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Concrete and Abstract: Elias, Cooley, Freud, and Goffman

Posted on by Thomas Scheff

My iron law of all online forums is that they first blossom then wither. So be it. This is my attempt to stave off the process on this forum for a while.

Among the many strokes of genius in Elias’s work, there is one that contains the seeds of a revolutionary challenge to the status quo of modern societies: the self is more a social creature than a stand alone individual. Since all modern societies are individualistic, this idea is rank heresy. But it could provide the framework for an extraordinarily useful social science, one that could lead to healing changes vital to human existence. As indicated below, his work shares this challenge with the work of others, such as Cooley and Goffman. Also shared with them, and with early Freud, a central interest in shame (although Goffman usually called it embarrassment). Continue reading