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)
AT LAST! THE CIVILISING PROCESS IN ONE
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.