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 The Civilizing Process. At its ill-timed publication in 1939, it received little note. Only after his formal retirement in 1962 was the book reissued in German and translated into many other languages. That, and a flood of other books and essays, made him an international intellectual celebrity towards the end of his long life. His whole oeuvre is now appearing in new scholarly editions in the Collected Works in English. ALAN SCOTT is Professor of Sociology at the University of Innsbruck, Austria; BRIGITTE SCOTT is a translator and editor for the Austrian Academy of Science's Research Centre on Mountain Research: Man and the Environment, Innsbruck, Austria.
This volume contains two of Elias' shorter books. "The Loneliness of the Dying" is one of his most admired works - drawing on a range of literary and historical sources, it is sensitive and even moving in its discussion of the changing social context of death and dying over the centuries. Today, when death is less familiar to most people in everyday life, the dying frequently experience the loneliness of social isolation. "Humana Conditio", written in 1985 to mark the fortieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, has never before been published in English. 'Human beings', writes Elias, 'have made the reciprocal murdering of people a permanent institution. Wars are part of a fixed tradition of humanity. They are anchored in its social institutions and in the social habitus of people, even the most peace-loving'. Elias' meditation on the human lot ranges over the whole of human history, to international relations and the future of humanity.
Norbert Elias, 1897-1990
Note on the text
THE LONELINESS OF THE DYING
1 The loneliness of the dying in our time
- Ageing and dying
- some sociological problems
- On immortality fantasies
- Observations on the development of humanity on the fortieth anniversary of the end of a war (8 May 1985)
‘UCD Press has undertaken the task of publishing the complete works of Norbert Elias (1897–1990) who was one of the greatest sociologists of the 20th century. There will be eighteen volumes in total when the series is completed along with a volume hors de series of Elias’s The Genesis of the Naval Profession. Of all his works the two featured here may be the most personal in that Elias was in his eighties when he wrote them, contemplating his own death, and thinking back on his life. While he treats death as a sociological problem, he also expresses his own feelings on ageing and dying come through in his writing. Humana Conditio is here translated for the first time into English from its original German. … It is perhaps his only work to be rooted in a particular time since his contemplations concern not just the end of the second world war but the state of the cold war and international relations at this time. Interestingly, like many other European intellectuals in 1985, Elias failed to see that the Soviet Union would collapse.’
‘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.’
‘monumental series of the writings of Norbert Elias, regarded as one of the outstanding European thinkers and sociologists of the twentieth century … The books are handsomely produced in decent uniform bindings, each with an introductory essay and notes on the text.’
'This book is volume 6 in 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