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Malesevic, S. and K. Ryan
Critical Sociology
The Disfigured Ontology of Figurational Sociology: Norbert Elias and the Question of Violence
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This article scrutinises Norbert Elias’s figurational sociology byfocusing on its ontological foundations. The analytical spotlight is onthe inherent tension between Elias’s stance of normative neutralityand detachment, his naturalistic ontology, and an implicitcommitment to progress. We show how Elias’s treatment of socialrelations of inclusion and exclusion reveal a commitment tocognitive and moral development, with negative properties of thesocial consigned to the past, and we examine the consequences ofthis when it comes to explaining the ‘dark sides’ of the present, andin particular the social sources of organised violence in modernity.It is our contention that Elias’ ontology incorrectly posits violence asthe absolute Other of civilisation, so that his theory of the CivilisingProcess fails to adequately account for the persistence andproliferation of warfare in the modern age.
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