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At last! – Elias’s essays on knowledge and sciences

Posted on by Stephen Mennell

Norbert Elias, Essays I: On the Sociology of Knowledge and the Sciences (Dublin: UCD Press, 2009 [Collected Works, vol. 14]), edited by Richard Kilminster and Stephen Mennell. xxviii + 316 pp. ISBN: 978-1-906359-01-0. €60.00.

On several occasions during the 1970s and 1980s, Norbert Elias referred to a ‘forthcoming’ volume collecting together his essays on the sociology of knowledge and the sciences. It never appeared during his lifetime, but now at last it has.

Of the twelve essays in the latest volume in the Collected Works, five have never before published in English (these are marked with an asterisk in the following list of contents) – including his devastating broadsides against Karl Popper and the logical positivists, whose views have done such lasting damage to the social sciences. Also included are major essays on Sir Thomas More’s Utopia and the subsequent tradition of utopian (and dystopian) writing.

With the publication of this volume, social scientists will have no excuse to confine their attention to Elias’s theory of civilising processes alone. These essays show the vast scope and significance of Elias’s theory of knowledge, and its relevance to the practice of the social sciences.

1 Sociology of knowledge: new perspectives

2 Dynamics of consciousness within that of societies

*3 On nature

4 The sciences: towards a theory

5 Theory of science and history of science: comments on a recent discussion

6 Introduction to ‘Scientific Establishments and Hierarchies’ (Norbert Elias and Richard Whitley)

7 Scientific establishments

*8 On the creed of a nominalist: observations on Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery

*9 Science or sciences? Contribution to a debate with reality-blind philosophers

*10 Thomas More’s critique of the state: with some thoughts on a definition of the concept to utopia

*11 Thomas More and ‘Utopia’

12 What is the role of scientific and literary utopias for the future?

Like previous volumes in the series, this has been very carefully edited and annotated to improve the readability of the texts: sadly, it appears that the first editions of most of Elias’s works in English escaped the attentions of competent copy-editors, a lacuna that has now been remedied.

Especially because of the higher standard to which these volumes have been produced, which makes Elias’s texts much more accessible both to students and scholars, it is important that they find their way into university libraries throughout the world.

You can buy copies of the volumes at a discount of 20 per cent on the published price (€48.00 in the case of vol. 14), if you order direct from the publisher, via the website:

This is the third, in order of publication, of three volumes of Elias’s mature essays, and the ninth volume of the 18 that will constitute the Collected Works.

Previously published volumes in the series are:

1 Early Writings (2006)

2 The Court Society (2006)

4 Norbert Elias and John L. Scotson, The Established and the Outsiders (2008)

7 Norbert Elias and Eric Dunning, Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in the Civilising Process (2008)

8 Involvement and Detachment (2007)

9 An Essay on Time (2007)

15 Essays II: On Civilising Processes, State Formation and National Identity (2008)

16 Essays III: On Sociology and the Humanities

Supplementary volume: The Genesis of the Naval Profession (2007)

The next in the series to appear, scheduled for early in 2010, is volume 6, containing The Loneliness of the Dying and (for the first time in English) Humana Conditio.