Civilizing and Decivilizing Processes

Civilizing and Decivilizing Processes:
Figurational Approaches to American Culture



Edited by

Christa Buschendorf, Astrid Franke
and Johannes Voelz


















Civilizing and Decivilizing Processes:
Figurational Approaches to American Culture,
Edited by Christa Buschendorf, Astrid Franke and Johannes Voelz

This book first published 2011

Cambridge Scholars Publishing

12 Back Chapman Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2XX, UK


British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
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Copyright © 2011 by Christa Buschendorf, Astrid Franke and Johannes Voelz and contributors

All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,
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ISBN (10): 1-4438-2728-2, ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-2728-7


v
TABLE OF CONTENTS



Acknowledgments ................................................................................. vii


Christa Buschendorf, Astrid Franke, and Johannes Voelz
Introduction ............................................................................................. 1


I. American Civilizing Processes: Sociohistorical Perspectives

Stephen Mennell
The American Civilizing Process:
A Skeptical Sketch ................................................................................ 17

Mary O. Furner
Ideas, Interdependencies, Governance Structures,
and National Political Cultures: Norbert Elias`s
Work as a Window on United States History ........................................ 35

Astrid Franke
Drinking and Democracy in the Early Republic .................................... 63

Ruxandra Rădulescu
'Making Us Be Like Wasichus¨:
The Civilizing Process in Nineteenth-Century
Indian Boarding Schools ....................................................................... 87


II. Challenges to the Civilizing Process

Rachel Hope Cleves
'Savage Barbarities!¨: Slavery, Race, and
the Uncivilizing Process in the United States ...................................... 103

Johannes Voelz
Regeneration and Barbarity:
Dred and the Violence of the Civilizing Process ................................. 123
Table of Contents


vi
Loïc Wacquant
Decivilizing and Demonizing:
The Remaking of the Black American Ghetto ..................................... 149


III. Civilizing Projects?
Approaching Literature with the Tools of Relational Sociology

Kirsten Twelbeck
The New Rules of the Democratic Game:
Emancipation, Self-Regulation, and the
'Second Founding¨ of the United States ............................................. 175

Günter Leypoldt
Emerson and the Romantic Literary Field ........................................... 209

Christa Buschendorf
Narrated Power Relations: Jesse Hill Ford`s
Novel The Liberation of Lord Byron Jones ......................................... 227


IV. Informalization

Cas Wouters
Status Competition and the
Development of an American Habitus ................................................. 263

Jesse F. Battan
'De-Civilizing¨ Sexuality?
Intimacy, Erotic Life and Social Change
in Modern America .............................................................................. 287

Winfried Fluck
Multiple Identities and the New Habitus:
Figurational Sociology and American Studies .................................... 305


Contributors ......................................................................................... 331
vii
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
This book grew out of a conference held at Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt
am Main, in 2007. Then as now, our aim has been to instigate an in-depth
scholarly exchange on what American Studies can gain from taking up the
theories of figurational and relational sociology. We thank all of the
contributors whose essays have emerged from their talks at the conference
for their revisions and expansions. To those contributors who did not
participate in the conference we are grateful for having shaped their essays
as interventions in our collective debate.
We would like to thank Nicola Nowak for her indispensable and
indefatigable editorial assistance during each stage of preparing the
manuscript. Managing this book, she had to manage the co-editors: a task
that required no less than heroic efforts. We also want to thank Nicole
Lindenberg, who joined the team in the final production phase, for her
meticulous help in moving around periods and commas, and reading proofs.
At Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Carol Koulikourdi, Amanda Millar, and
Soucin Yip-Sou helped to get this publication speedily into print.
We have proIited Irom Tobias Scholz`s ideas Ior the cover design. To
Corinne May Botz we are grateful for permitting us to reproduce on our
cover her photograph 'Void¨ Irom her series 'Parameters¨ (2006). Her
other works can be seen at http://www.corinnebotz.com.
A different version of Loïc Wacquant`s article 'Decivilizing and
Demonizing: The Remaking oI the Black American Ghetto¨ previously
appeared in The Sociology of Norbert Elias, edited by Steven Loyal and
Stephen Quilley, 2004. Copyright Cambridge University Press 2004,
reproduced with permission.
Christa Buschendorf, Astrid Franke, and Johannes Voelz
Frankfurt am Main, December 2010
1
CHRISTA BUSCHENDORF, ASTRID FRANKE,
AND JOHANNES VOELZ
Introduction
The articles collected in this volume explore the theoretical framework of
figurational or relational sociology as represented by Norbert Elias and
Pierre Bourdieu with regard to its relevance to American history, culture,
and literature. The theoretical concepts developed by the two sociologists
have received very little attention in the discipline of American Studies.
Nor has the partial congruence of their basic concepts and methodological
approaches been adequately analyzed and fructified.
As the title suggests, the emphasis of this collection of essays is on
Elias`s theory oI the 'civilizing process¨ and the question in how Iar his
study of the European process of state formation and the correlative
psycho-social changes is relevant to the analysis of the development of the
American nation state and the habitus of Americans. It is important to
understand that in contrast to the normative connotation oI 'civilization,¨
Elias established a technical meaning of the civilizing process. It refers, in
the concise summary by Loïc Wacquant, to 'the long-term transformation
of interpersonal relations, tastes, modes of behavior, and knowledge that
accompanies the formation of a unified state capable of monopolizing
physical violence over the whole of its territory and thus of progressively
paciIying society¨ (Wacquant, in this volume 151). The changes Elias
observed in social relations from twelfth-century feudalism to the
absolutist French court are based on the increasing division of labor and
differentiation of functions which in turn resulted in increasing inter-
actions among individuals or, in Elias`s term, in a 'lengthening oI the
chains oI interdependence.¨ These transIormations on the level of social
structure (sociogenesis) are interrelated to changes on the level of
personality, i.e., modifications in the psychological make-up of individuals
(psychogenesis). In general, the latter are characterized by a shift from
external constraints to self-restraint in managing emotions and desires. A
gradual elevation of the threshold of shame leads to alterations in manners.
Thus, for example, body functions are more and more banned from public
space, and extremes of the swings of the emotional pendulum are slowly
Christa Buschendorf, Astrid Franke, and Johannes Voelz 2
replaced by 'a more continuous, stable and even regulation oI drives and
aIIects in all areas oI conduct¨ (Elias, Civilizing Process 374).
U.S. society and culture seem to be a particularly apt field for further
exploring and developing the theory of civilizing and decivilizing
processes, because it opens up to scholars a new way of addressing the old
but never really disappearing question oI the United States` peculiar
characteristics, beyond the parameters set by an ideology oI 'American
exceptionalism.¨ On the one hand, one may ask to what extent an approach
developed through the examination of elites and institutions may have
something to say about a society whose self-image emphasizes democratic
egalitarianism. On the other hand, American history provides us with
various instances where the civilizing process deviates from the European
pattern. According to Elias, the most significant difference is that in the
USA the state monopoly of physical violence was not as firmly established
as in most European states, since 'a white male majority . participated
without clearly distinct organisation in whatever emerged, in the course of
time, as the state monopoly oI physical power¨ (Elias, 'Further Aspects¨
222). What one may regard as a minor factor has in fact major conse-
quences both for the shaping of the national habitus (especially with regard
to violence and the inclination to take the law into one`s own hands) and
the stark power differential between whites and minorities (particularly
black slaves and their descendants who were largely excluded from
participating in the emerging state monopoly of power as well as from the
protections guaranteed by that very monopoly). Moreover, compared to the
Northeast, southern plantations and the frontier were characterized by a
lesser degree of functional differentiation, shorter chains of interde-
pendence, a less firmly erected state monopoly of power, and, consequently
and most conspicuously, a higher level of violence. As the editors of The
Germans point out, 'Elias recognized clearly that civilizing and
decivilizing processes can occur simultaneously in particular societies, and
not simply in the same or diIIerent societies at diIIerent points in time¨
(Elias, Germans xv). In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, it is the
black ghetto that has undergone a decivilizing phase due to which it has
turned into a highly dangerous, depacified space, in which fear and
violence dominate everyday liIe (see Wacquant`s essay in this volume).
One of the reasons why the theoretical approach by Elias lends itself to
cultural and literary studies has to do with its long-term historical
perspective in combination with its emphasis on cultural practices
connected to (table) manners, gender relations, sports, ageing and dying,
and time management. Moreover, the concept of correlating changes in the
social order with transformations of the patterns of personality structure
Introduction 3
allows the cultural historian to connect macro- and micro-level processes
usually kept apart. Thus one can prove that in correlation with the process
of state formation, the shaping of the American habitus also shows
patterns deviating from European models. In contrast to England, for
example, where a unified good society protects itself from intrusion by
rather strict gate-keeping rules, there are several competing good societies
in the U.S. and, as a consequence, much less regulated social mobility and
boundary-maintenance. The high levels of social competition between a
great number of ethnically different groups that cause feelings of in-
security and anxiety is related then to the seemingly paradoxical
combination of the habit of friendliness and a tradition of violence (see
Wouters`s contribution in this volume).
If indeed the concepts of figurational sociology offer a promising new
approach to American cultural history, why then have they been largely
ignored? A major impediment in the reception oI Elias`s concept oI the
civilizing process has been the term itself. The everyday meaning of
'civilized¨ has come to imply the alleged superiority oI western civilization
vis-à-vis so-called 'primitive¨ peoples, a notion widely used by colonizing
nations to ascertain white supremacy. Thus when Elias distinguishes
between different levels of the civilizing process, it seems to be difficult
even for scholars to consider such a statement as non-normative.
With his insistence on the interrelation between sociogenesis and
psychogenesis, Elias overcomes the antinomies of macro- versus micro-
analysis or structure versus agency that have come to dominate the
discipline of sociology. In order to surmount the false opposition between
society and individual, he coined the term 'Iiguration¨ which he deIined as
'network of interdependencies among human beings ..., a structure of
mutually oriented and dependent people¨ (Elias, Civilizing Process 481-
482). Elias`s concept oI interdependent human Iigurations which he
discusses, for example, in his book The Society of Individuals links his
social theorizing to Bourdieu`s 'thoroughgoing relationalism which grasps
both objective and subjective reality in the form of mutually
interpenetrating systems of relations. All three of his core theoretical
notions habitus, capital, and field are designed to capture the
fundamentally recursive and relational nature oI social liIe¨ (Wacquant,
'Bourdieu in America¨ 320). According to Wacquant, it is the very
relational character oI Bourdieu`s method which has led to a truncated
reception oI his work especially in the United States: 'Thus the first move
oI American scholars is oIten to try to read Bourdieu`s sociology into the
dualistic alternatives micro/macro, agency/structure, interpretive/posi-
tivist, structuralist/individualist, normative/rational, function/conflict, and
Christa Buschendorf, Astrid Franke, and Johannes Voelz 4
so forth that structure their national disciplinary space ., however ill
suited these alternatives might be to apprehending the conceptual economy
oI Bourdieu`s sociology¨ (324). The same is true Ior Elias. The publication
of The Civilizing Process in two volumes with the misleading titles of The
History of Manners and Power and Civility annihilates the essential
systematic idea of the interrelation of psychogenesis and sociogenesis.
Accordingly, most oI the studies inspired by Elias`s concept oI the
'civilizing process¨ concentrated on the history oI American manners,
while the interrelation between state formation process and the shaping of
national habitus was largely neglected.
In addition, both Elias and Bourdieu have suffered from a fragmented
reception that focuses on a small selection of publications and a limited
number of concepts ignoring the conceptual framework put forth in their
theoretical writings. The neglect of these theoretical texts (e.g. Bourdieu,
Outline of a Theory of Practice and The Logic of Practice, and Elias, What
is Sociology?; The Society of Individuals; Involvement and Detachment)
prevents the reading of the empirical studies in the light of theory and thus
contributes to the disregard oI the systematic character oI the sociologists`
work (cI. Wacquant, 'Bourdieu in America¨ 240). Another Iactor that has
hindered an integrative view of their approach is the fact that both
developed and constantly modified their methodological and theoretical
reflections on the basis of new empirical evidence. Moreover, both gained
this evidence in a great variety of field studies that cover a broad range of
topics and are situated in several disciplines. In both cases, the effect is not
just that their work has been read only in part but, more importantly, that a
core issue central to both theories power relations has been
overlooked. As Cas Wouters points out, Elias 'had planned to expand his
established-outsider theory into an encompassing theory of power
relations¨ (Wouters, in Elias and Scotson, Established and Outsiders xiii).
Yet, as much as we might have proIited Irom such a study, Elias`s work as
it stands provides us with highly pertinent reflections on power relations.
In fact, competition and power struggles between interdependent groups
drive the civilizing process as much as they determine the social figuration
investigated in Established and Outsiders or the habitus of the Germans
Elias analyzed in The Germans: Power Struggles and the Development of
Habitus in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. As to Bourdieu, the
scientific community has only fairly recently realized the importance of
his concept oI 'symbolic power¨ which allows Ior recognizing and
conceptualizing inconspicuous forms of domination and structures of
inequality prevalent in our times.
Introduction 5
The notion shared by both sociologists that the individual is not 'a selI-
contained unit a homo clausus¨ (Elias, 'Towards a Theory¨ 26-27; cf.
Elias, Civilizing Process 471-474) but is shaped by group processes, or, in
Bourdieu`s terms, that habitus is both structured by the social forces as
well as structuring social practice, frequently evoked the critique of a
deterministic world view (cI. Guillory, 'Bourdieu`s ReIusal;¨ Holton,
'Bourdieu and Common Sense¨ 89). But while Bourdieu indeed insisted
on the 'hysteresis,¨ i.e., the inertia oI the individual habitus, he also
claimed that it can change under the pressure of crisis or cross-cultural
contact (see Holton 90). And while Elias maintained that there was a
structural regularity underlying the civilizing process, he strongly empha-
sized its principal reversibility. After all, as a German Jew who was forced
to emigrate, Elias suffered his whole life from the consequences of this
severe reversal of the civilizing process of a whole nation or, in his words,
the 'barbarization¨ oI German society (cI. Elias, Germans 302-304). It is
evident then that neither the civilizing process nor power relations between
interdependent groups, be they power struggles between established and
outsiders, males and Iemales (as analyzed in Bourdieu`s Masculine
Domination), or the working class and the bourgeoisie, can be considered
as predetermined. On the contrary, according to Bourdieu and Elias, they
are part of highly complex long-term processes. But even if relational
thinking is not misconstrued as determinism, it is still opposed to the
American ideal of individualism by denying the high degree of autonomy
which the American notion of personal freedom grants the individual.
Consequently, approaching cultural and literary phenomena from the
perspective of figurational sociology provides a corrective to the ideology
of individualism.
At the same time, this approach also raises the more general question of
the methodological benefits of reading cultural practices and literary works
by making use of sociological concepts. Again, we would claim that both
Bourdieu`s and Elias`s theories lend themselves particularly well to cultural
and literary studies. Not only were both of them cultural sociologists, but,
what is more, they repeatedly and deliberately drew on works of fiction in
their sociological investigations. Elias claimed, Ior example, that 'used
critically, novels can help to reconstruct a past society and its power
structure Ior us¨ (Elias, Germans 47). Bourdieu read Virginia WoolI`s
novel To the Lighthouse in order 'to analyze, in its contradictions, the
masculine experience oI domination,¨ and admired her 'incomparably lucid
evocation oI the Iemale gaze¨ (Masculine Domination 69). Similar to the
Iieldworker`s ethnographic observations oI people`s dispositions and
practices, the novel emphasizes the viewpoints of social agents; in fact,
Christa Buschendorf, Astrid Franke, and Johannes Voelz 6
novels usually provide a much more extensive and multifaceted pres-
entation of human experience than any fieldwork could offer (for further
methodological considerations on reading literature by utilizing socio-
logical concepts, see BuschendorI`s contribution in this volume).
Both sociologists also dealt with the question of the cultural function of
literature. One of the driving forces of the civilizing process is, according to
Elias, the division of labor and the differentiation of functions that create
ever lengthening chains of interdependence and growing networks of
human interaction. On the level of psychogenesis, this increases both
mutual consideration and the control of affects. As a result, inter-personal
conflicts are transformed into internal tensions. Consequently, in the course
of the civilizing process the emotional pendulum swings more moderately,
and the individual looks for compensation in the fictive worlds of dreams
and the arts (cf. Elias, Civilizing Process 375). If in addition we take into
account the increasing differentiation of the literary markets and, taking our
cue Irom Bourdieu`s theory, consider the growing autonomy of the literary
field, the question of the function of literature in society becomes more
complex. Most of the literary studies based on Bourdieu have focused on
his field theory, which is, indeed, an extremely valuable instrument for
analyzing the position of an author or a literary movement within the
cultural production of a given period and its relation to the fields of power
(see Leypoldt`s contribution to this volume). Combining Bourdieu`s Iield
theory with Elias`s theory oI the civilizing process, it is interesting to
observe that artists who defend the autonomy of the field of cultural
production will propagate an ideal of art characterized by the emphasis on
formal control and aesthetic expertise. This ideal is achieved in a process of
aesthetic production (and reception) that is dominated by distance and
sublimation rather than emotional involvement. In other words, the
imperatives of the autonomy of the literary field are analogous to the forces
directing the civilizing process.
Another question that was raised by critics of the theory of the
civilizing process and Eliasian scholars alike pertains to the direction of
social and psychic processes beyond the nineteenth century. Is Elias`s
theory able to account for the extensive changes in the regime of manners
and control of emotions in the twentieth century? What can it contribute to
the analysis of the much more relaxed and diverse behavior observable in
the present? Does the overall tendency of a decreasing hierarchical
distance between different status groups and a lessening of formal
behavior suggest a reversal oI the civilizing process? Drawing on Elias`s
supposition oI a 'controlled decontrolling,¨ Cas Wouters developed the
concept oI 'a twentieth-century spiral process of informalization,¨ a
Introduction 7
'theory oI Iormalization and inIormalization as phases in processes oI
social and psychic integration¨ (Wouters, Informalization 6, 226-237).
Like the theory of the civilizing process, the concept of informalization
can be deployed to characterize typical American regimes of manners and
emotions and, thus, allows Ior describing American 'exceptionalism¨
without any norm-setting implications.
* * *
Most of the papers of this volume go back to an international conference
which took place at Goethe Universität in Frankfurt am Main in November
2007 that brought together sociologists, historians as well as cultural and
literary scholars to discuss 'Civilizing and Decivilizing Processes: A
Figurational Approach to American Studies.¨ The volume tries to cover
the broad range of as yet unexplored possibilities of the approach by
considering examples of sociohistorical perspectives on the American
civilizing process (Section I), challenges to the civilizing process
(Section II), interpretations of literary works using the tools of relational
sociology (Section III), and, finally, questions related to the trend of
informalization (Section IV).
The first of the four sections of the collection takes up the major
question oI the applicability oI Elias`s theory of the civilizing process to
the development oI the United States. Stephen Mennell`s book The
American Civilizing Process (2007) which investigates the American
counterpart to the European process, had just been published when we
convened for the conference. In the essay printed here, Mennell focuses on
a few central aspects of the differences in the development of the
American habitus and nation state. Regarding habitus, he contrasts the
American competition between several model-setting elites with the
monopoly status of the nobility in Europe. More particularly, he
juxtaposes the educated and mercantile class of New England with the
slaveholding 'aristocracy¨ oI the southern states with its prominent code
of honor enforced by the practice of the duel. Mennell also points to the
significance of the marketplace in shaping American manners and the
increasing pressure it exerts on people. Furthermore, he addresses what
most people consider a major Iactor oI American 'exceptionalism,¨
namely the level of violence in the United States. Compared to Europe, the
rate of homicides in the U.S. is significantly higher, and within the U.S. it
is significantly higher in the South and in parts of the West. The fourth
aspect Mennell discusses is the state formation process and the specific
Christa Buschendorf, Astrid Franke, and Johannes Voelz 8
conditions under which the American acquisition of new territories and the
monopolization of the legitimate use of force took place.
Since it seems to be important to position Elias`s approach within the
discipline of historiography and thereby reflect upon the principal
limitations of the concept of the civilizing process, we asked Mary Furner,
a specialist on American social thought and intellectual history, to offer an
assessment of Elias from the point of view of her discipline. Furner
juxtaposes a brieI summary oI Elias`s main arguments with intellectual
and social historians` accounts oI several phases oI American history,
particularly oI the nation`s Iounding. These various moments in U.S.
history are characterized by complex negotiations between various social
groups; the debates about the constitution are a telling example of how
conscious deliberation led to political decisions. Furner underlines how the
historian`s view oI these developments diIIers Irom an Eliasian
perspective, while also indicating how intellectual history could profit
Irom Elias`s concepts. As she suggests near the end oI her essay,
'historians oI manners and culture already plow Eliasian ground, whether
consciously so or not¨ (Furner, in this volume 57). This pertains
particularly to historical studies of the body and of the plasticity of
identity. And perhaps Elias also holds a clue for understanding the fact
that some segments within the contemporary public 'seem utterly ir-
rational, without foundation, senseless, to other segments¨ (57).
In her essay 'Drinking and Democracy in the Early Republic,¨ Astrid
Franke links the concern with individual alcohol consumption and thus
with citizens` capability oI selI-restraint to political anxieties about the
stability of the process of state formation. American debates on
drunkenness differ significantly from European ones. Drawing on Cas
Wouters, Franke argues that due to a lack of firmly erected class barriers
Americans displayed a high degree of status anxiety which in turn led to a
strong desire for self-control. There was 'an anxious awareness oI the
decivilizing forces tied to slavery and westward expansion in the early
republic, and the well-founded fear that these decivilizing tendencies do not
only undermine the self-image of the young republic as a beacon of
civilization but may also cause its Iailure and collapse¨ (Franke, in this
volume 64-65). Exploring the relation between state formation and habitus
in her discussion of temperance as a democratic virtue, Franke underlines
the cultural rather than sociological dimensions of the phenomena, and
while drawing on Benjamin Rush`s tracts and sermons on alcohol,
education, and society, she also interprets poems by Philip Freneau. The
latter show that the moderation Freneau propagates as a concerned patriot is
incommensurate with the ardor of poetic expression. As Franke points out,
Introduction 9
there is a great advantage in aesthetic experience. In its attempt to
understand the social world, it Iorms a unit oI 'aIIect and cognition¨ (66)
that sociological analysis cannot provide.
By juxtaposing the nineteenth-century boarding school efforts to turn
Native Americans into 'civilized¨ American citizens with Elias`s concept oI
the civilizing process and his understanding of established-outsider relations,
Ruxandra Rӽdulescu discusses major reasons Ior the necessary Iailure oI this
ambitious civilizing project. In Eliasian terms, the white educators,
advocates of the Victorian progress theory, interfere with the unplanned
civilizing process by founding their educational efforts on a planned
repressive training that attempts to cut short a long-term development and, in
addition, molds the natives according to white standards of civilized
behavior. Moreover, while the popular token of alleged success, namely the
photographs taken of Native American pupils before and after they had
undergone the disciplinary regime of boarding schools like Carlisle, were
convincing to white educators of the time, they show that the detribalized
Indians deprived of their indigenous culture and alien to the norms of
western civilization necessarily remained outsiders even when in outward
appearance they resembled modern American citizens.
While it is important to distinguish Elias`s concept oI the civilizing
process from historical and colloquial notions oI the 'civilized¨ as
opposed to the 'barbarous,¨ it is interesting to note that the (proto-)
theoretical and the common meaning frequently intersect in American
political discourse. As Rachel Hope Cleves argues in her article 'Savage
Barbarities!`: Slavery, Race and the Uncivilizing Process in the United
States,¨ there is a recurrent overlapping oI the two diIIerent denotations in
American debates. In American history, the 'uncivilizing discourse¨ gave
expression to the fear of the instability of the republic by articulating
proto-theorems that would later play a role in Elias`s theory oI the
civilizing process. For instance, after the American Revolution, the
bloodshed of the French Revolution moved American Anti-Jacobins to
appeal to citizens` aIIect control in order to keep what seemed to be
infectious violence from spreading in the United States. While originally
used in the service of a reactionary movement, the civilizing discourse,
with its twoIold reIerence to 'civilization,¨ was soon embedded in the
national disputes on race, e.g. when the slaveholders` violence against
African Americans became considered a threat to American civilization.
Whereas in her book The Reign of Terror in America (2009), Cleves
focuses on the connection between proslavery claims oI the 'barbarous¨
nature of Africans and antislavery arguments of the brutalization of the
nation through slavery, in this chapter she follows the uncivilizing
Christa Buschendorf, Astrid Franke, and Johannes Voelz 10
discourse throughout the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, de-
monstrating that advocates of minority rights repeatedly intertwined the
critique of violence committed against civilized Native Americans and
African Americans with the notion of the uncivilizing process, namely the
danger such lack of self-control poses to the stability of the nation-state.
Johannes Voelz`s article 'Regeneration and Barbarity: Dred and the
Violence oI the Civilizing Process¨ contributes to the section 'Challenges
to the Civilizing Process¨ by placing Harriet Beecher Stowe`s second anti-
slavery novel Dred in the radicalization of the sectional conflict of the
1850s. Voelz develops his analysis on two different levels. In his
interpretation oI Stowe`s narrative about an aborted slave insurrection, he
offers a detailed case study of what Rachel Hope Cleves calls the
'uncivilizing discourse.¨ Voelz emphasizes the novel`s ambivalent stance
towards violence that clearly transcends the author`s didactic message. It
is because violence is presented at once as a threat to order and a promise
of revolutionary emancipation that Voelz goes on to offer, on a second
level of analysis, an Eliasian interpretation of the role Dred played in the
build-up of tensions prior to the Civil War, which demanded of the parties
a rising willingness to turn violent against their civil enemies. It became
the function of fiction to provide the experience of violence in the
imagination and thus to help overcoming the discomfort most likely
connected to such an uncivilized impulse. Methodologically, Voelz
questions the adequacy oI interpreting the 'as-if-realities¨ oI narrative
fiction with the help of figurational sociology, and instead suggests to
apply a figurational approach for reconstructing the functions of literary
texts for the societies from which they emerged.
Loïc Wacquant`s previously published analysis oI the de-civilizing of
the African American ghetto since the 1960s is such a pertinent example
of an Eliasian approach that the editors of this volume decided to include a
revised version oI 'Decivilizing and Demonizing: The Remaking of the
Black American Ghetto¨ here. Apart Irom Wacquant`s detailed scrutiny oI
Elias`s concept oI the civilizing process, his approach to the interrelating
processes that turned the 'communal ghetto¨ into what he calls
'hyperghetto¨ oIIers a multiIaceted analysis oI interdependent Iactors that
accounts for psychogenetic as well as sociogenetic aspects of the radical
transformation the black ghetto has undergone in the past decades.
Wacquant follows Elias in stressing the role of the state in this dynamic.
As he points out, state retrenchment is partial: the welfare state is reduced
and increasingly replaced by the repressive components of the penal state
(cf. Wacquant, Punishing the Poor, 2009). According to Wacquant, the
decivilizing process is connected on a symbolic level to the demonizing of
Introduction 11
the black sub-proletariat that journalists, scholars and policy makers have
labeled 'underclass.¨ In contrast to a socio-historical perspective, this term
naturalizes the problem and thus tends to depoliticize it. As Wacquant
demonstrates, the processual and relational conception of his approach
allows us to go beyond simplifying monocausal models of explanation still
prevalent in both public and scientific discourses.
Like the period of the early republic, the postbellum years are a phase
of immense political and social turmoil. In the challenging process of
psychologically adjusting to the comprehensive reorganization of
American society, Reconstruction literature 'served the important function
of imaginary nation-building,¨ as Kirsten Twelbeck claims in her
contribution, 'The New Rules oI the Democratic Game: Emancipation,
Self-Regulation, and the Second Founding` oI the United States.¨
According to Twelbeck, the necessary adaptations to the dramatic changes
in social stratification involved the development of new modes of affect-
control whose negotiations in contemporary fiction she approaches with
Elias`s concepts. Twelbeck mainly Iocuses on two popular works oI the
1860s, which were first serialized before published as books: Louisa May
Alcott`s novella Hospital Sketches and Henry Ward Beecher`s novel
Norwood. As Twelbeck argues, the problem literary scholars encounter
when applying a theory describing long-term processes to fictive
constructions that render, as it were, but a static image, may be solved by
linking the 'Iictional stills` to the larger cultural transIormations¨
(Twelbeck, in this volume 181). Moreover, on the level of psychogenesis,
fictional texts more so than manners books allow the reader to become
acquainted with a broad range of ideas and emotions representative of a
changing American habitus in the turbulent post-war era.
Günter Leypoldt`s study oI 'Emerson and the Romantic Literary Field¨
reconstructs the major divisions of the nineteenth-century transatlantic field
oI Romanticism and speciIically examines the diIIiculties the 'Sage oI
Concord¨ encounters in conIronting the alternative between the peer-group-
based symbolic capital of the avant-garde writer and the commercial
success of the popular writer who enjoys the recognition of a broader
public. While many authors grapple with this dilemma in the process of
literary professionalization, it seems to be exacerbated in the case of
Emerson whose understanding of the role of the public intellectual involved
staying in touch with the 'common.¨ As Leypoldt shows, Romantic writers
draw on an ambivalent discourse of primitivism to depict both their
attachment to the common man and their detachment from the common
reader who, in analogy to the 'social cannibal¨ oI the French revolutionary
mob, is considered a 'savage.¨ According to this Romantic construct, the
Christa Buschendorf, Astrid Franke, and Johannes Voelz 12
crude taste of the primitive reader indulges in pleasures of stimulation
evoked by mere sensual effects, exaggerated forms and exciting subject-
matter. As Leypoldt concludes, it is this ambiguity of the primitive that
allows Emerson to criticize highbrow Iormalism and instead praise 'the
near, the low, the common,¨ while at the same time distancing himselI Irom
the primitive desires satisfied by mass products.
For political reasons independent of the dynamics of the field of
literary production (see Buschendorf, in this volume 231 note 13) the
1960s novel The Liberation of Lord Byron Jones by the southern author
Jesse Hill Ford has received very little scholarly attention. Christa
BuschendorI`s article 'Narrated Power Relations: Jesse Hill Ford`s Novel
The Liberation of Lord Byron Jones¨ highlights the sociological dimen-
sion of a narrative that with regard to plot might be called a melodramatic
thriller, and it demonstrates that Ford`s representation oI the social
conflicts in a small southern town at the beginning of the Civil Rights
movement gains precision and depth when approached with the
instruments of Elias`s theory oI established-outsider relations and
Bourdieu`s theory oI symbolic power. At the same time, BuschendorI`s
reading emphasizes that in addition to a sociological analysis, a literary
work is able to provide the agents` perspectives in vivid detail by means of
aesthetic techniques that guide and enhance the reader`s empathy.
'Habitus,¨ a concept used by both Elias and Bourdieu, 'ensures the active
presence oI past experiences¨ (Bourdieu, Logic of Practice 54) and thus is
a particularly apt category when it comes to understanding how an
institution of the past, e.g. slavery, shapes collective and individual
schemes of perceptions and actions in the present. Ford, endowed with the
writer`s giIt oI a sharp eye Ior the subtleties oI human interrelations,
expresses insights, such as the notion oI 'habitus,¨ in non-scientific
language.
On the basis of American, Dutch, English, and German manners books
Cas Wouters has studied the trend towards a seeming reversal of the
civilizing process, namely an informalization of manners since the late
nineteenth century (see Wouters, Sex and Manners, 2004; Informalization:
Manners and Emotions since 1890, 2007). In his contribution to this
volume, 'Status Competition and the Development oI an American
Habitus,¨ Wouters Iocuses on the interrelation of social stratification and
manners in the United States. In contrast to England, where a unified good
society protects itself from intrusion by rather strict gate-keeping rules,
there are several competing good societies in the U.S. Consequently, social
mobility and boundary-maintenance are much less regulated. By discussing
examples taken from American manners books and fiction, Wouters deals
Introduction 13
with changing rules of introduction or greeting, the increasing interest in
interracial etiquette, as well as expressions of high status competition. From
Wouters`s perspective, typical American types of behavior, as, for example,
'have-a-nice-day` manners,¨ or the 'take-it-easy` custom¨ (Wouters, in
this volume 279), serve as pacifying measures needed in a country with a
prominent 'tough-guy tradition.¨ Social competition between a great
number of ethnically different groups, which causes feelings of insecurity
and anxiety, is related then to the seemingly paradoxical combination of the
habit of friendliness and a tradition of violence. Finally, Wouters explores
the 'connection between American class-denial, death-denial and insecure
national we-identity¨ (283), which is linked, Ior example, to the prominent
role the death penalty plays in the U.S.
According to figurational sociology, the western civilizing process for
centuries was dominated by a trend of formalization, i.e., the tendency of
increasingly rigid regimes of manners and emotions. In contrast, a long-
term process of informalization, proceeding not in a linear fashion but in
repeated spurts or waves, has characterized the twentieth and twenty-first
centuries. This reversal has raised the question in what ways we may have
to reinterpret Elias`s theory. Jesse F. Battan explores this controversial
issue by analyzing various twentieth-century movements rallying Ior 'Iree
love.¨ These movements prove particularly conducive Ior investigating
changes in the emotions connected to love and sexuality. Battan`s essay
'De-Civilizing` Sexuality? Intimacy, Erotic Life and Social Change in
Modern America¨ provides an historical overview oI the regulation oI
erotic emotions from the Romantic and Victorian ideals of love to the
prominent 'sexual revolutions¨ oI the 1920s and 1960s. He then takes up
the controversy between the proponents oI the theses oI 'decivilization¨
and 'inIormalization.¨ Whereas the Iirst see in the new Iorms oI sexual
relationships indications of moral decline and thus of a decivilizing
process, advocates of informalization claim to the contrary that the
management of externally less strictly regulated love relations requires a
much higher level of internal control. Studying the connection between the
erotic ideals and the social and political programs of American sexual
radicals, such as the Free Lovers, the Beat movement, or the Sexual
Freedom League, Battan concludes with Elias and Wouters that 'new
forms of intimacy have demanded even more stringent efforts to
internalize the regulation oI aIIect¨ (Battan, in this volume 289).
'What is the possible contribution oI Iigurational sociology to
American studies and, more speciIically, to American cultural studies?¨
WinIried Fluck`s article 'Multiple Identities and the New Habitus:
Figurational Sociology and American Studies¨ opens with a question that
Christa Buschendorf, Astrid Franke, and Johannes Voelz 14
in various ways all essays of this collection address. Fluck, however,
answers it explicitly by raising the issue oI Iigurational sociology`s
compatibility with more prominent approaches and concepts in American
studies, above all, cultural radicalism and the concept of multiple
identities. By way of a thorough critique of Stuart Hall, a major proponent
oI the idea oI 'multiple identities,¨ and oI Daniel Bell, who posited a
'cultural contradiction¨ between the realm oI the economy as a sphere of
self-regulation and that of culture as a sphere of liberation from discipline,
Fluck draws on figurational sociology in order to reconsider the hopes
attached to the multiplication oI identity options: 'Multiple identities` do
not provide a liberation from the prison-house of a unified identity, but
signal the arrival oI a new habitus made Ior a time in which Ilexibility`
has become the new norm (and thus the new iron cage) .¨ (Fluck, in this
volume 316). The precarious working situation of today`s young
generation of intellectuals is an illuminating example of the challenging
requirements involved in the practices of enhanced flexibility and
networking which result from new patterns of social interdependencies. As
Fluck argues by drawing on the terminology of Habits of the Heart by
Robert Bellah, the self-Iashioning oI 'expressive individualism,¨ based on
the multiplication of identity, forms a new kind of habitus, a habitus
whose insistence on volatility and flexibility cannot be captured by the
Eliasian concept of self-restraint or by Bourdieu`s notion oI habitus. Yet
Fluck follows the relational thinking of both sociologists when he claims
that 'their theoretical premise that identities are shaped by changing
constellations of power and social interdependencies continue to be
helpIul also Ior an analysis oI the new habitus¨ (326).
Such unorthodox reconsiderations of figurational thinking suggest the
perhaps most productive contribution the editors hope to make with this
volume. Besides demonstrating the many uses of figurational approaches
for American studies, this collection of essays can also be seen as foraying
into new directions within relational and figurational thought. At least
implicitly, the import of sociological theory into cultural and literary
studies leads to revisions of the theories themselves, adding a level of self-
reflexivity to the project. Each essay in this volume partakes in this self-
critical endeavor in one way or another, whether by feeding the insights
gained from aesthetic analysis back into the sociological theories of Elias
and Bourdieu, by integrating cultural studies of more recent socio-
economic tendencies (e.g. neoliberalism) into figurational thought, or by
short-circuiting the theory of the civilizing process with an historical
reconstruction of discourses concerned with civilization and its undoing.
And as the contributions by Mennell, Wacquant, and Wouters make clear,
Introduction 15
in applying Norbert Elias`s ideas to American conditions, sociologists,
too, continue to extend and revise some key tenets of figurational thinking.
Elias`s closing credo, stated at the very end oI The Civilizing Process 'la
civilisation . n`est pas encore terminée¨ (447) , can certainly be
transferred to the theorizing of civilizing and decivilizing processes.
WORKS CITED
Bourdieu, Pierre. 'Concluding Remarks: For a Sociogenetic Understanding
oI Intellectual Works.¨ Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives. Eds. Craig
Calhoun, Edward LiPuma and Moishe Postone. Chicago: Chicago UP,
1993. 263-275.
---. The Logic of Practice. Trans. Richard Nice. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1990.
---. Masculine Domination. Trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge: Polity Press,
2001.
---. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Trans. Richard Nice. Cambridge:
Cambridge UP, 1977.
---. The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field. Trans.
Susan Emanuel. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1996.
Cleves, Rachel Hope. The Reign of Terror in America: Visions of Violence
from Anti-Jacobinism to Antislavery. New York: Cambridge UP, 2009.
Elias, Norbert. The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic
Investigations. [1939]. Eds. Eric Dunning, Johan Goudsblom and
Stephen Mennell. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.
---. 'Further Aspects oI Established-Outsider Relations: The Maycomb
Model.¨ |1990|. Norbert Elias and John L. Scotson. The Established and
the Outsiders. [1965]. The Collected Works of Norbert Elias, vol. 4. Ed.
Cas Wouters. Dublin: U College Dublin P, 2008. 209-231.
---. The Germans: Power Struggles and the Development of Habitus in the
Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. [1989]. Ed. Michael Schroeter. Trans.
Eric Dunning and Stephen Mennell. New York: Columbia UP, 1996.
---. Involvement and Detachment. [1983]. Ed. Michael Schroeter. Trans.
Edmund Jephcott. Oxford: Blackwell, 1987.
---. 'The Society oI Individuals.¨ The Society of Individuals. [1939/1987].
Ed. Michael Schroeter. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. New York: Continuum
International Publishing Group, 2001. 1-66.
---. 'Towards a Theory oI Established-Outsider Relations.¨ |1976|. Norbert
Elias and John L. Scotson. The Established and the Outsiders. [1965].
The Collected Works of Norbert Elias, vol. 4. Ed. Cas Wouters. Dublin:
U College Dublin P, 2008. 1-36.
Christa Buschendorf, Astrid Franke, and Johannes Voelz 16
---. What is Sociology? [1970]. New York: Columbia UP, 1978.
Elias, Norbert, and John L. Scotson. The Established and the Outsiders.
[1965]. The Collected Works of Norbert Elias, vol. 4. Ed. Cas Wouters.
Dublin: U College Dublin P, 2008.
Guillory, John. 'Bourdieu`s ReIusal.¨ Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in
Culture. Eds. Nicholas Brown and Imre Szeman. Lanham: Rowman &
Littlefield, 2000. 19-43.
Holton, Robert. 'Bourdieu and Common Sense.¨ Pierre Bourdieu:
Fieldwork in Culture. Eds. Nicholas Brown and Imre Szeman. Lanham:
Rowman & Littlefield, 2000. 87-99.
Mennell, Stephen. The American Civilizing Process. Cambridge: Polity
Press, 2007.
Wacquant, Loïc. 'Bourdieu in America: Notes on the Transatlantic
Importation oI Social Theory.¨ Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives. Eds.
Craig Calhoun, Edward LiPuma and Moishe Postone. Chicago: Chicago
UP, 1993. 235-262.
---. 'Decivilizing and Demonizing: The Remaking oI the Black American
Ghetto.¨ The Sociology of Norbert Elias. Eds. Steven Loyal and Stephen
Quilley. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004. 95-121.
---. 'Durkheim and Bourdieu: The Common Plinth and Its Cracks.¨ Reading
Bourdieu on Society and Culture. Ed. Bridget Fowler. Oxford:
Blackwell, 2000.
---. Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity.
Durham: Duke UP, 2009.
Wouters, Cas. Informalization: Manners & Emotions since 1890. London:
Sage, 2007.
---. Sex and Manners: Female Emancipation in the West since 1890.
London: Sage, 2004.
17
STEPHEN MENNELL
The American Civilizing Process:
A Skeptical Sketch
It was in Frankfurt in the early 1930s that Norbert Elias conceived the
grand project that led, on the eve of the Second World War, to the
publication of Über den Prozeß der Zivilisation, now known in English as
The Civilizing Process (2000). At the time, Elias was serving as academic
assistant to Karl Mannheim, who took up the chair of sociology at the
University of Frankfurt in the spring of 1930. Mannheim is now remem-
bered especially as a key figure in the development of Wissenssoziologie,
or 'the sociology oI knowledge.¨ It is oIten overlooked that Elias`s The
Civilizing Process, too, is centrally a study in the sociology of knowledge.
Certainly, its pioneering section on the development of conceptions of
good manners in Western Europe from the Middle Ages until the
nineteenth century is most famous, and the theory of state formation that
follows is also increasingly influential. But both of these form part of the
broader architecture of a study of the emergence of the collective self-
image of modern Europeans, especially of the part played in that by
notions oI 'civilization¨ and 'culture.¨ Just as much overlooked is Elias`s
recognition oI the Iragility oI the thin veneer oI 'civilized behavior,¨
something that he was later to make much more explicit in books such as
Studien über die Deutschen (The Germans, 1996), but which is implicit
from the beginning and evident to the attentive reader of The Civilizing
Process. Like most work in the sociology of knowledge, this book
undermines many taken-for-granted assumptions that people at large hold
about themselves and others.
In writing a book with the title The American Civilizing Process, I was
quite consciously following the model of Elias`s original book. In light oI
the presidency of George W. Bush, the title is often found amusing. Most
Europeans laugh, and ask whether there shouldn`t be a question mark in
the title. But the apparent oxymoron and the general ambiguity in the title
are intentional.
I intended it to be reminiscent of early American books such as Amelia
Simmons`s American Cookery (1796) or the anonymous The American
Chesterfield (1828), which were Americanized versions of British cookery
Stephen Mennell 18
and manners books respectively. I wrote the book as an Americanization
of The Civilizing Process, using as far as possible evidence from American
history where Elias had drawn from the European past. A more important
ambiguity is the question of whether the title refers to the civilizing of
Americans, or to civilizing by Americans, including their attempts to
'civilize¨ other people (Ior instance, by dropping bombs on them Irom a
B52 at 30,000 Ieet)? The answer is 'both.¨ I think the Bush II presidency
has told us things about the United States that most people would prefer
not to know but which it is our duty to remember, to digest, and to
interpret. And in that task, the theory of civilizing and decivilizing is
highly relevant.
My original reason for embarking on this research was my puzzlement
that relatively few American historians and social scientists seemed to pay
much attention to the extensive writings of Norbert Elias. If one studies
Americans` bibliographical citations oI Elias, they are nearly always to the
first volume of The Civilizing Process misleadingly known as 'The
History oI Manners¨ and occasionally to The Court Society. Moreover,
when they do draw upon Elias, American scholars generally use the static
concept oI 'civility,¨ meaning interpersonal politeness. 'Civility,¨ Ior
Elias, was an emic term from European history, not an etic term capable of
being used sociologically. For him, 'civilization¨ was to be understood in
its original processual sense. It is a process without beginning or end.
There have been and are no 'uncivilized¨ societies, still less any perfectly
'civilized¨ ones. They largely overlook the second volume which in the
U.S. also had a misleading title, 'Power and Civility.¨ By ignoring that,
they miss the whole powerful thrust of the connection Elias makes
between the 'micro¨ level oI habitus and emotions on the one hand and
the 'macro¨ level oI changing structures oI power in a society as a whole.
The kernel oI Elias`s argument is that:
if in this or that region the power of central authority grows, if over
a larger or smaller area the people are forced to live in peace with
each other, the moulding of the affects and the standards of
emotion-management are very gradually changed as well.
(Civilizing Process 169; translation modified)
One reason that Elias has not caught on much in the United States is that
he writes about Europe, and especially about such topics as aristocrats and
their foppish manners that the Founding Fathers thought they had left
behind. What I set out to do was to show how Elias`s theoretical
perspective as a whole could be applied to America today and in the past.
The American Civilizing Process: A Skeptical Sketch 19
The Formation of American Habitus
For Elias, there were many variations on civilizing processes. In particular,
he argued that people`s habitus typically bears the marks oI their country`s
history and government, of the state under which they live:
In the conduct of workers in England, for example, one can still see
traces of the manners of the landed noblemen and gentry and of
merchants within a large trade network, in France the airs of
courtiers and a bourgeoisie brought to power by revolution.
(Civilizing Process 384)
I argue that the equivalent central feature that has left its mark on the
habitus of Americans is the experience of becoming steadily more power-
ful vis-à-vis their neighbors, from the earliest European settlements until
the present day.
This may at first glance seem at odds with the perception common
among Americans of the egalitarianism of their own society internally, a
belief to which many of them firmly adhere in spite of the factually huge
inequalities that have characterized American society in the past and
continue today.
It is true that in the British colonies in North America, society was
initially fairly flat. Few members of the social elite of seventeenth-century
England members of the nobility or landed gentry traveled to the
colonies, and, equally, relatively few of the really poor strata arrived there.
Most settlers came from the lower reaches of the educated classes
clergy, lawyers, merchants together with many artisans. Nevertheless,
the settlers brought with them from Europe the great status-consciousness
of the home society, and a stratum of colonial gentry soon began to form.
The demand for European manners books in colonial America is one small
symptom of this (see Mennell 51-56). The decades after independence do
indeed appear to be a period of diminishing status differences, and Alexis
de Tocqueville was probably right about the generally egalitarian manners
in a relatively egalitarian society; he was visiting America in the
Jacksonian era when such characteristics were at their apogee. The U.S.
probably did lead Europe in the establishment of norms about the
avoidance oI what Cas Wouters (2007) has dubbed 'superiorism¨ a
neologism that he intends as a general term for the overt expression of
feelings of superiority whether on grounds of class, sex, race, or whatever.
Yet after the Civil War, in the so-called Gilded Age, there was a strong
trend towards gross economic inequality, and it was correlated with at
least some symptoms of a yearning on the part of the nouveaux riches to
Stephen Mennell 20
adopt the 'superiorist¨ manners oI late nineteenth-century Europe. That
period may seem an anomaly, for during the period of roughly half a
century after the First World War, the dominant trend was towards some-
what more even distribution of income and wealth (see Mennell 249-265),
and the egalitarianism of American manners became entrenched through a
long process oI 'inIormalization¨ (Wouters).
In the last three decades of the twentieth century and at the beginning
of the twenty-first, however, the underlying trend in the United States has
been towards ever-grosser economic and social inequalities, seen not just
in the distribution of income and wealth but in social provision, especially
health care, which has become a crippling financial burden for many
middle-class Americans and from which something approaching 15 per
cent oI the population are excluded (Barack Obama`s health care reIorm
initiative). Although there is little evidence that factual inequality (and
factually low rates of social mobility) are as yet undermining the
egalitarianism of superficial manners, one must begin to ask whether the
dominant American ideology of social equality does not represent a form
oI what Marxists used to call 'Ialse consciousness.¨
Tocqueville wrote that America had never had an 'aristocracy.¨ More
strictly, he should have said that the United States never had a nobility it
never had hereditary titles of rank. But it did have several social
Iormations that might be described as 'quasi-aristocracies¨ (see Mennell
81-105), which each to some extent functioned to set models of manners
and feeling. The difference between the U.S. and many of the countries of
Western Europe was that no single group established itself as the model-
setting center to the extent that that happened in Europe. Rather, there
were several competing model-setting strata. The pattern in detail is
complex. Each major city had its own local influential upper stratum.
During the past century, one should no doubt pay attention to the influence
of Hollywood and the mass media more generally. Here, however, I want
to dwell upon two competing model-setting strata that were historically of
particular significance. As it happens, both of them invite comparison not
with the British models to which their members probably tended semi-
consciously to look, but rather with social formations that were significant
in the development of Germany.
First, there is what I have called the New England Bildungsbürger-
tum the educated professional and mercantile upper class of the northern
states. Arguably this still looms too large in European (and especially
British) perceptions of what shaped American social character. Certainly
to them, and to the pressures of commercial and professional life, can be
attributed to some extent the egalitarian strain in American habitus, not
The American Civilizing Process: A Skeptical Sketch 21
showing open disdain towards their fellow citizens, even if they were
inwardly confident of their superior education, understanding and feeling.
Visiting the United States in the 1830s, not long after Tocqueville, Harriet
Martineau (III, 10) commented upon the great cautiousness that was
entrenched early and deeply in northern people; she described as 'Iear oI
opinion¨ something very similar to what Elias termed the habitual
'checking oI behavior¨ in anticipation oI what others would think. She
thought she could distinguish northern from southern members of
Congress simply by the way they walked:
It is in Washington that varieties of manners are conspicuous.
There the Southerners appear at most advantage, and the New
Englanders to the least; the ease and frank courtesy of the gentry of
the South (with an occasional touch of arrogance, however),
contrasting with the cautious, somewhat gauche, and too
deferential air of the members from the North. One fancies one can
tell a New England member in the open air by his deprecatory
walk. He seems to bear in mind perpetually that he cannot fight a
duel, while other people can. (I, 145)
Which brings us to the other great rival aristocracy, that of the slave-
owning South. From Independence to the Civil War, Southerners held the
lion`s share oI political power in the Union. The reIerence to dueling
among them is highly significant. As Norbert Elias has argued, in
nineteenth-century Germany the quality of Satisfaktionsfähigkeit being
judged worthy to give satisfaction in a duel became a principal criterion
for membership of the German upper class (see Germans 44-119). Shearer
Davis Bowman has suggested that the plantocracy of the South can
fruitfully be compared with the Prussian Junkers. One similarity is that
they both provided a large part of the officer corps of the national army. At
home, they both ruled autocratically over what the Germans called a
Privatrechtstaat ('private law state¨), having the right to adjudicate and
enforce their judgments on their own estates, with little or no interference
by agencies of the government. State authorities did not intervene in
relations between white masters and blacks, whether during slavery in the
antebellum period or during the long decades of the Jim Crow laws and
lynching between the end of Reconstruction and the interwar period. Nor
did they intervene in what is now called 'black on black¨ violence.
But neither were white-on-white quarrels very much the business of
state authorities. The social arrangements of the Old South were also
associated with the prevalent code oI 'honor,¨ and questions oI honor
were commonly settled by the duel. Many European travelers, from
Stephen Mennell 22
Harriet Martineau to the great geologist Sir Charles Lyell, were astonished
by its prevalence: it was remarked that in New Orleans alone, someone
died in a duel on average every day. The code oI 'honor,¨ in its various
forms in Europe and America, has been widely discussed. Roger Lane
contrasts the Southern 'man oI honor¨ with the New England 'man oI
dignity,¨ who would very likely take a quarrel to court rather than Iight a
duel. The propensity to litigation through the legal apparatus of the state is
a function not only not mainly, indeed of culturally conditioned
individual dispositions, but also of the degree of internal pacification and
the effectiveness of the state monopoly of the legitimate use of violence in
a given territory. Yet the diIIerence between the codes oI 'honor¨ and
'dignity¨ is associated with different personal and emotional styles: the
Southerner, like the satisfaktionsfähige gentleman of the Kaiserreich,
displayed a 'hard,¨ unemotional style; it has been suggested that a legacy
of this can be seen in the hard, speak-your-weight-machine delivery of
many American military spokesmen today.
This social formation cast a long shadow. It is easy to forget that the
South was still overtly a racist society only a generation ago; and indeed
the astonishingly high rate of incarceration of black people today is
enough to demonstrate the covert part that race continues to play in the
United States today. And, with the balance of power shifting to the South
since 1970, the South should play a more important part in outsiders`
perception of America and its behavior in the world.
The final irony is that, while there has been a monopolistic model-
setting class to a much lesser extent in the U.S. than in many Western
European societies, the U.S. has today established a monopolistic position
as a sort of world upper class, which people throughout the world emulate
while continuing to resent it bitterly. American spokesmen often see the
worldwide pervasiveness of the products of the American media and
business from Disneyland to Starbucks as a Iorm oI 'soIt power¨
deployed in the service of American national interest. But it should be
remembered that, while the French bourgeoisie under the ancien régime
aped the manners and tastes of the nobility, they simultaneously resented
them. Soft power did not prevent the French Revolution (see Elias, Court
Society).
Markets
If the United States never had a courtly aristocracy of the kind that often
influentially shaped manners and habitus more widely in Western Euro-

Civilizing and Decivilizing Processes: Figurational Approaches to American Culture

Edited by

Christa Buschendorf, Astrid Franke and Johannes Voelz

NE6 2XX. recording or otherwise. Astrid Franke and Johannes Voelz and contributors All rights for this book reserved. Astrid Franke and Johannes Voelz This book first published 2011 Cambridge Scholars Publishing 12 Back Chapman Street. in any form or by any means. ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-2728-7 . stored in a retrieval system. Newcastle upon Tyne.Civilizing and Decivilizing Processes: Figurational Approaches to American Culture. ISBN (10): 1-4438-2728-2. electronic. without the prior permission of the copyright owner. or transmitted. No part of this book may be reproduced. mechanical. photocopying. UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2011 by Christa Buschendorf. Edited by Christa Buschendorf.

............................................... and the Uncivilizing Process in the United States .. Furner Ideas.................... 123 v .............TABLE OF CONTENTS Acknowledgments ...................................................................................... 35 Astrid Franke Drinking and Democracy in the Early Republic ............ Race.................................. Astrid Franke............................................... Interdependencies........... and Johannes Voelz Introduction ....................... Governance Structures....... American Civilizing Processes: Sociohistorical Perspectives Stephen Mennell The American Civilizing Process: A Skeptical Sketch .............................................. and National Political Cultures: Work as a Window on United States History .......................................... vii Christa Buschendorf........ 63 Ruxandra R dulescu Making Us Be Like Wasichus : The Civilizing Process in Nineteenth-Century Indian Boarding Schools .......... Challenges to the Civilizing Process Rachel Hope Cleves Savage Barbarities! : Slavery................ 17 Mary O................. 1 I..... 103 Johannes Voelz Regeneration and Barbarity: Dred and the Violence of the Civilizing Process .............................. 87 II.......

.............................................. Civilizing Projects? Approaching Literature with the Tools of Relational Sociology Kirsten Twelbeck The New Rules of the Democratic Game: Emancipation....... Battan Intimacy....... 287 Winfried Fluck Multiple Identities and the New Habitus: Figurational Sociology and American Studies .......................................... Erotic Life and Social Change in Modern America ..............................vi Table of Contents Loïc Wacquant Decivilizing and Demonizing: The Remaking of the Black American Ghetto .... 149 III..................................... 305 Contributors ............ 227 IV....................... Informalization Cas Wouters Status Competition and the Development of an American Habitus .................. 209 Christa Buschendorf Narrated Power Relations: Novel The Liberation of Lord Byron Jones ......... 175 Günter Leypoldt Emerson and the Romantic Literary Field ...................... Self-Regulation....... 331 ................................................................... 263 Jesse F....................................... and the of the United States .......................................................

A different version of Loï appeared in The Sociology of Norbert Elias. We also want to thank Nicole Lindenberg. Managing this book. Corinne May Botz we are grateful for permitting us to reproduce on our cover he other works can be seen at http://www. and Johannes Voelz Frankfurt am Main. who joined the team in the final production phase. December 2010 vii . Copyright Cambridge University Press 2004. in 2007. edited by Steven Loyal and Stephen Quilley. and Soucin Yip-Sou helped to get this publication speedily into print. At Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Amanda Millar. and reading proofs. 2004. To those contributors who did not participate in the conference we are grateful for having shaped their essays as interventions in our collective debate. she had to manage the co-editors: a task that required no less than heroic efforts. Astrid Franke. Christa Buschendorf.ACKNOWLEDGMENTS This book grew out of a conference held at Goethe-Universität. Carol Koulikourdi. for her meticulous help in moving around periods and commas. Frankfurt am Main. We thank all of the contributors whose essays have emerged from their talks at the conference for their revisions and expansions. our aim has been to instigate an in-depth scholarly exchange on what American Studies can gain from taking up the theories of figurational and relational sociology.corinnebotz. Then as now.com. reproduced with permission. We would like to thank Nicola Nowak for her indispensable and indefatigable editorial assistance during each stage of preparing the manuscript.

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in -term transformation of interpersonal relations.. modes of behavior. As the title suggests. for example. The theoretical concepts developed by the two sociologists have received very little attention in the discipline of American Studies. A gradual elevation of the threshold of shame leads to alterations in manners. It refers. ASTRID FRANKE. tastes.CHRISTA BUSCHENDORF. Nor has the partial congruence of their basic concepts and methodological approaches been adequately analyzed and fructified. the latter are characterized by a shift from external constraints to self-restraint in managing emotions and desires. and literature. AND JOHANNES VOELZ Introduction The articles collected in this volume explore the theoretical framework of figurational or relational sociology as represented by Norbert Elias and Pierre Bourdieu with regard to its relevance to American history.e. culture. Thus. and knowledge that accompanies the formation of a unified state capable of monopolizing physical violence over the whole of its territory and thus of progressively observed in social relations from twelfth-century feudalism to the absolutist French court are based on the increasing division of labor and differentiation of functions which in turn resulted in increasing interel of social structure (sociogenesis) are interrelated to changes on the level of personality. body functions are more and more banned from public space. In general. i. It is important to Elias established a technical meaning of the civilizing process. and extremes of the swings of the emotional pendulum are slowly 1 . modifications in the psychological make-up of individuals (psychogenesis). the emphasis of this collection of essays is on study of the European process of state formation and the correlative psycho-social changes is relevant to the analysis of the development of the American nation state and the habitus of Americans.

Moreover. because it opens up to scholars a new way of addressing the old ex developed through the examination of elites and institutions may have something to say about a society whose self-image emphasizes democratic egalitarianism.S. and (Elias. ageing and dying. On the other hand. depacified space. consequently and most conspicuously. compared to the Northeast. shorter chains of interdependence. society and culture seem to be a particularly apt field for further exploring and developing the theory of civilizing and decivilizing processes. American history provides us with various instances where the civilizing process deviates from the European pattern. in the course of time.2 Christa Buschendorf. a less firmly erected state monopoly of power. Astrid Franke. and Johannes Voelz Civilizing Process 374). sports. and time management. According to Elias. gender relations. the most significant difference is that in the USA the state monopoly of physical violence was not as firmly established as in without clearly distinct organisation in whatever emerged. Moreover. As the editors of The Germans poi decivilizing processes can occur simultaneously in particular societies. in which fear and One of the reasons why the theoretical approach by Elias lends itself to cultural and literary studies has to do with its long-term historical perspective in combination with its emphasis on cultural practices connected to (table) manners. southern plantations and the frontier were characterized by a lesser degree of functional differentiation. U. the concept of correlating changes in the social order with transformations of the patterns of personality structure . as the state mon 222). and. Germans xv). it is the black ghetto that has undergone a decivilizing phase due to which it has turned into a highly dangerous. What one may regard as a minor factor has in fact major consequences both for the shaping of the national habitus (especially with regard the stark power differential between whites and minorities (particularly black slaves and their descendants who were largely excluded from participating in the emerging state monopoly of power as well as from the protections guaranteed by that very monopoly). a higher level of violence. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

why then have they been largely civilizing process has been the term itself. discusses. and . interpretive/posidualistic alternatives tivist. a structure of mutually oriented and dependent people Civilizing Process 481482).. function/conflict. there are several competing good societies in the U.S. for example. agency/structure. capital. and.versus microanalysis or structure versus agency that have come to dominate the discipline of sociology. The high levels of social competition between a great number of ethnically different groups that cause feelings of insecurity and anxiety is related then to the seemingly paradoxical combination of the habit of friendliness and a tradition of violence (see If indeed the concepts of figurational sociology offer a promising new approach to American cultural history. in his book The Society of Individuals links his oughgoing relationalism which grasps both objective and subjective reality in the form of mutually interpenetrating systems of relations. for example. and field are designed to capture the fundamentally re he first move micro/macro. Thus when Elias distinguishes between different levels of the civilizing process. The everyday meaning of vis-à-vis sonations to ascertain white supremacy. Thus one can prove that in correlation with the process of state formation. the shaping of the American habitus also shows patterns deviating from European models. as a consequence. much less regulated social mobility and boundary-maintenance. In order to surmount the false opposition between network of interdependencies among human beings . normative/rational.and micro-level processes usually kept apart. Elias overcomes the antinomies of macro. where a unified good society protects itself from intrusion by rather strict gate-keeping rules.. it seems to be difficult even for scholars to consider such a statement as non-normative. In contrast to England. structuralist/individualist. With his insistence on the interrelation between sociogenesis and psychogenesis..Introduction 3 allows the cultural historian to connect macro. All three of his core theoretical notions habitus.

it stands provides us with highly pertinent reflections on power relations. and Elias. competition and power struggles between interdependent groups drive the civilizing process as much as they determine the social figuration investigated in Established and Outsiders or the habitus of the Germans Elias analyzed in The Germans: Power Struggles and the Development of Habitus in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. .g. The Society of Individuals. the scientific community has only fairly recently realized the importance of conceptualizing inconspicuous forms of domination and structures of inequality prevalent in our times. Bourdieu. The neglect of these theoretical texts (e. the effect is not just that their work has been read only in part but. that a core issue central to both theories power relations has been established-outsider theory into an encompassing theory of power Established and Outsiders xiii). and Johannes Voelz so forth th suited these alternatives might be to apprehending the conceptual economy of The Civilizing Process in two volumes with the misleading titles of The History of Manners and Power and Civility annihilates the essential systematic idea of the interrelation of psychogenesis and sociogenesis. In addition. both Elias and Bourdieu have suffered from a fragmented reception that focuses on a small selection of publications and a limited number of concepts ignoring the conceptual framework put forth in their theoretical writings. both gained this evidence in a great variety of field studies that cover a broad range of topics and are situated in several disciplines. Moreover. more importantly. In both cases. In fact. while the interrelation between state formation process and the shaping of national habitus was largely neglected. As to Bourdieu.4 Christa Buschendorf. What is Sociology?. Outline of a Theory of Practice and The Logic of Practice. Involvement and Detachment) prevents the reading of the empirical studies in the light of theory and thus work ( hindered an integrative view of their approach is the fact that both developed and constantly modified their methodological and theoretical reflections on the basis of new empirical evidence. Astrid Franke.

After all. On the contrary. or the working class and the bourgeoisie. frequently evoked the critique of a sted claimed that it can change under the pressure of crisis or cross-cultural contact (see Holton 90). Again. Not only were both of them cultural sociologists. this approach also raises the more general question of the methodological benefits of reading cultural practices and literary works by making use of sociological concepts. he strongly emphasized its principal reversibility. in his words. the novel emphasizes the viewpoints of social agents. cf. Civilizing Process 471-474) but is shaped by group processes. . males and Masculine Domination). Consequently. Elias. Similar to the practices. it is still opposed to the American ideal of individualism by denying the high degree of autonomy which the American notion of personal freedom grants the individual. or. as a German Jew who was forced to emigrate. they repeatedly and deliberately drew on works of fiction in critically. be they power struggles between established and outsiders. Germans 302-304). And while Elias maintained that there was a structural regularity underlying the civilizing process. Elias suffered his whole life from the consequences of this severe reversal of the civilizing process of a whole nation or. they are part of highly complex long-term processes. but. what is more. At the same time. It is evident then that neither the civilizing process nor power relations between interdependent groups. in abitus is both structured by the social forces as well as structuring social practice. can be considered as predetermined. we would claim that both and literary studies. approaching cultural and literary phenomena from the perspective of figurational sociology provides a corrective to the ideology of individualism. according to Bourdieu and Elias. novels can help to reconstruct a past society and its power Germans 47).Introduction 5 contained unit a homo clausus 26-27. in fact. Bourdieu novel To the Lighthouse Masculine Domination 69). But even if relational thinking is not misconstrued as determinism.

it is interesting to observe that artists who defend the autonomy of the field of cultural production will propagate an ideal of art characterized by the emphasis on formal control and aesthetic expertise. the division of labor and the differentiation of functions that create ever lengthening chains of interdependence and growing networks of human interaction. and Johannes Voelz novels usually provide a much more extensive and multifaceted presentation of human experience than any fieldwork could offer (for further methodological considerations on reading literature by utilizing socioBoth sociologists also dealt with the question of the cultural function of literature. As a result. If in addition we take into account the increasing differentiation of the literary markets and. Consequently. On the level of psychogenesis. In other words. in the course of the civilizing process the emotional pendulum swings more moderately.6 Christa Buschendorf. which is. One of the driving forces of the civilizing process is. Astrid Franke. Another question that was raised by critics of the theory of the civilizing process and Eliasian scholars alike pertains to the direction of theory able to account for the extensive changes in the regime of manners and control of emotions in the twentieth century? What can it contribute to the analysis of the much more relaxed and diverse behavior observable in the present? Does the overall tendency of a decreasing hierarchical distance between different status groups and a lessening of formal . . taking our ing autonomy of the literary field. This ideal is achieved in a process of aesthetic production (and reception) that is dominated by distance and sublimation rather than emotional involvement. the question of the function of literature in society becomes more complex. inter-personal conflicts are transformed into internal tensions. according to Elias. an extremely valuable instrument for analyzing the position of an author or a literary movement within the cultural production of a given period and its relation to the fields of power g process. indeed. -century spiral process of informalization. Civilizing Process 375). the imperatives of the autonomy of the literary field are analogous to the forces directing the civilizing process. this increases both mutual consideration and the control of affects. and the individual looks for compensation in the fictive worlds of dreams and the arts (cf. Most of the literary studies based on Bourdieu have focused on his field theory. Elias.

and within the U.S. historians as well as cultural and to cover the broad range of as yet unexplored possibilities of the approach by considering examples of sociohistorical perspectives on the American civilizing process (Section I). Furthermore. he contrasts the American competition between several model-setting elites with the monopoly status of the nobility in Europe. finally. interpretations of literary works using the tools of relational sociology (Section III). In the essay printed here. Mennell also points to the significance of the marketplace in shaping American manners and the increasing pressure it exerts on people. More particularly. Regarding habitus. the concept of informalization can be deployed to characterize typical American regimes of manners and without any norm-setting implications. The first of the four sections of the collection takes up the major ry of the civilizing process to The American Civilizing Process (2007) which investigates the American counterpart to the European process. Compared to Europe. The fourth aspect Mennell discusses is the state formation process and the specific . Mennell focuses on a few central aspects of the differences in the development of the American habitus and nation state. the rate of homicides in the U. is significantly higher. he juxtaposes the educated and mercantile class of New England with the of honor enforced by the practice of the duel. * * * Most of the papers of this volume go back to an international conference which took place at Goethe Universität in Frankfurt am Main in November 2007 that brought together sociologists.S. it is significantly higher in the South and in parts of the West.Introduction 7 Informalization 6. had just been published when we convened for the conference. he addresses what namely the level of violence in the United States. and. 226-237). Like the theory of the civilizing process. questions related to the trend of informalization (Section IV). challenges to the civilizing process (Section II).

while also indicating how intellectual history could profit s pertains particularly to historical studies of the body and of the plasticity of identity. the debates about the constitution are a telling example of how conscious deliberation led to political decisions. And perhaps Elias also holds a clue for understanding the fact rational. Astrid Franke. discipline of historiography and thereby reflect upon the principal limitations of the concept of the civilizing process. Franke underlines the cultural rather than sociological dimensions of the phenomena. Drawing on Cas Wouters. Exploring the relation between state formation and habitus in her discussion of temperance as a democratic virtue. The latter show that the moderation Freneau propagates as a concerned patriot is incommensurate with the ardor of poetic expression. and Johannes Voelz conditions under which the American acquisition of new territories and the monopolization of the legitimate use of force took place. As Franke points out. we asked Mary Furner. and society. sen ). she also interprets poems by Philip Freneau. . Franke links the concern with individual alcohol consumption and thus -restraint to political anxieties about the stability of the process of state formation. Franke argues that due to a lack of firmly erected class barriers Americans displayed a high degree of status anxiety which in turn led to a strong desire for selfdecivilizing forces tied to slavery and westward expansion in the early republic. a specialist on American social thought and intellectual history. to offer an assessment of Elias from the point of view of her discipline. American debates on drunkenness differ significantly from European ones. Furner history are characterized by complex negotiations between various social groups. Furner underlines how the perspective.8 Christa Buschendorf. without foundation. and education. and the well-founded fear that these decivilizing tendencies do not only undermine the self-image of the young republic as a beacon of volume 64-65).

the white educators. in addition. the civilizing discourse. advocates of the Victorian progress theory. namely the photographs taken of Native American pupils before and after they had undergone the disciplinary regime of boarding schools like Carlisle. As Rachel Hope Cleves argues in her art expression to the fear of the instability of the republic by articulating protocivilizing process.Introduction 9 there is a great advantage in aesthetic experience. Whereas in her book The Reign of Terror in America (2009). African Americans became considered a threat to American civilization. interfere with the unplanned civilizing process by founding their educational efforts on a planned repressive training that attempts to cut short a long-term development and. While originally used in the service of a reactionary movement. molds the natives according to white standards of civilized behavior. while the popular token of alleged success. Cleves focuses on nature of Africans and antislavery arguments of the brutalization of the nation through slavery. process from opposed to the -) theoretical and the common meaning frequently intersect in American political discourse. after the American Revolution. they show that the detribalized Indians deprived of their indigenous culture and alien to the norms of western civilization necessarily remained outsiders even when in outward appearance they resembled modern American citizens. were convincing to white educators of the time. In Eliasian terms. Moreover. the bloodshed of the French Revolution moved American Anti-Jacobins to infectious violence from spreading in the United States. In its attempt to that sociological analysis cannot provide. By juxtaposing the nineteenth-century boarding school efforts to turn the civilizing process and his understanding of established-outsider relations. in this chapter she follows the uncivilizing . ambitious civilizing project. For instance.

10 Christa Buschendorf. which demanded of the parties a rising willingness to turn violent against their civil enemies. Astrid Franke. In his offers a detailed case study of what Rachel Hope Cleves calls the is because violence is presented at once as a threat to order and a promise of revolutionary emancipation that Voelz goes on to offer. Voelz ques -iffiction with the help of figurational sociology. Voelz develops his analysis on two different levels. 2009). As he points out. It became the function of fiction to provide the experience of violence in the imagination and thus to help overcoming the discomfort most likely connected to such an uncivilized impulse. an Eliasian interpretation of the role Dred played in the build-up of tensions prior to the Civil War. Punishing the Poor. state retrenchment is partial: the welfare state is reduced and increasingly replaced by the repressive components of the penal state (cf. and Johannes Voelz discourse throughout the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. on a second level of analysis. the decivilizing process is connected on a symbolic level to the demonizing of . and instead suggests to apply a figurational approach for reconstructing the functions of literary texts for the societies from which they emerged. namely the danger such lack of self-control poses to the stability of the nation-state. Wacquant follows Elias in stressing the role of the state in this dynamic. Wacquant. According to Wacquant. -civilizing of the African American ghetto since the 1960s is such a pertinent example of an Eliasian approach that the editors of this volume decided to include a lizing and Demonizing: The Remaking of the accounts for psychogenetic as well as sociogenetic aspects of the radical transformation the black ghetto has undergone in the past decades. Dred and the second antislavery novel Dred in the radicalization of the sectional conflict of the 1850s. demonstrating that advocates of minority rights repeatedly intertwined the critique of violence committed against civilized Native Americans and African Americans with the notion of the uncivilizing process. Methodologically.

fictional texts more so than manners books allow the reader to become acquainted with a broad range of ideas and emotions representative of a changing American habitus in the turbulent post-war era. As Twelbeck argues. but a static image. in this volume 181). this term naturalizes the problem and thus tends to depoliticize it. it seems to be exacerbated in the case of Emerson whose understanding of the role of the public intellectual involved draw on an ambivalent discourse of primitivism to depict both their attachment to the common man and their detachment from the common r .Introduction 11 the black sub-proletariat that journalists. While many authors grapple with this dilemma in the process of literary professionalization. Moreover. Like the period of the early republic. As Wacquant demonstrates. the necessary adaptations to the dramatic changes in social stratification involved the development of new modes of affectcontrol whose negotiations in contemporary fiction she approaches with 1860s. In the challenging process of psychologically adjusting to the comprehensive reorganization of ant function of imaginary nationSelfAccording to Twelbeck. on the level of psychogenesis. the problem literary scholars encounter when applying a theory describing long-term processes to fictive constructions that render. reconstructs the major divisions of the nineteenth-century transatlantic field -groupbased symbolic capital of the avant-garde writer and the commercial success of the popular writer who enjoys the recognition of a broader public. the postbellum years are a phase of immense political and social turmoil. may be solved by (Twelbeck. scholars and policy makers have -historical perspective. as it were. the processual and relational conception of his approach allows us to go beyond simplifying monocausal models of explanation still prevalent in both public and scientific discourses. which were first serialized before published as books: Louisa May Hospital Sketches Norwood.

Ford. In contrast to England. slavery.S. where a unified good society protects itself from intrusion by rather strict gate-keeping rules. endowed with the -scientific language. exaggerated forms and exciting subjectmatter. For political reasons independent of the dynamics of the field of literary production (see Buschendorf.g. in this volume 231 note 13) the 1960s novel The Liberation of Lord Byron Jones by the southern author Jesse Hill Ford has received very little scholarly attention. there are several competing good societies in the U. As Leypoldt concludes. Consequently. On the basis of American. In his contribution to this ocuses on the interrelation of social stratification and manners in the United States. Informalization: Manners and Emotions since 1890. social mobility and boundary-maintenance are much less regulated. By discussing examples taken from American manners books and fiction. Sex and Manners. English.12 Christa Buschendorf. and German manners books Cas Wouters has studied the trend towards a seeming reversal of the civilizing process. e. 2007). Astrid Franke. a literary by means of Logic of Practice 54) and thus is a particularly apt category when it comes to understanding how an institution of the past. Dutch. Christa The Liberation of Lord Byron Jones sion of a narrative that with regard to plot might be called a melodramatic conflicts in a small southern town at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement gains precision and depth when approached with the instruments of Elias -outsider relations and reading emphasizes that in addition to a sociological analysis. shapes collective and individual schemes of perceptions and actions in the present. Wouters deals . namely an informalization of manners since the late nineteenth century (see Wouters. it is this ambiguity of the primitive that the primitive desires satisfied by mass products. 2004. and Johannes Voelz crude taste of the primitive reader indulges in pleasures of stimulation evoked by mere sensual effects.

typical American types of behavior.Introduction 13 with changing rules of introduction or greeting. This reversal has raised the question in what ways we may have F. the tendency of increasingly rigid regimes of manners and emotions. such as the Free Lovers. as well as expressions of high status competition. -a-nice-itthis volume 279). as. According to figurational sociology. the western civilizing process for centuries was dominated by a trend of formalization. Studying the connection between the erotic ideals and the social and political programs of American sexual radicals. a longterm process of informalization. is related then to the seemingly paradoxical combination of the habit of friendliness and a tradition of violence. the increasing interest in interracial etiquette. ns with a question that . or the Sexual forms of intimacy have demanded even more stringent efforts to 89). the Beat movement. i.e. In contrast. Wouters explores -denial.. has characterized the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. proceeding not in a linear fashion but in repeated spurts or waves. advocates of informalization claim to the contrary that the management of externally less strictly regulated love relations requires a much higher level of internal control. Battan explores this controversial issue by analyzing various twentieth- - ity? Intimacy. From s perspective. serve as pacifying measures needed in a country with a number of ethnically different groups.S. which causes feelings of insecurity and anxiety. for example. Erotic Life and Social Change in erotic emotions from the Romantic and Victorian ideals of love to the up relationships indications of moral decline and thus of a decivilizing process. death-denial and insecure national werole the death penalty plays in the U. Finally.

the import of sociological theory into cultural and literary studies leads to revisions of the theories themselves. Besides demonstrating the many uses of figurational approaches for American studies. Fluck. or by short-circuiting the theory of the civilizing process with an historical reconstruction of discourses concerned with civilization and its undoing. a habitus whose insistence on volatility and flexibility cannot be captured by the Eliasian concept of selfFluck follows the relational thinking of both sociologists when he claims constellations of power and social interdependencies continue to be Such unorthodox reconsiderations of figurational thinking suggest the perhaps most productive contribution the editors hope to make with this volume. however. The precarious working situation of t generation of intellectuals is an illuminating example of the challenging requirements involved in the practices of enhanced flexibility and networking which result from new patterns of social interdependencies.g. the selfthe multiplication of identity. At least implicitly. Wacquant. Each essay in this volume partakes in this selfcritical endeavor in one way or another. above all. by integrating cultural studies of more recent socioeconomic tendencies (e. neoliberalism) into figurational thought. As Fluck argues by drawing on the terminology of Habits of the Heart by Robert Bellah. this collection of essays can also be seen as foraying into new directions within relational and figurational thought. Fluck draws on figurational sociology in order to reconsider the hopes not provide a liberation from the prison-house of a unified identity. and Wouters make clear. forms a new kind of habitus. Astrid Franke. a major proponent a sphere of self-regulation and that of culture as a sphere of liberation from discipline. By way of a thorough critique of Stuart Hall. And as the contributions by Mennell. compatibility with more prominent approaches and concepts in American studies. but volume 316).14 Christa Buschendorf. adding a level of selfreflexivity to the project. cultural radicalism and the concept of multiple identities. whether by feeding the insights gained from aesthetic analysis back into the sociological theories of Elias and Bourdieu. and Johannes Voelz in various ways all essays of this collection address. .

Cleves. [1965]. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 1993. Oxford: Blackwell. Susan Emanuel. The Collected Works of Norbert Elias. Richard Nice. 2000. [1939/1987]. 1-66. Trans. ---. Eds. Trans. Trans. continue to extend and revise some key tenets of figurational thinking. Michael Schroeter. can certainly be transferred to the theorizing of civilizing and decivilizing processes. Chicago: Chicago UP. Cambridge: Polity Press. Johan Goudsblom and Stephen Mennell. Craig Calhoun. Ed. Dublin: U College Dublin P. Scotson. Ed. ---. Edward LiPuma and Moishe Postone. 2008. [1939]. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.Introduction 15 too. The Germans: Power Struggles and the Development of Habitus in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Trans. Stanford: Stanford UP. ---Outsider Relati Elias and John L. 1-36. Edmund Jephcott. Trans. Stanford: Stanford UP. Cas Wouters. Cas Wouters. Eds. ---. 2008. Ed. 2001. The Civilizing Process la (447) . The Established and the Outsiders. 263-275. Rachel Hope. Michael Schroeter. [1965]. Edmund Jephcott. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. Trans. . New York: Cambridge UP. The Logic of Practice. ---. Richard Nice. 1977. Trans. ---Outsider Relations: The Maycomb L. 209-231. Scotson. Oxford: Blackwell. Richard Nice. Dublin: U College Dublin P. 1987. 1990. 1996. Elias. Norbert. --The Society of Individuals. ---. 4. Eric Dunning and Stephen Mennell. Michael Schroeter. 2001. 2009. vol. The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field. Ed. New York: Columbia UP. WORKS CITED Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives. Outline of a Theory of Practice. 1996. The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations. ---. The Reign of Terror in America: Visions of Violence from Anti-Jacobinism to Antislavery. Masculine Domination. The Collected Works of Norbert Elias. Eric Dunning. The Established and the Outsiders. [1989]. Ed. 4. vol. [1983]. Involvement and Detachment.

. The American Civilizing Process. Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in Culture. Bridget Fowler. Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in Culture. 2004. 2009. Wouters. 1978. The Established and the Outsiders. Durham: Duke UP. London: Sage. Oxford: Blackwell. 235-262. Chicago: Chicago UP. Sex and Manners: Female Emancipation in the West since 1890. Ed. 2007. --Reading Bourdieu on Society and Culture. Dublin: U College Dublin P. 2000. 87-99. Ed. 2000. 2007. Elias.16 Christa Buschendorf. Cas. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. Astrid Franke. Cas Wouters. New York: Columbia UP. What is Sociology? [1970]. 2000. London: Sage. ---. [1965]. The Collected Works of Norbert Elias. Cambridge: Polity Press. Nicholas Brown and Imre Szeman. 95-121. Steven Loyal and Stephen Quilley. 4. Norbert. 19-43. Stephen. Eds. Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity. Eds. and John L. 2004. Bourdieu: Critical Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. vol. and Johannes Voelz ---. 1993. Scotson. Edward LiPuma and Moishe Postone. --The Sociology of Norbert Elias. 2008. Nicholas Brown and Imre Szeman. Mennell. Informalization: Manners & Emotions since 1890. ---. Eds. Craig Calhoun. Eds. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

I intended it to be reminiscent of early American books such as Amelia American Cookery (1796) or the anonymous The American Chesterfield (1828). who took up the chair of sociology at the University of Frankfurt in the spring of 1930.STEPHEN MENNELL The American Civilizing Process: A Skeptical Sketch It was in Frankfurt in the early 1930s that Norbert Elias conceived the grand project that led. Like most work in the sociology of knowledge. to the publication of Über den Prozeß der Zivilisation. is centrally a study in the sociology of knowledge. which were Americanized versions of British cookery 17 . But the apparent oxymoron and the general ambiguity in the title are intentional. on the eve of the Second World War. In writing a book with the title The American Civilizing Process. I was quite consciously following the model of Elia the presidency of George W. Elias was serving as academic assistant to Karl Mannheim. The Civilizing Process. especially of the part played in that by something that he was later to make much more explicit in books such as Studien über die Deutschen (The Germans. At the time. but which is implicit from the beginning and evident to the attentive reader of The Civilizing Process. But both of these form part of the broader architecture of a study of the emergence of the collective selfimage of modern Europeans. now known in English as The Civilizing Process (2000). and the theory of state formation that follows is also increasingly influential. too. its pioneering section on the development of conceptions of good manners in Western Europe from the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century is most famous. Most the title. 1996). the title is often found amusing. Certainly. this book undermines many taken-for-granted assumptions that people at large hold about themselves and others. Bush. Mannheim is now remembered especially as a key figure in the development of Wissenssoziologie.

translation modified) One reason that Elias has not caught on much in the United States is that he writes about Europe. A more important ambiguity is the question of whether the title refers to the civilizing of Americans. using as far as possible evidence from American history where Elias had drawn from the European past. the moulding of the affects and the standards of emotion-management are very gradually changed as well. when they do draw upon Elias.000 II presidency has told us things about the United States that most people would prefer not to know but which it is our duty to remember. I wrote the book as an Americanization of The Civilizing Process. including their attempts to B52 at 30. if over a larger or smaller area the people are forced to live in peace with each other. There have been and are no perfectly which in the they miss the whole powerful thrust of the connection Elias makes if in this or that region the power of central authority grows. (Civilizing Process 169. My original reason for embarking on this research was my puzzlement that relatively few American historians and social scientists seemed to pay much attention to the extensive writings of Norbert Elias. Moreover. the theory of civilizing and decivilizing is highly relevant. And in that task. If one studies first volume of The Civilizing Process misleadingly and occasionally to The Court Society. and especially about such topics as aristocrats and their foppish manners that the Founding Fathers thought they had left behind. It is a process without beginning or end. not an etic term capable of ization its original processual sense. American scholars generally use the static Elias. . was an emic term from European history. and to interpret. to digest. What I set out to do was to show how Elia perspective as a whole could be applied to America today and in the past. or to civilizing by Americans.18 Stephen Mennell and manners books respectively.

Yet after the Civil War. or whatever. Most settlers came from the lower reaches of the educated classes clergy. lawyers.S. and a stratum of colonial gentry soon began to form. (Civilizing Process 384) I argue that the equivalent central feature that has left its mark on the habitus of Americans is the experience of becoming steadily more powerful vis-à-vis their neighbors. Few members of the social elite of seventeenth-century England members of the nobility or landed gentry traveled to the colonies. In particular. It is true that in the British colonies in North America. Nevertheless. of the state under which they live: In the conduct of workers in England. probably did lead Europe in the establishment of norms about the a neologism that he intends as a general term for the overt expression of feelings of superiority whether on grounds of class. there were many variations on civilizing processes. and it was correlated with at least some symptoms of a yearning on the part of the nouveaux riches to . sex. society was initially fairly flat. This may at first glance seem at odds with the perception common among Americans of the egalitarianism of their own society internally. relatively few of the really poor strata arrived there. and. from the earliest European settlements until the present day. The decades after independence do indeed appear to be a period of diminishing status differences. merchants together with many artisans. The demand for European manners books in colonial America is one small symptom of this (see Mennell 51-56). the settlers brought with them from Europe the great status-consciousness of the home society. a belief to which many of them firmly adhere in spite of the factually huge inequalities that have characterized American society in the past and continue today. one can still see traces of the manners of the landed noblemen and gentry and of merchants within a large trade network. and Alexis de Tocqueville was probably right about the generally egalitarian manners in a relatively egalitarian society. equally. race. in the so-called Gilded Age. The U.The American Civilizing Process: A Skeptical Sketch 19 The Formation of American Habitus For Elias. he was visiting America in the Jacksonian era when such characteristics were at their apogee. there was a strong trend towards gross economic inequality. history and government. for example. in France the airs of courtiers and a bourgeoisie brought to power by revolution.

First. can be attributed to some extent the egalitarian strain in American habitus. Here. there were several competing model-setting strata. and the egalitarianism of American manners became entrenched through a In the last three decades of the twentieth century and at the beginning of the twenty-first. and many of the countries of Western Europe was that no single group established itself as the modelsetting center to the extent that that happened in Europe. he should have said that the United States never had a nobility it never had hereditary titles of rank. however. which each to some extent functioned to set models of manners and feeling. Rather. and to the pressures of commercial and professional life. Arguably this still looms too large in European (and especially British) perceptions of what shaped American social character. But it did have several social 81-105). During the past century. one should no doubt pay attention to the influence of Hollywood and the mass media more generally. not . however. the underlying trend in the United States has been towards ever-grosser economic and social inequalities.20 Stephen Mennell -century Europe. but rather with social formations that were significant in the development of Germany. Although there is little evidence that factual inequality (and factually low rates of social mobility) are as yet undermining the egalitarianism of superficial manners. Certainly to them. the dominant trend was towards somewhat more even distribution of income and wealth (see Mennell 249-265). Each major city had its own local influential upper stratum. seen not just in the distribution of income and wealth but in social provision. The pattern in detail is complex. which has become a crippling financial burden for many middle-class Americans and from which something approaching 15 per initiative).S. I want to dwell upon two competing model-setting strata that were historically of particular significance. for during the period of roughly half a century after the First World War. both of them invite comparison not with the British models to which their members probably tended semiconsciously to look. That period may seem an anomaly. As it happens. there is what I have called the New England Bildungsbürgertum the educated professional and mercantile upper class of the northern states. The difference between the U. one must begin to ask whether the dominant American ideology of social equality does not represent a form strictly. especially health care.

There the Southerners appear at most advantage. Visiting the United States in the 1830s. that of the slaveowning South. He seems to bear in mind perpetually that he cannot fight a duel. Shearer Davis Bowman has suggested that the plantocracy of the South can fruitfully be compared with the Prussian Junkers. however). One fancies one can tell a New England member in the open air by his deprecatory walk. and the New Englanders to the least. understanding and feeling. they both ruled autocratically over what the Germans called a Privatrechtstaat enforce their judgments on their own estates. Harriet Martineau (III. somewhat gauche. in nineteenth-century Germany the quality of Satisfaktionsfähigkeit being judged worthy to give satisfaction in a duel became a principal criterion for membership of the German upper class (see Germans 44-119). (I. from . Many European travelers. 145) Which brings us to the other great rival aristocracy. Southerners held the among them is highly significant. 10) commented upon the great cautiousness that was entrenched early and deeply in northern people. contrasting with the cautious. not long after Tocqueville. the ease and frank courtesy of the gentry of the South (with an occasional touch of arrogance. State authorities did not intervene in relations between white masters and blacks. even if they were inwardly confident of their superior education. One similarity is that they both provided a large part of the officer corps of the national army. with little or no interference by agencies of the government. At home. The social arrangements of the Old South were also were commonly settled by the duel.The American Civilizing Process: A Skeptical Sketch 21 showing open disdain towards their fellow citizens. she describe thought she could distinguish northern from southern members of Congress simply by the way they walked: It is in Washington that varieties of manners are conspicuous. whether during slavery in the antebellum period or during the long decades of the Jim Crow laws and lynching between the end of Reconstruction and the interwar period. From Independence to the Civil War. and too deferential air of the members from the North. while other people can. Nor did they intervene in what But neither were white-on-white quarrels very much the business of state authorities. As Norbert Elias has argued.

while the French bourgeoisie under the ancien régime aped the manners and tastes of the nobility. And. has today established a monopolistic position as a sort of world upper class. has been widely discussed. the U. This social formation cast a long shadow. and indeed the astonishingly high rate of incarceration of black people today is enough to demonstrate the covert part that race continues to play in the United States today. indeed of culturally conditioned individual dispositions. than in many Western European societies. The final irony is that. like the satisfaktionsfähige gentleman of the Kaiserreich. unemotional style. with the balance of power shifting to the South perception of America and its behavior in the world. but also of the degree of internal pacification and the effectiveness of the state monopoly of the legitimate use of violence in is associated with different personal and emotional styles: the Southerner. it has been suggested that a legacy of this can be seen in the hard. Roger Lane duel.22 Stephen Mennell Harriet Martineau to the great geologist Sir Charles Lyell. It is easy to forget that the South was still overtly a racist society only a generation ago. while there has been a monopolistic modelsetting class to a much lesser extent in the U. Markets If the United States never had a courtly aristocracy of the kind that often influentially shaped manners and habitus more widely in Western Euro- . But it should be remembered that. Soft power did not prevent the French Revolution (see Elias.S. Court Society). they simultaneously resented them. speak-your-weight-machine delivery of many American military spokesmen today. American spokesmen often see the worldwide pervasiveness of the products of the American media and business from Disneyland to Starbucks deployed in the service of American national interest. someone forms in Europe and America. which people throughout the world emulate while continuing to resent it bitterly. were astonished by its prevalence: it was remarked that in New Orleans alone. The propensity to litigation through the legal apparatus of the state is a function not only not mainly.S.

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