The Civilizing Process by Norbert Elias

Topics: Sociology, Society, Middle Ages Pages: 3 (823 words) Published: February 25, 2001
Summary: The Civilizing Process by Norbert Elias

Social scientist, Norbert Elias, examines in part two of his book, The Civilizing Process, the development of manners and the subsequent ‘civilizing' of Western Europe since the middle ages. This journey in time is an attempt to understand what actually happened to humanity during several transitional periods. Elias perceives the development of western civilization in three historical stages. (From the middle ages with a progression to the renaissance (extended to 1750) and finally to modern day society) Each society of the three stages had it's own standards of behavior, which influenced the individual to act in a certain "accepted" way. A correlation was also found between the sudden appearance of words in a language and the transitional periods between each historical stage of the civilizing process. Meaning, as people change and grow, so to does society. In essence, Elias is speaking of the maturity of a people. The usage of the word courtoisis acquired its meaning from Western society during the middle ages. This concept gradually diminish in the upper class, while civilite' grew more widespread in France during the Renaissance. The concept of civilite was an expression and a symbol of a social formation, which was embraced by most nations. Civilite owes its specific meaning to a short treatise by Erasmus of Rotterdam, (On civility in boys), which became socially accepted in 1530. Erasmus provided a fresh sharpness and momentum to the long established and commonplace word civilitas. Finally the concept of civilization expressed an entirely new form of self-consciousness, more polite and restrained then all-previous concepts. Each concept addressed a specific society at a given time. One must keep in mind that "the process of the civilizing of speech may serve as a reminder that the observation of manners and their transformation exposes to view only a very simple and easily accessible segment of a much...
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