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New book: Excitement Processes

Jan Haut, Paddy Dolan, Dieter Reicher and Raúl Sánchez García (eds), Excitement Processes : Norbert Elias’s unpublished works on sports, leisure, body, culture (Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2017), 322 pp. ISBN: 9783658149116.

This book contains some of the most important of Elias’s writings that have remained hitherto unpublished. It contains four papers by Elias himself, together with reflections on them by leading scholars of the present day on leisure, sport and culture. Besides the four editors, there are essays by Helmut Kuzmics, Dominic Malcolm, Jim Sharpe and Michael Atkinson.

The most substantial of Elias’s papers published here for the first time is ‘Spontaneity and self-consciousness’, written first in 1958 and then enlarged in 1962. Stephen Mennell suggests in his Conclusion, this paper really ought to have been published as the very first chapter in Quest for Excitement. It contains, among other gems, Elias’s first use of the key idea of ‘controlled decontrolling of emotional controls’, a far clearer exposition of what he meant by ‘kitsch’ than can be found in the earlier essay from 1935, and major discussions of jazz and dancing. Elias’s later references to dancing (for example, passing remarks in What is Sociology?), now need to be read against the background of this paper. In the same way, the great essay in Studies on the Germans on duelling in Wilhelmine Germany now reads like the final chapter of a book which began with the paper on ‘Boxing and duelling’ that now appears in this book.

The full contents are:

Introduction: Reconstructing Elias’s work on leisure, sports and the body – Dieter Reicher, Jan Haut, Raúl Sánchez García and Paddy Dolan

Section 1: Leisure and culture

Spontaneity and self-consciousness – Norbert Elias

Elias’s early approach to leisure activities: Notes on Spontaneity and self-consciousness – Dieter Reicher

Civilisation, happiness and the thinking millipede: A commentary on Norbert Elias’s Spontaneity and self-consciousness – Helmut Kuzmics

Section 2: Sportisation and ‘modernisation’

Fragments on sportisation – Norbert Elias

Completing sportisation: Elias on the diffusion and differentiation of sport in ‘modern’ society – Jan Haut

Elias on the development of modern sport: empirical error, interpretive insight and conceptual clarification – Dominic Malcolm

Section 3: Sport, violence and state formation

Boxing and duelling – Norbert Elias

Boxing and duelling: Critical remarks on Elias on violence and state formation from an historical perspective – James Sharpe

Class relations and the development of boxing: Norbert Elias on sportisation processes in England and France – Paddy Dolan

Revisiting duelling and fencing in the sociology of Norbert Elias – Raúl Sánchez García

Section 4: The body

The ‘rediscovery’ of the body – Norbert Elias

Elias’s contribution to the sociology of the body: The rediscovery of the hinge – Michael Atkinson

Conclusion – Stephen Mennell