The Anniversary Edition of Über den Prozeß der Zivilization

Heike Hammer
University of Hamburg

Right on time for the hundredth anniversary of Norbert Elias's birth, a new German edition of The Civilizing Process has been published by Suhrkamp. It is the starting point of a German edition of the Collected Works of Norbert Elias. The new text has been prepared according to the principles laid down for the collected works by the international Editorial Board, which was appointed by the Norbert Elias Foundation and consists of Heike Hammer, Johan Heilbron, Peter-Ulrich Merz-Benz, Annette Treibel and Nico Wilterdink. Each volume will be a critical text edition giving absolute precedence to Elias's original text, and the following work will be carried out on each text: references will be checked and (if possible) supplemented; variants will be documented; and translations of foreign language quotations, a bibliography and an index will be supplied.

For my work on Über den Prozeß der Zivilization, the second German edition, enlarged with a new introduction and published in 1969 by the Verlag Francke in Bern (Switzerland), was taken as the basis, and re-set with only minor alterations to obvious printing or syntactical mistakes. Nor was the punctuation modernised; changes were made only to avoid misunderstandings. In the footnotes, corrections or additions are restricted to improving incorrect or misleading references, though exact bibliographical references are given in the bibliography. All these emendations are documented in the appendix entitled 'Varianten und Zitationen'.

This appendix also details the most important variants arizing from the revisions Elias made to the second volume of The Civilizing Process when it was translated into English, and the German text was systematically checked against the later English text. These revisions comprise notes on the translation (e.g. a note on the use of Phänomen [phenomenon], Über den Prozeß, vol. 2, 1997, p. 523); various enlargements ranging from a few words to whole passages (for instance Über den Prozeß 1997, vol. 2, pp. 534-5); the use of concepts which Elias had developed only after writing Über den Prozeß der Zivilization, the most important being 'figuration' (Über den Prozeß 1997, Vol. 2, p. 517), 'power balances', and the 'established-outsiders' concept (see for instance Über den Prozeß 1997, Vol. 2, pp. 535-6); new examples and specifications where the German text is not precise or open to different interpretations (for instance Über den Prozeß 1997, Vol. 2, p. 549, where Elias writes hier - meaning in Germany).

Documenting these revisions yields insight into the development of Elias's thinking, as he himself remarks in his acknowledgements: 'The exercise of checking the translation was in itself a most useful one for me as it enabled me to revise the text in minor but important ways, and to add notes which set the work in the context of my later thinking' (N. Elias, The Civilizing Process, Vol. 2, Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1982, p. viii).

Last but not least, the appendix on 'Varianten und Zitationen' contains a variety of information on the quotations. Following the basic principle of maintaining Elias's style, direct changes are restricted to obvious printing or copying mistakes and defects that change the meaning of the text, thus leaving Elias's paraphrases and adaptations unchanged. These can be traced by comparing Elias's version with the sources given - in their original form - in the appendix. A close study of these variants reveals a general tendency in Elias's usage of different quotation styles: he used exact quotations especially when quoting primary sources and giving examples, and paraphrased when integrating quotations in his own sentences and/or quoting secondary literature. However, both were indiscriminately marked with double quotation marks; his punctuation in quotations follows the rules he applied throughout his own text - even in some of the foreign language quotations.

Another important part of the work on the new edition was checking the references. This revealed many minor inaccuracies (though the major ones assume far more importance for the editor, demanding much thought and time consuming research). Elias often gives the context of a quotation instead of exact page numbers; thus, many of the references have to be read as either/or alternatives (which have not been 'corrected') or can be valid for more than one paragraph or quotation. Whereas incorrect references have been directly changed in the text or the notes, missing references are supplied in the appendix 'Varianten und Zitationen'. Foreign language quotations and translations by Elias have been checked as well, and in rare cases new translations are supplied; if Elias only gave his translation, the foreign language original is included in the appendix. Considering the great number of sources used, surprizingly few mistakes were made. His different quotation styles indicate that Elias had been academically socialised in a time when two quoting practices co-existed. Elias's - to our mind - cavalier way of dealing with quotations and translations is illustrated by his translation of French quotations from Goethe and Lessing back into German without comparing them with the original (see Über den Prozeß 1997, Vol. 1, p. 470).

Another part of the appendix offers translations of the foreign language quotations, to the great relief of many German readers who have hitherto had to cope with Latin, Old French, Italian and Middle English quotations.

The bibliography lists Elias's sources and gives detailed bibliographical information. Since Elias mainly wrote The Civilizing Process in the British Library, and most of his sources can still be found there (this also holds true for the old manners books!), that provided the basic source for providing missing information on the editions Elias used. If an edition could not be specified from the catalogue of the British Library, the bibliography refers to standard editions that were in current use in the 1930s. References given by the editor are marked with square brackets.

Finally, the new edition includes an index, which all earlier German editions lacked. It is based on the index of the English edition known to Elias, and has been adapted to German usage and slightly enlarged. These enlargements are printed in italics. Work on the index gave insight into the variety of language Elias used, which is partly lost through translation.

The new edition is available in hard cover and paperback. It is Volume 3 of the Collected Works which will comprise 19 volumes altogether. This edition is intended to take about ten years, with about two or three volumes being published each year. The next publication planned is The Symbol Theory, not previously published in German.

source: Figurations no. 8 (Newsletter of the Norbert Elias Foundation)