Elias`s Idea of a Processual Type of Explanation

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 10:45
Oral Presentation
Vera WEILER, Universidad Nacional de Colombia (Bogotá), Colombia
At the end of his life Norbert Elias clearly wanted his work not to be labeled as figurational sociology because he felt that thinking in terms of human beings bound together in figurations had been assimilated by thinking in terms of systems instead of processes. At that time the label figurational had been always firmly established, perhaps too firmly to get replaced by that of processual. But what if the point made by Elias wasn’t fully understood? Sometimes both words have been used as if they were synonyms. Anyway the distinction figurational-processual did not get much attention. Surprisingly enough in the meanwhile the term “processual sociology” has been taken over by others, and we will feel compelled to compare. So, we should no longer avoid the task to come to terms with Elias’ idea of processual thinking underlying that of a processual sociology. The paper is aimed to face this task. Based on a collection of references from archive records and published work of Elias it is argued that processual thinking has been conceived of by Elias as the overcoming of a specific type of explanation related to a specific structure of causation. Elias avoided explicit statements on the origins of that structure though clear in that it should form under empirical conditions, and that for precisely that knowledge of our natural constitution were needed. All this, then, invites to look at the first figuration which is effectively experienced by human beings in their lives in search of the empirical conditions under which the structure of causation-explanation is primarily formed. The latter has been fundamental to the processual theory of Günter Dux, much in the sense in which Elias could accept it.