Stephen Mennell

Stephen Mennell
University College Dublin | UCD · School of Sociology

MA LittD DrSocSc

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133
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Introduction
Stephen Mennell is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at University College Dublin (which is the largest university in the confederal National University of Ireland). Stephen does research in Sociological Theory and Historical Sociology. His major books include All Manners of Food (1985) and The American Civilizing Process (2007). He has been a major champion of the work of Norbert Elias, and is currently writing on Elias and international relations.
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Publications

Publications (133)
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The chapter provides an overview of the development of historical sociology as a sociological subdiscipline. The authors argue that over the decades of institutionalization of sociology as an academic discipline, historical imagination was gradually forsaken in many if not all sociological traditions, and the revival of historical sociology in the...
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The second FQS thematic issue on "The Refiguration of Spaces and Cross-Cultural Comparison" differs from the first as follows: 1. it covers a wider range of disciplines, 2. authors emphasize more strongly the spatial instead of the temporal aspects of the refiguration of spaces, and 3. focus is placed on researchers' practices of comparison rather...
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The title of this chapter does not refer to the short-term and party-political implications of the sociology inspired by Norbert Elias, but something broader and longer-term in perspective. It explores the implication of Elias’s game models (in What is Sociology?) for how the increasing complexity of interdependencies bears on his stated aim of ‘im...
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In most reflections on cross-cultural comparison, scholars assume that "cultures" can be relatively clearly demarcated spatially and that "space" itself is a given entity. However, theories such as the theory of refiguration of spaces have stressed both that it is important to deconstruct the category "space" itself and that social processes have b...
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‘Ultra-realism’ has become an influential current in criminology, especially in the study of violence and explanations of trends in violent crime. Ultra-realist writers frequently make use of Norbert Elias’s theory of civilizing processes, while also often expressing reservations about his ideas. In this article, we argue that ultra-realists tend t...
Research
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Johan (Joop) Goudsblom was Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam. He played an unparalleled part in promoting interest in the sociology of Norbert Elias, but was himself one of the world's most penetrating sociological minds.
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In Historical Social Research – ISSN 0172-6404 German title: »Macht, Individualismus und, die kollektive Selbstwahrnehmung in den USA«. Abstract: The thesis of this paper is that the key element in the shaping of the habitus of Americans has been their very long-term, virtually unbroken, experience of their country becoming more and more powerful...
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The four papers by Norbert Elias discovered by the editors in the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach (DLA), and published here for the first time with important commentaries, are all significant additions to the Elias canon. In this Conclusion, the General Editor of the 18-volume Collected Works of Norbert Elias discusses how they are related to the...
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From a European point of view, one of the most puzzling aspects of the contemporary USA is the large proportion of its citizens who assent to belief in the supernatural. In sociology, that has given rise to a debate about whether secularising Europe or the religious USA represents ‘normality’ and which is ‘exceptional’. In this essay, the work of N...
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Andrew Linklater’s projected trilogy of books for Cambridge University Press rests distinctively on the work of the sociologist Norbert Elias (1897–1990). Linklater is creating a powerful theoretical orientation for the field of International Relations by synthesising the ideas of Martin Wight and the ‘English School’ of IR with those of Elias. Tho...
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This chapter explores how what David Potter called “the American cult of equality and individualism” prevents Americans forming a realistic understanding of their society. In particular, individualism blocks the perception of grossly unequal power ratios. Drawing upon the work of Charles Perrow, the chapter discusses the growth in the United States...
Research
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A brief intellectual autobiography, delivered at the conference "Social Character and Historical Process: in honour of Stephen Mennell, Dublin, 7-8 January 2016
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The concept of ‘national character’ needs to be used, if at all, with great caution, although its history is of some interest. Discussions of the topic can be traced back at least as far as the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville. The concept was particularly current in the work of anthropologists of the ‘culture and personality’ school, and in the e...
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This article contains a brief biography of the British cultural historian Peter Burke, and an outline of his very diverse and extensive publications, which focus principally on early modern Europe but sometimes stray backward to the late Middle Ages and forward into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Burke is especially well known among social...
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The theory of civilizing processes originated in the writings of Norbert Elias (1897–1990) and has been considerably developed by “figurational process sociologists” in the research tradition following in his footsteps. The concept of civilizing processes is widely misunderstood in sociology today. In this entry we explain the technical and actual...
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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...
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This paper is essentially a study in the sociology of science. In the natural sciences certainly, but also in the social sciences, the work of even very prominent researchers is often forgotten after their death. This has not happened in the case of Norbert Elias, whose influence has tended rather to increase since his death in 1990. For a school o...
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America’s power position in the world – although less unchallenged than it once was, or perhaps because of that – has made it especially susceptible to hypocrisy and collective self-delusion, to what the Greeks called hubris; this continues to lead its foreign policy into unanticipated disasters. The syndrome is discussed with special reference to...
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What is widely known as 'figurational sociology', or alternatively 'process sociology', is the research tradition stemming from the writings of Norbert Elias. The tradition extends beyond sociology to historians and many other branches of the social sciences. Elias's Collected Works run to 18 volumes, but the bedrock of his oeuvre is his early stud...
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‘Civilising processes’, in Elias’s technical or ‘etic’ sense, are long-term, intergenerational, unplanned and unintended processes, involving changes in the balance of the typical social habitus. Paradoxically, ‘civilising offensives’ are in contrast planned, organised and intended. At first glance, they seem to belong to Part One of On the Process...
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The article presents a figurational sociological perspective on the recent history of the discipline of economics in the wake of the global financial crisis or 'Great Recession' that began in 2007-8. It is argued that the orthodox mainstream of economics has provided ideological cover for abstract individualism, for short-term greed, and for the de...
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In his essay ‘The internationalization of capital and trends in income inequality in western societies’ (in Don Kalb, et al., eds. The Ends of Globalization, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000, pp. 187–200) contended that the decrease in socio-economic inequality in Western societies during the larger part of the twentieth century was connected...
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This chapter has a tangential connection with Jack Goody. Our first contact came back in about 1981. As a still relatively junior academic at the University of Exeter, I had been working for a couple of years on the book that became All Manners of Food (Mennell [1985] 1996) when to my alarm I saw an advance announcement from Cambridge University Pr...
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This paper expresses some reservations about the notion of “cultural policy” as the term has been used in international discussions over the last decade. Especially when it is linked with the over-general objective of “cultural democracy”, it is difficult to view the cultural domain as a sphere of policy separate from many other fields of public po...
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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...
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This text is freely available online at http://quod.lib.umich.edu/h/humfig/11217607.0001
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This collection of essays is designed to show how the various concepts of Norbert Elias's writings fit together in an overall vision for sociology, and how this has come to inspire the wide-ranging and interdisciplinary research tradition of ‘figurational’ sociology. In this introduction, we focus on a somewhat neglected aspect of Elias's work, the...
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Norbert Elias's The Civilizing Process, which was published in German in 1939 and first translated into English in two volumes in 1978 and 1982, is now widely regarded as one of the great works of twentieth-century sociology. This work attempted to explain how Europeans came to think of themselves as more “civilized” than their forebears and neighb...
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The United States is a land of familiar paradoxes. An agreeable civility habitually prevails in most everyday relations among people in America (yet the United States is factually a socially highly unequal society). In most parts of the country, the laws and social customs strongly restrain people from doing harm to themselves and others by smoking...
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A partir d’une experience clinique d’intervenant en institutions specialisees confrontees a des adolescents violents, je tente de proposer un systeme d’intelligibilite aux reverberations et aux bouclages interactifs que ces sujets suscitent. Dans cette perspective, je developpe les trois propositions suivantes : – ces sujets utilisent le site insti...
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Although I have taught joint courses with historians, 2 I have usually had to exist in a sealed container labelled »sociology«. At my present uni-versity, the very mention of the word historiography by a sociologist is enough to send the historians screaming for the exit door. Looking back, I think all along I have been a historian manqué. That has...
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Partly through autobiographical reflection on his own intellectual development as a historical sociologist and sociological theorist, the author stresses both the need for theory in the writing of history and the necessity of avoiding the wrong – unhelpful – kind of theory. As a one-time student of Talcott Parsons, he recognised the danger posed by...
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In recent years, Sir Jack Goody has published a series of essays (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006: 154—79) criticizing Norbert Elias’s theory of ‘civilizing processes’. In all of them, Goody — himself a West African specialist — makes clear that his disagreement with Elias dates back to their acquaintance in Ghana. The date is highly significant for it is u...
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The claim to a nation's `exceptionalism' can only be assessed in relation to a specific theory. This article discusses the history of the USA in the light of Norbert Elias's theory of civilizing (and decivilizing) processes. Although, unlike many Western European countries, the USA never had a single monopoly `model-setting elite' and had no nobili...
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Elias’s 19814. Elias , N. 1981 . Macht un zivilisation . Sterz: Unabhängige Zeitschrift für Literatur, Kunst und Kulturpolitik (und alles was Spaβ macht) , 19 (4) : 26 – 27 . View all references lecture on ‘Power and Civilisation’ is introduced by Stephen Mennell, who places it in context by providing relevant biographical information and situating...
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This essay challenges various myths about the USA: ‘American exceptionalism’, and the assumption that the USA is both predominantly European in character and a general force for good in the world. Using Norbert Elias’s theory of civilising processes, it examines what is distinctive about American manners, violence in the USA, and state formation pr...
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IntroductionLife and TimesIntellectual Context and InfluencesReading EliasThe Sociological ImperativeThe Principal WorksLater ExtensionsPrinciples of Process SociologySummary and EvaluationBibliography
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THE USE OF OFFICIAL STATISTICS IN SOCIOLOGY, by Barry HindessUNDERSTANDING EVERYDAY LIFE, edited by Jack D. DouglasETHNOMETHODOLOGY, edited by Roy TurnerON THE BEGINNING OF SOCIAL INQUIRY by P. McHugh, S. Raffel, D. C. Foss and A. F. Blum
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Eric Dunning and Norbert Elias were both keen sportsmen from their respective youths, but it was their meeting at the University of Leicester that arguably turned both of them into sociologists of sport. This essay recounts the beginning of their contributions to the field, stressing the indissoluble links between their writings on sport, the theor...
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Norbert Elias (1897–1990) achieved international recognition as a major sociologist only towards the end of his long life. As a German Jewish refugee in England, he did not even gain a secure academic post (at the University of Leicester) until he was 57. Apart from his magnum opus, Über den Prozess der Zivilisation [The Civilizing Process], which...
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‘America’, said Alexis de Tocqueville in 1840, ‘is … the one country in the world where the precepts of Descartes are least studied and most followed’ (2000: 403). In their common assumptions Americans sought ‘to escape … from the yoke of habits, from family maxims, from class opinions, and, up to a certain point, from national prejudices; to take...
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This paper deals with aspects of the work of Elias: how he dealt with the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust, and how they fit into the general context of his theory of 'civilizing processes'. In response to critics such as Bauman and Burkitt, we seek to clarify what Elias argued in his theory; and to show how, particularly in his book on The Germans...
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It is a great tribute to the late Norbert Elias that Hans-Peter Duerr has embarked upon a four-volume critique, Der Mythos vom Zivilisationsprozess , of Elias's original two volumes of The Civilizing Process (recently reissued in a single-volume edition). Duerr's volumes may initiate a major intellectual debate and thus lead to the wider recognitio...
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The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
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In the written version of his inaugural lecture as Professor of Sociology at University College, Dublin, the author emphasises that despite the direct or indirect connection of most sociological concerns with questions intrinsic to civil society, contemporary ‘meliorist’ sociology in the West takes the existence of a relatively peaceful civil socie...
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This paper reports the findings of research into attitudes towards Europe, European identity and European integration prevailing among United Kingdom intellectuals. Using a sample of representative academics from a typical British university, the researchers discovered a strong sense of European identity and a widespread belief in the need for furt...
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Introduction - significance and theoretical orientations the development of culinary cultures ethnological food research nutritional trends beliefs and practices about food and health - the lay perspective eating disorders patterns of food consumption shortage and plenty food technology and its impact the impact on food of colonialism and migration...

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