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Collected Works

The Collected Works of Norbert Elias

All titles can be bought direct from the Press, via the
UCD Press website, at a 10% discount on the published price.


Patron: Sir Keith Thomas FBA

General Editor: Stephen Mennell

Editorial Advisory Board: Richard Kilminster (Chair), Eric Dunning, Johan Heilbron, Robert van Krieken

‘Norbert Elias is among the most important (and least appreciated) social thinkers of the twentieth century. His theory of modernity was prescient, insightful, and vindicated by discoveries he could not have dreamed of. Historians, sociologists, economists, psychologists, and neuroscientists can all profit by reading his eminently readable writings. The publication of this new and accessible edition of Elias’s works is an important event in intellectual life.’

            – STEVEN PINKER, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University

‘Norbert Elias’s work and inspiration become increasingly important each year; the Collected Edition a quarry filled with treasures. Any historian interested in long-term processes must necessarily grapple with the work of this great twentieth-century sociologist, who fused sociology and history into one encompassing vision.’

          – BRUCE MAZLISH, Professor Emeritus of History, MIT

‘Norbert Elias was one of the most original minds in the human and social sciences in the twentieth century. The publication of his collected works is an extremely important contribution to the contemporary intellectual and academic scene.’

          – the late SHMUEL N. EISENSTADT, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Elias continued, right up to his death in 1990, to extend the theory of civilising processes in major contributions to the historical understanding of the growth of knowledge and the sciences, of sport and leisure, of art and literature, and of the interweaving of biological evolution with psychological and social developments over the whole span of human society.

The Collected Works for the first time bring together all Elias’s published writings. He wrote in both German and English; one book and about a third of his essays appear in English for the first time, in new translations by Edmund Jephcott. Earlier translations, and the texts originally written in English, have been carefully checked and revised for this definitive standard edition, by editors who have a deep knowledge of Elias’s thinking. They have added many clarifications, cross-references and explanatory notes. The 18 volumes, broadly follow the German collected works published by Suhrkamp and including a consolidated index to Elias’s entire œuvre.

The scholarly editions of the Collected Works replace all earlier editions of Elias’s work, and are indispensable for everyone who makes reference to his writings. They are an essential refefrence point for all who are interested in the social sciences, humanities, and the development of human society, whether sociologists, anthropologists, criminologists, historians, philosophers, psychologists, or specialists in International Relations.

Title pages and contents lists of all of the volumes

List of essays and chapters not previously published in English

Complete set (volumes 1–18)

2014 | 234 x 156 mm €1000 £850 |  ISBN 978-1-906359-85-0

Vol. 1: Early Writings

Ranging in date from Elias’s teenage years before the First World War to the 1930s, the previously unpublished writings in this volume include the essay ‘On Seeing in Nature’, his doctoral dissertation ‘Idea and Individual’, a response to Karl Mannheim’s famous paper on cultural competition, and a number of short stories contributed to a newspaper.

Title page and contents list

Edited by Richard Kilminster.

2006 | 234 x 156 mm xx + 160 pp. | 978-1-904558-39-2 €40 £34

Vol. 2: The Court Society

This classic study of the life of the nobility at the royal court of France, especially under Louis XIV, has long been out of print. Recognised by historians as the benchmark for studies of early modern courts, which were an important but long neglected phase in the growth of the ‘civilising’ constraints imposed on people in increasingly complex networks of interdependence.

Title page and contents list

Translated by Edmund Jephcott, edited by Stephen Mennell.

2006 | 234 x 156 mm xvi + 331 pp. | 978-1-904558-40-8 | €60 £50

Vol. 3: On the Process of Civilisation: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations

Earlier editions of On the Process of Civilisation were published under the title The Civilizing Process. We decided to adopt a more literal translation of the original German title, because the emphasis should be on process, not on the often static-seeming word ‘civlisation’.

On the Process of Civilisation is recognised as one of the most important works of sociology in the last century, and it has been influential and widely discussed across the whole range of the humanities and social sciences. This sumptuous new edition, completely revised with many corrections and clarifications, includes colour plates of all the thirteen drawings from Das Mittelalterliche Hausbuch to which Elias refers in his famous discussion of ‘Scenes from the life of a knight’.

Beginning with his celebrated study of the changing standards of behaviour of the secular upper classes in Western Europe since the Middle Ages, Elias demonstrates how ‘psychological’ changes in habitus and emotion management were linked to wider transformations in power relations, especially the monopolisation of violence and taxation by more increasingly effective state apparatuses.

Title page and contents list

Translated by Edmund Jephcott; edited by Stephen Mennell, Eric Dunning, Johan Goudsblom and Richard Kilminster

2012 | 234 × 156 mm xxii + 654 pp. | 978-1-906359-04-1 | €60 £50

Vol. 4: The Established and the Outsiders

Norbert Elias and John L. Scotson

Elias and Scotson explain differences in power and rank between two very similar groups – both working class – in a local community studied in the early 1960s. They show how one group monopolised sources of power and used them to exclude and stigmatise members of the other, pinpointing the role of gossip in the process. In a later theoretical introduction, Elias advanced a general theory of power relations, applying the established–outsiders model to changing power balances between classes, ethnic groups, colonised and colonisers, men and women, parents and children, gays and straights. A further theoretical development in the last year of his life is an essay inspired by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird, published here in English for the first time.

Title page and contents list

Edited by Cas Wouters. 

2008 | 234 x 156 mm xx + 250 pp | 978-1-904558-92-7 | €60 £50

Vol. 5: What is Sociology?

What is Sociology? contains Elias’s broadest statement of the fundamentals of sociology, in important respects very different from the discipline as it is institutionalised today. In his vision, sociology is concerned with the whole course of the development of human society. Especially important are the ‘game models’, which demonstrate the connections between power ratios, unintended consequences, unplanned long-term processes and the way people perceive and conceptualise the social processes in which they are caught up in interdependence with each other. This edition contains two extra chapters previously unpublished in English, one of them a substantial discussion of the legacy of Marx.

Title page and contents list

Translated by Grace Morriseey, Stephen Mennell and Edmund Jephcott; edited by Artur Bogner, Katie Liston and Stephen Mennell 

2012 |  234 x 156 mm  xviii + 136 pp. | 978-1-906359-05-8  | €60 £50

Vol. 6: The Loneliness of the Dying and Humana Conditio

This volume contains two of Elias’s shorter books. The Loneliness of the Dying is one of his most admired works – drawing on a range of literary and historical sources, it is sensitive and even moving in its discussion of the changing social context of death and dying over the centuries. Today, when death is less familiar to most people in everyday life, the dying frequently experience the loneliness of social isolation.

Humana Conditio, written in 1985 to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, has never before been published in English. ‘Human beings’, writes Elias, ‘have made the reciprocal murdering of peoples a permanent institution. Wars are part of a fixed tradition of humanity. They are anchored in its social institutions and in the social habitus of people, even the most peace-loving.’ Elias’s meditation on the human lot ranges over the whole of human history, to international relations and the future of humanity.

Title page and contents list

Edited by Alan and Brigitte Scott.

2010 | 234 x 156 mm. xvi + 184 pp  | €60 £50

978-1-906359-06-5 €60 £50

Vol. 7: Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in the Civilising Process

Norbert Elias and Eric Dunning 

Elias effectively founded the modern sociology of sport in collaboration with Eric Dunning in the 1960s and 1970s. They argue that in highly constrained, ‘civilised’ societies, sports – as well as a spectrum of other cultural and leisure activities – are to be understood not in terms of ‘relaxation’ but rather of the need for pleasurable excitement and its pleasurable resolution. The topics range historically from the violence of the ancient Greek Olympic Games to foxhunting, early forms of football, and the question of why Britain proved to be the cradle of so many modern sports. And, today, what are the effects of achievement striving in elite sports? Why has spectator violence become such a problem? Why do so many sports retain the character of a ‘male preserve’? Originally written in English. This volume has been thoroughly revised by Eric Dunning and includes one hitherto unpublished essay by Elias and a new essay by Dunning, bringing up to date his interpretation of football hooliganism.

Title page and contents list

Edited by Eric Dunning.

2008 | 234 x 156 mm xvi + 320 pp | 978-1-904558-43-9 | €60 £50

Vol. 8: Involvement and Detachment 

Elias rejects the traditional dichotomy of ‘subjective’ versus ‘objective’. Greater emotional detachment is not the achievement of heroic individuals; instead the growth of knowledge and the sciences can be understood only as an aspect of overall human social development. The essay ‘The fishermen in the maelstrom’ takes its title from a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, and is used to illustrate how fears have to be overcome in order for reality-adequate knowledge to accumulate. Two fragments on ‘The great evolution’ discuss the long-term development of the various levels of scientific knowledge – physical, biological and social. Originally written in English.

Title page and contents list

Edited by Stephen Quilley.

2007 | 234 x 156 mm xvi + 252 pp  + 2 plates  | €60 £50

978-1-904558-42-2 €60 £50

Vol. 9: An Essay on Time

In this profound book, Elias characteristically turns an ancient philosophical question – what is time? – into a researchable theoretical–empirical problem. What we call ‘time’ is neither an innate property of the human mind nor an immutable quality of the ‘external’ world. Rather it is an achievement of the human capacity for ‘synthesis’, for using symbolic thought to make connections between two or more sequences of events. In the course of human social development, that capacity has itself changed and developed. Originally written in English. Two later additional sections translated by Edmund Jephcott are also included.

Title page and contents list

Edited by Steven Loyal and Stephen Mennell.

2007 | 234 x 156 mm xv + 172 pp. | 978-1-904558-41-5 | €60 £50

Vol. 10: The Society of Individuals

Philosophers and social scientists have for decades – centuries even – tied themselves in knots over the supposed problem of ‘individual’ versus ‘society’, and its offshoots such as ‘agency’ and ‘structure’. Elias shows the falsity of the problem, which ought to be easily resolved by thinking in terms of processes extending over the generations – though in practice the baleful influence of philosophy leads to its constant resurrection.

The Society of Individuals consists of three essays, the first written in 1939, the second dating from the 1940s and 1950s, and the third a final reflection composed in 1987 only three years before Elias’s death. In each, Elias takes the discussion to a new level, demonstrating that individualisation is an inherent component of the personal socialisation process and of inter-generational civilising processes, exploding the myth of the ‘We-less ego’, and introducing important conceptual innovations, including ‘I-identity’ versus ‘We-identity’ and the ‘We–I balance’.

Title page and contents list

Translated by  Edmund Jephcott; edited by Robert van Krieken

2010 |  234 x 156 mm  xxvi +193 pp. | 978-1-906359-07-2  | €60 £50

Vol. 11:  Studies on the Germans: Power Struggles and the Development of Habitus in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries 

Studies on the Germans was first published in German in 1989, exactly 50 years after Elias’s most famous work, On the Process of Civilisation. The essays in the book were written independently of each other over three decades, and contain Elias’s mature reflections on the Imperial, Weimar, Nazi and post-war periods. In this new edition, Elias’s original English text of the extremely important essay ‘The breakdown of civilisation’ is published for the first time. Other essays include those on duelling and its wider social significance, as well as on nationalism, civilisation and violence, and post-war terrorism in the Federal Republic of Germany. All the essays have been newly annotated by the editors, especially to make clear many historical references that Elias, unrealistically, assumed his readers would understand without further explanation.

Title page and contents list

Translated and edited by Stephen Mennell and Eric Dunning

2013 |  234 x 156 mm  xxvii + 529 pp. |  978-1-906359-08-9  | €60 £50

Vol. 12: Mozart and Other Essays on Courtly Art

Like his father Leopold, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was dependent on a court aristocracy in whose eyes he was little more than a domestic servant. Unlike his father, however, his personal makeup was already that of the freelance artist who sought to follow the flow of his own artistic conscience and imagination rather than the courtly conventions and standards of the day. In Mozart: The Sociology of a Genius, Elias paints a portrait of this extraordinarily gifted artist born into a society that did not yet possess either the concept of ‘genius’ or (at least in music) that of freelance artist. The apparent contradictions of his character – the refined elegance of his compositions and the coarseness of his lavatorial humour – reflect his uncomfortable and eventually tragic straddling of two social worlds.

The volume also includes two major essays on cognate topics, previously unpublished in English: on the courtly painter Watteau’s Embarkation for Cythera, and on ‘The fate of German Baroque poetry: between the traditions of court and middle class’.

Title page and contents list

Edited by Eric R. Baker and Stephen Mennell.

2010 | 234 x 156 mm xvii + 187 pp. | 978-1-906359-09-6 | €60 £50

Vol. 13: The Symbol Theory

This – the last book Elias completed before his death – was written when he was already effectively blind, and the dictated text was not easy to follow. Now Richard Kilminster has made the numbered sections into separate chapters and given each of them a thematic title – which, at a stroke, makes apparent the overall architecture of a remarkable book.

The Symbol Theory situates the human capacity for forming symbols in the long-term biological evolution of Homo sapiens, showing how it is linked through communication and orientation to group survival. Elias proceeds to recast the question of the ontological status of knowledge, moving beyond the old philosophical dualisms of idealism/materialism and subject/object. He readjusts the boundary between the ‘social’ and the ‘natural’ by interweaving evolutionary biology and the social sciences. The Symbol Theory provides nothing less than a new image of the human condition as an accidental outcome of the blind flux of an indifferent cosmos.

Title page and contents list

Edited by Richard Kilminster.

2011 | xxvi + 193 pp.| ISBN: 978-1-906359-10-2 |  €60 £50

Vol. 14: Essays I: On the Sociology of Knowledge and the Sciences

In this volume, Elias develops his sociological theory of knowledge and the sciences – in the plural – to counter what he sees as the inadequacies of traditional philosophical theories. Included are savage attacks on the philosophy of Karl Popper and its damaging influence, a brilliant essay on scientific establishments, and essays on Thomas More and the social uses of utopias.

Title page and contents list

Edited by Richard Kilminster and Stephen Mennell

2009 | 234 x 156 mm xviii + 316 pp. | 978-1-906359-01-0 | €60 £50

Vol. 15: Essays II: On Civilising Processes, State Formation and National Identity

The themes of this volume represent major extensions of and reflections upon the ideas first advanced in The Civilising Process. The topics include: violence and civilisation; the civilising of parents; public opinion in Britain; charismatic leadership; international trends in road accidents; and the fear of death.

Title page and contents list

Edited by Richard Kilminster and Stephen Mennell

2008 | 234 x 156 mm xxii + 289 pp. | 978-1-906359-02-7 | €60 £50

Vol. 16: Essays III: On Sociology and the Humanities

The diverse essays in this volume express Elias’s dissatisfaction with the ahistorical, present-centred trend of modern sociology. Topics include, among many others: a theory of communities in long-term perspective; sociology and psychiatry; human beings and their emotions; the changing balance of power between the sexes; African art.

Title page and contents list

Edited by Richard Kilminster and Stephen Mennell

2009 | 234 x 156 mm xxii + 312 pp. | 978-1-906359-03-4 | €60 £50

Vol. 17: Interviews and Autobiographical Reflections

This volume can serve as an excellent introduction to Elias’s thinking overall. In the last decade of his life, Elias gave many interviews in which he discussed aspects of his work, rebutting many common misunderstandings of his thinking and further developing ideas sketched out in his writings. Besides a selection of these ‘academic’ interviews (many of them not previously published in English, or not published at all), the book contains his essay in intellectual autobiography and a long interview in which he talks about his own life.

Title page and contents list

Edited by Edmund Jephcott, Richard Kilminster, Katie Liston and Stephen Mennell

2013 |  234 x 156 mm xx + 332 pp. | 978-1-906359-11-9 2013 |  | €60 £50

Vol. 18: Supplements and Index to the Collected Works

The consolidated index to the Collected Works as a whole is an indispensable and invaluable tool for navigating through Elias’s complex and overlapping writings.

Besides the index, this volume contains two substantial supplements: a long and important critique on Freud written in the last weeks of Elias’s life, not previously published in English; and an essay, not previously published in any language, on the anthropologist–philosopher Lucien Lévy-Bruhl and the problem of ‘the logical unity of humankind’. Both essays fill important gaps in Elias’s work, and deal with common criticisms of his thought.

Title page and contents list

Essays edited by Stephen Mennell, Marc Joly and Katie Liston; Index compiled by Stephen Mennell and Barbara Mennell

2014 |  234 x 156 mm xiv + 258 pp. | 978-1-906359-12-6 | €60 £50

The Genesis of the Naval Profession

Planned but never completed by Elias, this book has been reconstructed from his mainly unpublished typescripts. Not formally part of the Collected Works, it forms a valuable supplement to them. The emergence of the professional naval officer was related both to the necessities of naval warfare and to the structure of society on land. Originally warships were manned by two separate sets of commanders – gentleman soldiers skilled in fighting, and ‘tarpaulins’ of humbler social origin skilled in navigation and the manual tasks of sailing. Elias traces the on-board conflicts between them, to the gradual merging of the two hierarchies by the end of the eighteenth century. The innovation of midshipmen – boys of gentle birth who both learned the manual skills of the sailor and received the education of a gentleman – gave a crucial advantage to the British Royal Navy over the French and Spanish.

Title page and contents list

Edited and with an introduction by René Moelker and Stephen Mennell.

2007| 216 x 138 mm 184 pp. | 978-1-904558-80-4 hb | €50 £40


All titles can be bought direct from the Press, via the UCD Press website, at a 10% discount on the published price.