Norbert Elias and the Analysis of History and Sport : Systematizing Figurational Sociology book cover
1st Edition

Norbert Elias and the Analysis of History and Sport
Systematizing Figurational Sociology

ISBN 9780367473426
Published January 14, 2020 by Routledge
170 Pages 23 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

In times when the social sciences have become increasingly fragmented and more focused on ‘the pieces of the puzzle’, the puzzle, as a topic in its own right, has slowly been moved towards the background. Nonetheless, as humanity becomes ever more globalized, there is a greater need for in-depth discussion on the theory behind the direction of humanity in history and the interrelationships between the different areas in which humans associate, including that of leisure and sport.

At its heart, Norbert Elias and the Analysis of History and Sport explains both the course of history and how the roles that leisure and sport have occupied in it should be investigated. Exploring this from Norbert Elias’ figurational (or process sociological) standpoint, the book offers a unique perspective as Van Gestel approaches the theoretical concepts and ideas by systematizing the views of the iconic scholar and offers new insights into his central theory. Furthermore, drawing upon theoretical principles that are universal to humans rather than relative to a case study, Van Gestel offers an applicable guideline which explains phenomena beyond specific cultures or circumstances that have so far been a customary practice by process sociologists.

Norbert Elias and the Analysis of History and Sport is a valuable title which will appeal to postgraduate students and scholars interested in fields such as social studies, leisure and sport studies, and history.

Table of Contents

List of figures


Contents of this book

Sociology as a relatively autonomous discipline

Understanding Elias

The uncertainty of the social scientist

Science and knowledge

The complexity and simplicity of reductionism

Sport and sportization

Basic levels of integration – natural and physical constraints

Natural constraints

Physical constraints


Human biological characteristics

The nervous system

Psychological constraints

Components of the psychological make-up

Innate functions

Innate amoral functions

Learned functions

Learned drive-generating functions

Moral functions

Learned drive-resolution functions

‘Polymorphous’ functions



Social constraints

Power and figurations

On power and games


Types of human social bonds

Economic bonds

Political bonds

Affective bonds

On the (non)existence of cognitive bonds

Types of social enclaves

The commingling of constraints and the tasks of the sociologist

The variables of the sociologist

On problems with the artificial macro-meso-micro categorization

Defining identities and social units

The direction of social processes

Blind social processes

(un)Intended actions and consequences

On the civilizing directions of history

In The Civilizing Process

Towards a theory of civilizing, decivilizing and informalizing processes

On the extent of civilizing processes

The principles of civilizing processes

The Spare time spectrum and the need for deroutinization

Process sociology and (de)routinization in social enclaves

The process of deroutinization

The investigation of historical processes in sport and leisure


The philosopher’s approach

The conventional approach of the sociologist

The creation of an optimal tension balance in sport

Towards a reorientation of the concept of sportization


Subject and author index

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Joannes Van Gestel is a research fellow at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Antwerp, Belgium.