NORBERT ELIAS (1897-1990) was one of the greatest sociologists of the twentieth century. He studied in Breslau and Heidelberg and served as Karl Mannheim's assistant in Frankfurt. In exile after 1933, first in France and then in Britain, he wrote his magnum opus On the Process of Civilisation. His whole oeuvre is now appearing in new scholarly editions in the Collected Works in English. Stephen Mennell is Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University College Dublin, a member of the Board of the Norbert Elias Foundation, Amsterdam, and General Editor of the Collected Works; Eric Dunning is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Leicester.
Studies on the Germans, Volume 11 of the Collected Works, was first published in German in 1989, exactly 50 years after Elias' most famous work, On the Process of Civilisation. The essays in the book were written independently of each other over three decades. In this new edition, Elias' original English text of the extremely important essay 'The breakdown of civilisation' is published for the first time. Other essays include those on duelling and its wider social significance, as well as on nationalism, civilisation and violence, and post-war terrorism in the Federal Republic of Germany. All the essays have been newly annotated by the editors, especially to make clear many historical references that Elias, unrealistically, assumed his readers would understand without further explanation.
Norbert Elias, 1897-1990
Note on the text
Civilisation and informalisation
- changes in European standards of behaviour in the twentieth century
Honour, duelling and membership of the imperial ruling class
- being judged worthy to give satisfaction
A digression on nationalism
Civilisation and violence
- on the state's monopoly of physical force and its breaking
The breakdown of civilisation
Terrorism in the Federal Republic of Germany
- expression of a conflict between generations
Thoughts on the Federal Republic
- I The German aristocratic code and 'proof by ancestry'
II On the interpretation of Mozart's scatological remarks
III Why I began to study the problem of 'civilisation'
IV On the relative independence of the high nobility from the imperial court
V Sieyes, the Third Estate, and changing feelings of identity
VI Machiavelli's policy prescriptions
VII Nationalism and middle-class morality in Victorian Britain
VIII Conflicts trigger aggression
IX On the ethos of the Wilhelmine bourgeoisie
X Pro-war literature during the Weimar Republic (Ernst Junger)
XI On the character of conflicts in the early Weimar Republic
XII Conditions for the attainment of the domestic and foreign goals of the old elite
XIII The decay of the state monopoly of force in the Weimar Republic
XIV The stab in the back
XV Lucifer upon the ruins of the world
XVI The meaning of the word Reich - excerpt from the Fischerlexikon
XVII An empire dies
XVIII The awareness of powerlessness - note added in 1984
XIX Marxism and terrorism
- a terrorist's explanation
XX George Orwell, 'England Your England'
"In many ways the notes by the editors which preface these volumes can ... be read as biographical illustrations of Elias's own ongoing intellectual meditations on the tensions between involvement and detachment, and with his continuing personal and professional confrontation with the problem of time."
"well worth the dedicated study and patient reflection [it] demand[s] of readers."
Canadian Journal of Sociology 33
"The enterprise of publishing the collected works of Norbert Elias under the editorship of Richard Kilminster and Stephen Mennell by University College Dublin Press is an extremely important contribution to the contemporary intellectual and academic scene. Norbert Elias was one of the most original minds in the human and social sciences in the 20th century – his work covers not only a very broad range of sociological topics starting with his classical The Civilising Process and later The Court Society, but also many topics ranging from sociology of knowledge to sociology of sport and analysis of historical processes; the broad philosophical problems, such as the idea of the place of the progress of symbolic dimensions in social life. This is really a monumental enterprise, very worthwhile and very constructive, presenting a great challenge to the contemporary intellectual and academic scene – and UCD Press should be congratulated in undertaking this enterprise."
S. N. Eisenstadt
Jerusalem, 24 July 2008
"Too easily the editors and readers of Books Ireland take it as given that Irish publishers’ books are mostly about Ireland or by Irish writers. We wish it were not so because we think our publishers are of world class, and a shining exception and exemplar is this series of eighteen volumes of the life’s work in English – some of his work was written in German – of Elias (1897–1990) whose major theme was the theory of civilising processes … Norbert is very interesting on the subject as well as on the dynamics of sports, social (and especially male) bonding, violence and football hooliganism. These books are in the very best tradition of design, with acid-free paper, sewn bindings, cloth boards, coloured endpapers, spine labels and acetate jackets."
'The Collected Works of Norbert Elias that is being published by University College Dublin Press. Eighteen volumes are planned. The production is exemplary, from binding and paper quality through the editorial care. Earlier translations have been corrected and changes noted; editors’ notes explain circumstances within which Elias wrote and clarify references he makes to lesser known authors and contemporary events.'
Canadian Journal of Sociology 35(4) 2010
Read Stephen Mennell being interviewed about Norbert Elias
in Sociologica, 2014
Read the January 2015 newsletter of the Norbert Elias Foundation
Norbert Elias died on 1 August 1990.
To mark the twentieth anniversary, the German radio station WDR3
(Westdeutscher Rundfunk 3. Programm) broadcast a fifteen
-minute programme in its daily ZeitZeichen series
You can find out more information about Elias by visiting the Norbert Elias Foundation website