Modernity and Social Theory SO3523. Norbert Elias 1897-1990. Modernity and Social Theory SO3523. Elias’s Biography: Jewish middle class background – conscripted during WWI
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Paris 1933-34: Worked selling wooden toys
London 1935-53: Wrote The Civilising Process Vols. 1 & 2 – Death of Elias’s parents and sister in Nazi Germany.
Leicester 1954 - 62 Lectureship
Ghana 1962 – 75 Professorship
1975 – 90 Amsterdam & Bielfield
‘…probably Freud’s ideas had a greater influence on my thinking than those pf any theoretical sociologist’
1) Opposition between human ‘instinct’ and social requirements.
2) Psychic life changes historically. In western society this is characterised by increasing restraint over time. Childhood socialization reproduces this process in ‘reduced’ form.
3) Human desire to fulfil its strongest wishes leads to the embracing of religion, myths and ideologies
Other Key Influences:
Horkheimer: social science should be interdisciplinary - societies are ‘psychologically co-determined’.
SI (Mead, Cooley, Blumer etc.): Social life as a process.
MacIver: Social life must be understood ‘genetically’ by studying its historical development rather then merely its current state.
Huizinga: Work on the middle ages and its people heavily influenced Elias’s key works on ‘Civilization’.
(van Krieken, 1998)
Interaction, Interdependency, power and domination – central to all human relationships
Evolution and Social Process
Structure, System and Reification
The Medieval World
Some small interdependent social units within a larger collective, through ongoing competition, will gain greater opportunities that allow them to eliminate others on an escalating basis.
Central authorities who can locate themselves between mutually fearful competing interests, where the latter can neither cooperate or win out against each other, tend to retain the balance of power.