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The society of individuals

By: Elias, Norbert Krieken, Robert van(Edited by) Schroter, Michael(Edited by) Jephcott, Edmund(Translated by)

Part of the Collected Works of Norbert Elias series
1906359075 / 9781906359072
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Ireland, Republic of
24 cm 192 p.
Postgraduate, Research & Scholarly  Learn More

Philosophers and social scientists have for decades - centuries even - tied themselves in knots over the supposed problem of 'individual' versus 'society', and its offshoots such as 'agency' and 'structure'.

Elias shows the falsity of problem, which ought to be easily resolved by thinking in terms of processes extending over the generations - though in practice the baleful influence of philosophy leads to its constant resurrection. "The Society of Individuals" consists of three essays, the first written in 1939, the second dating from the 1940s and 1950s, and the third a final reflection composed in 1987 only three years before Elias' death.

In each, Elias takes the discussion to a new level, demonstrating that individualisation is an inherent component of the personal socialisation process and of inter-generational civilising processes, exploding the myth of the 'We-less ego', and introducing important conceptual innovations, including 'I-identity' versus 'We-identity' and the 'We-I balance'.


JHBA Social theory, JMH Social, group or collective psychology

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