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Studies on the Germans published

Posted on July 3, 2013 by Stephen Mennell

Norbert Elias, Studies on the Germans: Power Struggles and the Development of Habitus in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Dublin: UCD Press, 2013 [Collected Works, vol. 11]). xxvi + 529 pp. ISBN: 978-1-906259-08-9. €60.00 / £50.00. Translated by Eric Dunning and Stephen Mennell, edited by Stephen Mennell and Eric Dunning.

Studies on the Germans, the antepenultimate volume of the Collected Works, has now been published by UCD Press. As usual, the volume can be bought at a 20 per cent discount (€48.00) if ordered direct from the Press via the website (

In this new edition, Elias’s original English text of the extremely important essay ‘The breakdown of civilisation’ – his major treatment of the rise of Nazism – is published for the first time. When Eric Dunning and Stephen Mennell translated the book for the first edition (The Germans) in the early 1990s, they did not have access to all of Elias’s original English drafts of the essay, so they translated Michael Schröter’s German translation back into English. Now, however, as editors of the Collected Works edition, they have been able to locate all the English texts on which Schröter drew, and so it has been possible to reconstruct the full version in Elias’s original English.

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. In this edition, they are presented in a more logical and easily followed order, dealing with nineteenth and twentieth-century German history in more nearly chronological sequence.

Most important, however, all the essays have been extensively annotated by the editors, especially to make clear many historical references that Elias – quite unrealistically – took for granted that his readers would understand without further explanation. Readers with only a sketchy knowledge of German history and culture will find the new edition much more rewarding. In their Note on the text, moreover, the editors set Studies on the Germans in the context of the famous Historikerstreit – the bitter dispute among historians in the 1980s about the interpretation of the uniqueness or otherwise of Germany’s path of development – and of sociological contributions such as those of Dahrendorf and Bauman.


Norbert Elias, 1897–1990

Note on the text Introduction

Civilisation and informalisation: changes in European standards of behaviour in the twentieth century

Honour, duelling and membership of the imperial ruling class: being judged worthy to give satisfaction

A digression on nationalism

Civilisation and violence: on the state’s monopoly of physical force and its breaking

The breakdown of civilisation

Terrorism in the Federal Republic of Germany: expression of a conflict between generations

Thoughts on the Federal Republic



I The German aristocratic code and ‘proof by ancestry’

II On the interpretation of Mozart’s scatological remarks

III Why I began to study the problem of ‘civilisation’

IV On the relative independence of the high nobility from the imperial court

V Sieyès, the Third Estate, and changing feelings of identity

VI Machiavelli’s policy prescriptions

VII Nationalism and middle-class morality in Victorian Britain

VIII Conflicts trigger aggression

IX On the ethos of the Wilhelmine bourgeoisie

X Pro-war literature during the Weimar Republic (Ernst Jünger)

XI On the character of conflicts in the early Weimar Republic

XII Conditions for the attainment of the domestic and foreign goals of the old elite

XIII The decay of the state monopoly of force in the Weimar Republic

XIV The stab in the back

XV Lucifer upon the ruins of the world

XVI The meaning of the word Reich – excerpt from Das Fischer-Lexikon

XVII An empire dies

XVIII The awareness of powerlessness – note added in 1984

XIX Marxism and terrorism: a terrorist’s explanation

XX George Orwell, ‘England Your England’

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