Offering a fascinating survey of Elias's life and writings, Dennis Smith traces the growth of his reputation. He is the first author to confront Elias's work with the contrasting theories of Talcott Parsons, Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault and Zygmunt Bauman. He also illustrates how Elias's insights can be applied to understand Western modernity and social and political change. Smith shows why Elias is important for sociology, but he is also clear sighted about the limitations of Elias's approach.
Chapter 6: Bauman and Elias
Bauman and Elias
Postmodernity: For Better or Worse?
Bauman and Elias share their Jewish origins. They were born in cities that are a mere 150 kilometres apart. However, they come from different social classes, different nations and different generations.1 These differences help explain why, as a young man, Elias wanted to be a German university professor of philosophy, contributing to the tradition of German Kultur while Bauman wanted to be a Marxist revolutionary fighting for socialism.
The early careers of both men were destroyed by anti-Semitism. However, neither responded primarily as a Jew. Elias responded as a German intellectual, Bauman as a Marxist intellectual. Each man attempted to reconstruct the intellectual tradition that let him down. Elias attempted to replace Kantian philosphy with Eliasian sociology. ...