In 1939, German sociologist Norbert Elias, a leading author on the figurational theory of sociology, had his writings published on what he named “Über den Prozess der Zivilisation”, translated as “The Civilising Process”. In this, he discussed the thought of social progression throughout the ages of man, as people have become more civilised, more rationalised and more in control of their emotions and views of issues such as violence. Elias compiled a catalogue of adaptations humans go through, as society alters and human life progresses. There are changes in structural processes such as growth of trade, towns and money. There are continuously changes in manners and culture, with increased sensitivity and growing sense of shame and guilt, a recent example being ‘political correctness’ coming to the fore in 21st century Britain. There are changes in social habits; the aforementioned taming of aggression and violence, the rationalisation of and psychologisation of society’s people.
As society progresses, people react in different ways to its modernisation. “The real life challenges posed by modernity for individuals produce a range of reactions from fear and anguish to boredom and frustration” (Smith 2001: 6). Most learn to adapt to the modernity of society, however some lag behind and therein the transition between what was acceptable before, and what is presently acceptable occasionally thickens.
In layman’s terms the ‘civilising process’ surrounds the act of people becoming more civil. However, a more in depth view is given by Elias, as he explores the attitudes and interrelations of people. There are also underlying issues such as social exclusion, and what Elias referred to as de-civilisation. “In societies such as Britain, it is not only gender but class and race as well which induce such a sense of exclusion and subordination” (Dunning 1999: 236). Elias’ thoughts on de-civilisation and the continuance of the civilising...