SOCI 3005 Chapter Notes - Chapter 12: Norbert Elias, White Privilege, Sharia

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13 Aug 2016
Week 2 – January 13 th
Norbert Elias, "The Retreat of Sociologists into the Present," Theory, Culture and Society 4
(1987), 223-247.
Norbert Elias, "The Social Constraint Towards Self-Constraint," in Norbert Elias On
Civilization, Power, and Knowledge, eds. Stephen Mennell and Johan Goudsblom
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 49-66.
Norbert Elias notes that most of the sociological work that is being done by theorists or
researchers is primarily based on the fact that they build on their past experiences. He believes
that most researchers aim to resolve short-term problems by building upon what has been done in
the past, and not actually developing a framework that can be used to understand future
problems. This is one of the most interesting points brought forward, as Elias believes that while
it is important to tackle current problems, we also need to be reminded that our society does not
develop vaguely.
He explains that majority of the human behavior; this “civilizing” of our species has
involved some kind of patterned behavior. Elias puts forward the notion that we have come to
our current state of society because of both intentional and unintentional human actions. In other
words, we have developed our understanding of this civilizing process by learning from our past,
what has worked and making sure to improve on that. This is one of the main arguments of
Norbet Elias, as he wants sociologists to focus on the process of the society, instead of trying to
build static theories.
Elias also looks at the emergence of current state of society by comparing it to the old
ways of organization. He believes one of the core components of organizing society is through
monopolizing key elements of the society that are required for its society. e.g. food, knowledge,
and security. He also notes that while the monopolization of elements might not change easily,
the people in charge of these monopolies, however, have changed.
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