Two key principles dominated his sociology. First, he was concerned to understand the process of civilization, which he defined as a process whereby external restraints on behaviour are replaced by internal, moral regulation. Second, he criticized functionalism and structuralism for their tendency to reify social processes, and argued instead for figurational or processual sociology; that is, a conceptualization of the constant and endless processual flux of all social relationships. Hence he wrote about ‘civilizing processes’ rather than ‘civilization’. His work has been criticized on two principal counts. First, it is not clear what is the cause or mechanism which produces these civilizing processes. Second, it is objected that his theory is not supported by empirical evidence, since modern societies are very uncivilized in terms of everyday violence and brutality.
Among his numerous other publications are What is Sociology? (1970), The Court Society (1969), The Loneliness of the Dying (1982), Involvement and Detachment (1987), and An Essay on Time (1984).
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