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NORBERT ELIAS (1897-1990) was one of the greatest sociologists of the twentieth century. He studied with Alfred Weber in Heidelberg and served as Karl Mannheim's assistant in Frankfurt. On Hitler's coming to power, he went into exile, first in France and then in Britain. His magnum opus The Civilizing Process received little attention when it was published in Switzerland in 1939 and only after Elias's formal retirement in 1962 were most of his other books and essays published. International intellectual celebrity came to him right at the end of his long life. RICHARD KILMINSTER is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Leeds; STEPHEN MENNELL is Professor of Sociology at University College Dublin.
Between the end of the Second World War and his death in 1990, Elias published almost 60 articles on a wide range of topics. About a third of them have not previously appeared in English, and many of the rest were widely scattered and difficult to obtain. They are being published in three thematic volumes, all edited by Richard Kilminster and Stephen Mennell. In this volume, Elias develops his sociological theory of knowledge and the sciences - in the plural - to counter what he sees as the inadequacies of traditional philosophical theories. Included are savage attacks on the philosophy of Karl Popper and its damaging influence, a brilliant essay on scientific establishments, and essays on Thomas More and the social uses of utopias.
Norbert Elias, 1897-1990
Note on the text
Sociology of knowledge
- new perspectives
Dynamics of consciousness within that of societies
- towards a theory
Theory of science and history of science
- comments on a recent discussion
Introduction to Scientific Establishments and Hierarchies, with Richard Whitley
On the creed of a nominalist
- observations on Popper's The Logic of Scientific Discovery
Science or sciences? Contribution to a debate with reality-blind philosophers
Thomas More's critique of the state
- with some thoughts on a definition of the concept to utopia
Thomas More and 'Utopia'
What is the role of scientific and literary utopias for the future? Appendix I
- Note on Kant's solipsistic doubt. Appendix II
- Two extended notes to 'On the creed of a nominalist'
- The Great Evolution
- note to 'Science or sciences?' Textual variants
"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."
"There will be eighteen volumes in this handsome uniform series, the last being a full index to the others, while a supplementary volume has been included, Elias’s work on the origin of the naval profession. Elias was one of the most important European thinkers on sociology in the 20th century. He wrote in English and German on all aspects of sociology such as the origin of civilisation, the place of individuals in society, music, sport and the sciences. In this volume he examines the growth of knowledge in modern Europe and kore specifically the development of scientific thinking. He considers too the idea of Utopia, as first expressed by Thomas More and the developed by other scientific and social thinkers, as a means of studying social development. The book is introduced with a biographical essay on Norbert Elias and a longer essay on the text used in this volume."
'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