June 1998
K�lner Zeitschrift f�r Soziologie & Sozialpsychologie;1998, Vol. 50 Issue 2, p217
Academic Journal
The persistent popularity of the sociology of Norbert Elias (especially in Europe) is largely due to his theory of the Civilization Process. In a critical discussion of this theory, this paper first points out gaps that cast doubts on Elias' claim that his theory can account for developments from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Above all, the question is raised whether 20th century developments can be adequately understood in Elias' picture of 'civilized' man restricted by a tight super-ego and increasing barriers of shame and embarrassment; a lack of decrease of violence as well as processes of pluralization and relaxation of norms of conduct stand in stark contrast to this picture. It is argued that Elias has outlined four processes underpinning the development of civilization', and that all four processes were conceptualized in terms of societal integration and individual restrictions ('discipline'). However, these processes could be interpreted in different terms ('distinction'), and thus the one-sidedness of Elias' account may be overcome.


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