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The term civilizing process is associated with the work of Norbert Elias (1897–1990) and the research tradition of figurational sociology, which he established. In his early magnum opus, The Civilizing Process (2000; first published in German in 1939), he studied and sought to explain just one strand of one civilizing process—changing standards of behavior and emotional habitus among the secular upper classes in Western Europe since the late Middle Ages—but he came to consider that he had discovered a more general principle. There are many civilizing processes, in many cultures, over many timescales, and among many social groups, and the theory has been greatly extended both by Elias in his later works and by others inspired by his work.

Many social scientists feel uncomfortable with the ...

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