History , World Norbert Elias The Germans

ISBN 13: 9780231105620

The Germans

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9780231105620: The Germans

The last major work by one of our century's most influential social theorists, The Germans is a penetrating account of German social development, from the seventeenth century to the present. Enhanced by his deep understanding of other Western European nations, Norbert Elias's incisive analyses of nationalism, violence, and the breakdown of civilization will be an indispensable resource for those interested in modern European history and sociology and in European studies.

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From the Back Cover:

Norbert Elias is one of the most important and influential social thinkers of the twentieth century. Towards the end of his life he completed a major study of German society and culture in which he used his key ideas to analyse the development of the country in which he had lived for many years. The Germans is Elias's last great work and it displays all of the breadth, brilliance and originality of his other major writings.


Through a skilful interweaving of empirical evidence and theoretical reasoning, Elias explores the ways in which the particular features of German personality, social structure and behaviour, arose out of Germany's past. Proceeding chronologically from the Enlightenment to the present day, he draws particular attention to the devastation wrought in the seventeenth century by the Thirty Years' War; Germany's late unification compared to countries such as Britain and France which were unified much earlier and, as a result, enjoyed a much less discontinuous pattern of history and social development; and the series of wars under the leadership of the militaristic ruling strata of Prussia during which German unification eventually took place. In the course of this unification, he argues, large sections of the middle classes abandoned the humanistic values which had hitherto predominated in their social circles and became "brutalized".


Elias then examines the weakening of state control in Germany after the First World War and the emergence of the private armies of the Freikorps, destabilizing the fledgling Weimar Republic and contributing to a terrorist movement that strove for the restoration of authoritarian rule. He argues that these events, which culminated in the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust, occurred as a result of decisions made in a context of national crisis by ruling groups which enjoyed widespread popular support, especially among the middle classes.


The Germans is a classic work. It will be welcomed by students and researchers in sociology and social theory, politics, modern European history and German Studies.

About the Author:

Norbert Elias was Professor Emeritus at the University of Frankfurt until his death in 1990. He taught for many years at the University of Leicester in England and is the author of a number of books, including The Civilizing Process and What is Sociology?

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