Its seems quite easy to find traces of Simmel’s heritage in Elias thought: from the figurational approach to a dynamic and processual representation of society, the influences of the first on the second are very relevant. If Simmel thinks that the society is realized by the individuals’ interactions, indeed a society as a network, for Elias the society is the framework of relations between individuals, their interdependences, in other words what links the individuals. This represents the “figuration”, this the term adopted by the German sociology to define reciprocally referring and depending individuals (Elias, 1982). This is the reason it is impossible to conceive a man as a single entity: interdependent individuals together create “figuration”, groups and society. Elias refuse the idea of a man existing without the society and at the same time of a society without individuals. According to Simmel with the development of the urban life individuals, while interacting between themselves, try to protect their feelings from the transformations of a modern society (Simmel, 1995, Cerulo, 2009). It is mainly the individuals’ intellect which both protect them from emotional distresses and allow them to adapt to the multiplicity of the urban relationships. In spite of this the individual is still able to express sociality but keeps his own intimacy, which he can decide to offer to the others in particular situations of social interactions: therefore the social relations, even if not granted, are still possible. According to Elias thought the transition from the social constraint to the self-constraint implies a scission between passion and reason, the exclusion of the excesses from the everyday life intended not only as individual violence but as uncontrolled emotions and the immediate fulfilment of the personal needs as well. Individual learns to postpone the fulfilment of his desires but at the same time he has to moderate his emotional expressions and to repress his instincts. The increasing complexity push the individual towards behavioural strategies which have to take into account the social interdependency and the need of a self control (Calabrò, 1997). In spite of the violence monopoly exerted by the state and of the growing functional interdependency between the different social classes, the tensions become a permanent condition which cannot be solved with the use of physical strength but rather they become an inner constant pressure for the individual which modify irreversibly his mental structure. To the functional division and the social interdependency increase it corresponds an ongoing internalizing of the prohibitions, a behavioural self regulation and a restriction of the wishes according to the social rules. In the developed societies the individual has to control his emotions and his instincts both in the public and the private sphere. In this essays we would like to point out the analogies and the differences in to reflection which both the authors dedicate to the emotions and feelings in order to analyze their role in the contemporary societies.

Bianchi, F. (2011). Between social ‘forms’ and ‘figurational’ sociology. Simmel and Elias and the role of emotions. CAMBIO, I(2), 88-102.

Between social ‘forms’ and ‘figurational’ sociology. Simmel and Elias and the role of emotions

BIANCHI, FRANCESCA
2011

Abstract

Its seems quite easy to find traces of Simmel’s heritage in Elias thought: from the figurational approach to a dynamic and processual representation of society, the influences of the first on the second are very relevant. If Simmel thinks that the society is realized by the individuals’ interactions, indeed a society as a network, for Elias the society is the framework of relations between individuals, their interdependences, in other words what links the individuals. This represents the “figuration”, this the term adopted by the German sociology to define reciprocally referring and depending individuals (Elias, 1982). This is the reason it is impossible to conceive a man as a single entity: interdependent individuals together create “figuration”, groups and society. Elias refuse the idea of a man existing without the society and at the same time of a society without individuals. According to Simmel with the development of the urban life individuals, while interacting between themselves, try to protect their feelings from the transformations of a modern society (Simmel, 1995, Cerulo, 2009). It is mainly the individuals’ intellect which both protect them from emotional distresses and allow them to adapt to the multiplicity of the urban relationships. In spite of this the individual is still able to express sociality but keeps his own intimacy, which he can decide to offer to the others in particular situations of social interactions: therefore the social relations, even if not granted, are still possible. According to Elias thought the transition from the social constraint to the self-constraint implies a scission between passion and reason, the exclusion of the excesses from the everyday life intended not only as individual violence but as uncontrolled emotions and the immediate fulfilment of the personal needs as well. Individual learns to postpone the fulfilment of his desires but at the same time he has to moderate his emotional expressions and to repress his instincts. The increasing complexity push the individual towards behavioural strategies which have to take into account the social interdependency and the need of a self control (Calabrò, 1997). In spite of the violence monopoly exerted by the state and of the growing functional interdependency between the different social classes, the tensions become a permanent condition which cannot be solved with the use of physical strength but rather they become an inner constant pressure for the individual which modify irreversibly his mental structure. To the functional division and the social interdependency increase it corresponds an ongoing internalizing of the prohibitions, a behavioural self regulation and a restriction of the wishes according to the social rules. In the developed societies the individual has to control his emotions and his instincts both in the public and the private sphere. In this essays we would like to point out the analogies and the differences in to reflection which both the authors dedicate to the emotions and feelings in order to analyze their role in the contemporary societies.
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