Discussing Civilisation and Informalisation: Criteriology

Cas Wouters, Stephen Mennell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Norbert Elias’s theory of civilising processes has been received only marginally in the USA, one of the obstacles being the absence of figurational or process studies of American society. In the first decade of this century this situation was changed by the publication of Stephen Mennell’s The American Civilizing Process (2007) and Cas Wouters’ Sex and Manners (2004) and Informalization (2007). By 2012, Randall Collins had reviewed the first and the third books in two essays (2009, 2011). His claims and criticism of civilising and informalisation theory are discussed in this paper by placing them in the context of the reception history of Elias’s work since the 1960s, when a first round of discussion centred on criteria to be used for determining the direction of civilising processes. A second round was in the 1990s, and in this paper we contribute to a new round by presenting a summary of earlier critical discussions in an attempt to establish a more solid and subtler body of criteria for studying civilising processes. We use this in critically discussing Collins’s contributions, linking them to symbolic interactionism, American National Ideology, and blind spots in American sociology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-579
Number of pages46
JournalPolitica y Sociedad
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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