Process sociology and international relations

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15 Citations (SciVal)


Norbert Elias was unusual amongst sociologists of his generation in placing international relations at the centre of sociological analysis – and he was ahead of various theorists of the state who argued in the 1970s and 1980s for enlarging the boundaries of sociology to include relations between states. In Elias's process sociology, international competition for power and security, and ‘elimination struggles’, have led to larger territorial monopolies of power. In the case of ‘civilized’ societies, inner pacification has developed alongside preparation for, and repeated involvement in, interstate war. Elias argued that there is no parallel to the ‘civilizing process’ in international relations, but he observed that higher levels of human interconnectedness have created pressures on people to become better attuned to each other's interests over greater distances. However, many groups react against perceived threats to power, autonomy and prestige and, in general, everyday orientations have lagged behind advances in international interdependence. For Elias, the sociological challenge was to understand how the species can acquire greater control over the processes of global integration. This paper discusses the place of international relations in Elias's account of the civilizing process; it maintains that the approach should be linked more closely with the ‘English School of international relations’ and its analysis of ‘civility’ and ‘standards of civilization’ in world affairs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-64
Number of pages17
JournalSociological Review
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


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