as Uber den Prozess der Zivilisation (Basel: Haus zum Falker), this book has been published in English translation several times (eg, see IRPS No. 16/83c00199). This translation, by Edmund Jephcott, includes both volumes: The History of Manners & State Formation and Civilization, which were originally published separately. It is noted that this sociological classic did not gain wide attention in the English-speaking world until the 1980s, when a new generation of sociologists found in Elias's figurational sociology a method of historical inquiry that integrates psychological & social structural variables using insights gleaned from the writings of Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, & Sigmund Freud. Conceived by Elias as a monograph on sociological theory, the work examines aspects of social life during Western Europe's late Middle Ages - a time when, due to the enhanced ability of states to control unsanctioned violence, major transformations of social behavior occurred. These changes resulted in a general "civilizing process," which ushered in the social & cultural refinements of the Renaissance & pointed to the attainment of a new level of state power. Focusing on such behaviors as blowing one's nose, spitting, & table manners, Elias shows that innovations, eg, the fork & the handkerchief, marked a fundamental shift in the "threshold features of embarrassment & shame." Rich in detail & epic in scope, Elias's book is one of the greatest contributions to historical sociology since Max Weber. Vol I, The History of Manners, is presented in II PARTS, the first containing 2 Chpts, with a Preface & 2 Appendixes. PART I - ON THE SOCIOGENESIS OF THE CONCEPTS "CIVILIZATION" AND "CULTURE" - offers (1) Sociogenesis of the Difference between Kultur and Zivilisation in German Usage; & (2) Sociogenesis of the Concept of Civilisation in France. PART II - CIVILIZATION AS A SPECIFIC TRANSFORMATION OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR - has no Chpt divisions, but contains 2 Appendixes: (I) Introduction to the 1968 Edition; & (II) Foreign Language Originals of the Exemplary Extract and Verses. Vol II, State Formation and Civilization, is organized similarly. PART I - FEUDALIZATION AND STATE FORMATION - includes an Introduction, (1) Dynamics of Feudalization; & (2) On the Sociogenesis of the State. PART II - TOWARDS A THEORY OF CIVILIZING PROCESSES - offers a Synopsis. References are encompassed in Chpt Notes. W. Howard

source: Sociological Abstracts

additional remark (from Figurations, Newsletter of the Norbert Elias Foundation (Amsterdam/NED), no. 1)

Über den Prozess der Zivilisation, not only Norbert Elias's best-known work but also the foundation-stone for all his subsequent writings, was from its first obscure publication in 1939 a two-volume work. But at least that was always made clear to readers of the German edition, which was re-issued unchanged (except for the addition of a new Introduction) in 1969.

Great confusion arose when an English translation was published. Not only were the two volumes published four years apart (in 1978 and 1982), but they had separate titles, so that the reader had to be keen-eyed to spot that they were two halves of the same book. At least the first volume appeared under the same title - The History of Manners - both in Britain and the USA. The second volume suffered the appalling fate of being published under two different titles: State-Formation and Civilisation in Britain, Power and Civility in the USA.

Judging from citation indices, although many American social scientists spotted the first volume, scarcely any of them read the second half of the book. By the 1980s, many were interested in state formation processes, but the American title led them away from that important part of Elias's theory; and although the expression "civility" crops up in American sociology, as a static concept it wholly fails to capture the character of Elias's processual thinking. Above all, unless the two volumes are read as one book, one cannot grasp the crucial links Elias traces between power and behaviour, between the "macro" and the "micro" levels of development.

Now at last a one-volume edition of The Civilising Process has been published (Blackwell, Oxford, 1994; xvii + 558 pp.; ISBN 0-631-19221-2 (hb), 0-631-19222-0 (pb)). This should certainly help to make Elias's magnum opus better understood in the anglophone world. It is a great pity that, even though the text has been completely reset for this edition, the publishers have failed to make any corrections to the original English edition. They have even carried over the original contents page, with its numerous errors and omissions, despite having been supplied with lists of corrections. One is tempted to remark, "Oh well, publishers are like that", but that might be considered unfair and ungrateful.