Philip Cross--Norbert Elias--Blog Post 5

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2) How, according to Elias, the emergence of "civilized" behavior is closely interrelated to the sociogenesis of the state? Can you provide examples from social life?

This question is one that Elias answers multiple times within the chapter of "The Social Restraint towards Self-Restraint". Essentially, what he posits is that civilization is not merely a something that came into being instantaneously nor as a directly conscious instrument of control, but rather is the product of a series off interconnected attempts at a "civilizing process". He also goes on to make the distinction that one should not observe or understand civilization/ civilizing process as being rational or irrational, for the same reason that one offers that mankind was conscious and self-aware perpetually of its efforts to create or enhance order, and the other offers that it was the opposite. Elias states that "It is set in motion blindly, and kept in motion by the autonomous dynamics of relationships, by specific changes in the way people are bound to live together." (418) I believe that this statement comes closest to a more fulfilled understanding of the difference Elias sees between the rational and irrational aspects of civilization, because the idea of mankind setting motions forth blindly indicates some level of awareness of what is occurring but with no possible foresight or even peripheral understanding of possible outcomes or ramifications.

As the chapter progresses, Elias begins to try and dissect sociogenesis and its relation to individual and societal social constraint. When I read it, there was a very Durkheimian feel to some of his thoughts and even in the terms (this feeling was even present on the second page of the chapter at the mentioning of the term "sui generis"). One excerpt in particular, which reminded me of the difference that Durkheim saw in forms of solidarity was: "...when compared to the psychological make-up of people in less complex societies, these differences and degrees within more complex societies become less significant, and the main line of transformation, which is the primary concern of this study, emerges very clearly: as the social fabric grows more intricate, the sociogenic apparatus of individual self-control also becomes more differentiated, more all-round and more stable." (419) This excerpt, as I read it, seemed to enhance the argument that he was making with my previous mentioning of rational and irrational means of achieving control, insofar as he is showing that some evidence for this theory is found when examining the differences between less complex and more complex societies and that stability is found in both but in different levels and as the result of different events and influencing factors. For the more complex, there seems to be more control based on a desire for the desire for continued peace, which is related to "...the acquisition of money or prestige" (421)

Essentially, what I think Elias was really trying to arrive at in this chapter was a formal and in-depth understanding of what exactly civilization is, how it is constructed, understood by those within it, and ultimately the ways in which it is continually being fluctuated and altered with the evolution and sometimes devolution of various social constraints and forms of control.

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This page contains a single entry by Phil_the_spaces published on April 30, 2012 10:48 AM.

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