From the Past to the Present and Towards Possible Futures: The Collected Works of Norbert Elias

College Court, University of Leicester, 20-22 June 2014

One cannot ignore the fact that every present society has grown out of earlier societies and points beyond itself to a diversity of possible futures. (Norbert Elias)
Today we have basically lost the ability to think of a future. Most people do not want to go beyond their present – they do not like to see themselves as a link in the chain of generations. (Norbert Elias)

Call for Papers

In 2014 the eighteenth and final volume of the Collected Works of Norbert Elias in English will be published by University College Dublin Press. (See the list of volumes at the end of this call for papers.)

The mammoth undertaking, in association with the Norbert Elias Foundation (Amsterdam) and under the stewardship of Professor Stephen Mennell, has taken a decade to bring to fruition. It brings together the entire corpus of Elias's works, featuring many writings previously unpublished or not hitherto translated into English, faithfully representing his core ideas and his overall sociological position.

The conference marking the completion of the whole project will appropriately be held at the University of Leicester, where Elias lived and taught from 1954 to 1977. It both honours Elias's association with the University of Leicester, and recognises the widespread interest in his work internationally and its resurgence within the University and more generally within British sociology.

Craig Calhoun, Director of the London School of Economics, has agreed to give the opening address.

The conference is organised around some of Elias's key works: On the Process of CivilisationWhat is Sociology?, The Established and the Outsiders, Quest for Excitement and Essays I: On the Sociology of Knowledge and the Sciences.

Despite its focus on the Collected Works of Elias, the spirit of this event is one of openness to, and dialogue with, competing sociological positions. It will pose questions including:

  • How might Elias's work be employed to address some of the challenges of sociology and social science more generally in the twenty-first century?
  • In what different ways have Elias's ideas been employed, extended, revised, critically interrogated and applied, and in relation to which sociological fields?
  • To what extent does Elias's work provide a means of redressing and reintegrating sociologists who have intellectually migrated to different, increasingly diverse, specialisms and sub-disciplines?
  • Does Elias's critique of sociologists' 'retreat into the present' still stand today? What role might Eliasian sociology have in the more general 'relational turn' that has become a major topic of discussion in recent years?
  • Is it possible to reconcile Elias's 'figurational' sociological practice (with its emphasis on long-term processes) and caution regarding heteronomous analytical investments, with the institutional demands for short-term 'impact', sociological 'accountability', and the increasing emphasis on the practical value of sociology for specific 'user groups?'
  • Can Elias's approach to sociology be squared with recent calls for a more 'public' sociology, and indeed, more explicitly politically-involved and directed 'partisan scholarship?'

In addition to a series of postgraduate workshops and keynote presentations on these and related central concerns, the conference will feature five parallel streams organised according to Elias's key works as follows:

On the Process of Civilisation

  • Civilising processes, decivilising processes, 'dyscivilising' processes and debates about processual 'directions'
  • Violence, war, terror in long-term developmental perspective
  • Sociogenetic and psychogenetic relationships
  • Critiques, revisions and extensions to Elias's magnum opus

Contributors may also wish to refer to related works, such as The Court Society and Essays II: On Civilising Processes, State Formation and National Identity

What is Sociology?

  • Power, figurations, interdependence and debates in theoretical sociology
  • Sociogenesis of sociology and the concept of 'society'
  • Game models and relational thinking
  • Structure/agency and the society of individuals

Contributors may also wish to refer to related works, such as The Society of Individuals and Essays III: On Sociology and the Humanities

Essays I: The Sociology of Knowledge and the Science

  • Knowledge and scientific establishments
  • The politics of figurational sociology
  • Problems of method and methodology
  • Elias's sociological practice

Contributors may also wish to refer to related works, such as Involvement and Detachment and The Symbol Theory.

Quest for Excitement

  • Sport, social bonding and violence
  • Mimetic and leisure activities
  • Work, leisure and consumption
  • Gender, power and identities in the spare time spectrum

The Established and the Outsiders

  • Community studies and community relations
  • Blame and praise gossip in the formation of communities
  • Developments in established-outsider relations theory
  • Ethnicity, migration and locality

Submission Instructions

Abstracts of no more than 500 words for the conference should be submitted to and not later than 31 December 2013.

Abstracts must:

  • Specifically address one or more of the conference themes (and specify preferred stream)
  • Include details of institutional affiliation
  • Be written in English, since all presentations will be in English

Abstracts received after the closing date will not be considered. Registration for the conference will open on 3 February 2014.

Conference organisers: Jason Hughes (Sociology) and John Goodwin (Management), University of Leicester.

Further information about the Collected Works of Norbert Elias

Besides containing many texts never before published in English, or not published at all, the Collected Works contain new editions, extensively amended, annotated and cross-referenced. Intending contributors to the conference are recommended to consult the new editions. [Click on this link for more information via the UCD Press web site]

  1. Early Writings
  2. The Court Society
  3. On the Process of Civilisation
  4. The Established and the Outsiders (with John L. Scotson)
  5. What is Sociology?
  6. The Loneliness of the Dying and Humana Conditio
  7. Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in the Civilising Process (with Eric Dunning)
  8. Involvement and Detachment
  9. An Essay on Time
  10. The Society of Individuals
  11. Studies on the Germans
  12. Mozart and Other Essays on Courtly Art
  13. The Symbol Theory
  14. Essays I: On the Sociology of Knowledge and the Sciences
  15. Essays II: On Civilising Processes, State Formation and National Identity
  16. Essays III: On Sociology and the Humanities
  17. Interviews and Autobiographical Reflections (Autumn, 2013)
  18. Supplements and Index to the Collected Works (Spring 2014)*

* This volume will contain, besides the consolidated index to the collected works, two important and previously unpublished essays: one on Freud, written in the last weeks of Elias's life, the other on the French anthropologist Lucien Lévy-Bruhl.

Link to the conference website

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