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 8: Shame and Humiliation
Shame and Humiliation
So far in this book I have suggested that Elias exaggerated the extent to which Germany was an exceptional case and misread the French case as being typical. I have argued that the response of German society to the collapse of the German empire was mirrored in important respects by the rest of Western Europe during the middle and late twentieth century. This entailed important decivilizing tendencies such as Thatcherism and devolution, tendencies to which France was unusually resistant because civilizing processes (such as political centralization, the penetration of regulation from the centre, and the development of a dominant national ‘we’ identity) had advanced much further there than in other European societies.
On the other side, I have suggested that the ...