University of Leicester to host landmark conference to celebrate the life and achievements of Norbert Elias from June 20-22

Leicester, UK, 19-6-2014 — /EuropaWire/ — Since his death in 1990, Norbert Elias has been recognised as one of the greatest sociologists of the twentieth century, famous for his theories about social civilising processes and the development of human society – and now the University of Leicester will be celebrating his life and achievements with a conference taking place between Friday 20 – Sunday 22 June at College Court, Leicester.

The conference, entitled ‘From Past to Present to Possible Futures: The Collected Works of Norbert Elias’ celebrates Elias’s life and the completion of the eighteenth and final volume of the Collected Works of Norbert Elias in English, published by University College Dublin Press.

The mammoth undertaking, in association with the Norbert Elias Foundation, Amsterdam, and under the stewardship of Professor Stephen Mennell, has taken a decade to bring to fruition.

It brings together the entire corpus of Elias’s works, featuring many writings previously unpublished or not hitherto translated into English, faithfully representing his core ideas and his overall sociological position.

Professor Jason Hughes, Head of the University of Leicester’s Department of Sociology, said: “This is a major event, with upwards of 120 participants from 23 countries across the globe in attendance. The conference marks the completion of a definitive collection of Elias’s key works, and also the return of ‘figurational’ scholarship to Leicester, where Elias taught during the 1950s and 1960s. The conference also marks a massive surge of interest in Elias and Eliasian sociology in recent years.

“The renowned Harvard psychologist Stephen Pinker recently referred to Elias as ‘The greatest social thinker you’ve never heard of’. Here in Leicester, of course, his work has long been known and widely discussed. There is nowhere more fitting, then, to host a conference for this key intellectual figure who is now finally coming to gain the widespread intellectual recognition his work has long deserved.”

The conference, which is co-sponsored by The Sociological Review and The Norbert Elias Foundation, will also be organised around some of Elias’s other key works, including: On the Process of Civilisation; What is Sociology?; The Established and the Outsiders; Quest for Excitement; and Essays I: On the Sociology of Knowledge and the Sciences.

Despite its focus on the Collected Works of Elias, the spirit of this event is to create open dialogues between attendees. It both honours Elias’s association with the University of Leicester and recognises the widespread, international and interdisciplinary interest in his work, and its resurgence within the University and more generally within the human sciences.

The writings of Norbert Elias extend to such diverse topics as violence, sport, ageing and dying, time, work, art, poetry, utopias and the relations between the sexes. He likened networks of interdependent human beings – ‘figurations’ as he called them – to a dance: in constant flux yet structured. His approach has come to be known as ‘figurational sociology’, or more generally – because its appeal is far wider than professional sociologists alone – figurational studies.

Professor John Goodwin from the University of Leicester’s School of Management added: “Given the significance of Elias to sociology at Leicester it is fitting that we are holding this conference here. The conference also happens to coincide with what would have been Norbert’s 117th birthday (22nd June). I can’t think of a more fitting tribute than to have so many international scholars coming together to celebrate the complete publication of his collected works.”

The ‘From Past to Present to Possible Futures: The Collected Works of Norbert Elias’ conference will take place at College Court, Leicester between Friday 20 – Sunday 22 June.

More information about the Elias Conference programme can be found here:

More information about the Collected Works of Norbert Elias can be found here:

More information about the Legacy of Leicester campaign can be found here:


Notes to Editors:

For more information please contact Professor Jason Hughes at or contact Professor John Goodwin at

A podcast interview with Professor Jason Hughes talking about Norbert Elias’s legacy is available to download and embed at:

An image of Norbert Elias is available at:


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