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Nobert Elias Civilising Process Essay Sample

This essay sample shall discuss the book called “Civilising Process” which is based on the various aspects of European society over centuries. It is written by the German sociologist Norbert Elias, who was popularly known for civilizing and decivilizing processes.

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Civilising Process book was first published in the year 1939 before it was translated into English. One of the important reasons for the popularity of the book is the way in which it tracks the long-term changes in human behavior. It also tracks the macro-level changes in the social organization and state formation.

Elias is trying to understand three sociological aspects and they are-

  • Relationship between the formation of the state and change in the attitude towards sex, nudity, violence, shame, etc in western Europe.
  • Division of labor.
  • Transformation of personalities in the people as they are closely connected with each other.

It covers the time period from 800 AD to 1900 AD of European history and it’s civilization. He explained the transition of man from the middle ages to a civilized man of today’s era which results in the change of human behavior.

Themes of ‘Civilising Process’

The first volume is called ‘The History of Manners’ which traces the historical developments of the European habitus.

Elias traced how after the medieval European era, standards of sexual behavior, mannerism, speech, bodily function, and violence have changed due to an increase in shame and repugnance.

People have started internalizing self-restraint which has developed their psychological self-perception and communication with others.

The second volume is called State Formation and Civilisation‘. It focuses upon the state formation and theory of civilization.

The steps for state creation according to Elias are:-

11th to 13th century – There was an open competition amongst the different houses where there is a need of remaining in power and fight to maintain and extend its territory.

14th to 16th century – Courts were established by now and vassals gathered around the lords. Only the most powerful houses had maintained their power by taking over the smaller territory.

After the 16th century – The royal houses have absolute authority and control. It created a system of centralized power and administration. The competitions were being regulated to get access to a higher position in the administration.

In the end, the state was created with the monopolization of absolute legal authority to physically violate others. It was an emergence of absolute state authority where the state became the supreme body to coordinate the groups of the society.

By the end of the 18th century- Nobert Elias proposed step by step emotional repression of people by themselves to inculcate decency and manner.

By the 19th century- Elias proposed that manners are self-inculcated through socialization and with consciousness. Children are being strictly controlled to behave with courtesy and have discipline. Socialization automatically generates shame in the modern age.

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The decline of the intrastate and rise of the interstate violence 

The Europeans considered themselves as the most superior race in the world and it created an absolutist state theory where people’s perception about themselves and others changed.

A decline in intrastate violence ensured strong human relations and bonds with each other as they relied on each other for trade and business. It created an interdependency of people on each other to perform tasks and in achieving goals.

The rise in transportation also increased the interaction in the people which helped them to create empathy for others. It declined the internal violence within the states.

Due to an increase in human interaction and coordination between the people it generated the need for setting up rules to create a pattern of self-restraint.

There was an increase in violence between one state with another state. On one side it was peaceful stabilization and on the other hand, there is an increase in the struggle for controlling territory through warfare and diplomacy.

Warfare is still organized than unorganized violence. The ability to wage a war against the other state depends upon the status and condition of the internal territories.

There was an expansion of the threshold of repugnance. There were changes in shame and repugnance with respect to violence. It was no longer controlled by the individual rather be controlled by the state.

Standards of eating, sleeping, drinking, or any other habits were made within the ambit of mannerism and courteousness.

Eating with hands was considered dirty and instead, forks and knives are used. Spitting in the public or nose blowing became publicly unacceptable. Now, people didn’t openly talk about sex or got involved in sexual activities and feared being seen naked by anyone. Many protective barriers were created for individuals to be saved from getting shamed in society.

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The above sample is based on the summary of the book written by Nobert Elias called ‘Civilising Process’.

Sociology, Health and Social Studies (sociology and psychology), Applied Social Studies QQI Level 5, Social Science, Social Studies QQI Level 5 students can specifically read this essay to get a brief understanding of this book.

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