The Question of Time for Norbert Elias

Challenges of an interdisciplinary concept and approach towards time


  • Monica Mastrantonio Visiting Professor University of York



Norbert Elias, interdisciplinary study, time, future narratives


Norbert Elias is one of the great scholars who calls attention to the need for interdisciplinary studies related to actual societies’ challenges. He was one of the precursors of ‘Figurational Sociology,’ through which human relations are studied in a processual way (micro and macro-social aspects). Elias's focus was to understand these concepts, not as a state of fixed and immutable things, but to understand them in terms of their process. In this report, it is pointed out that the ‘civilizing process’ ended up imposing on individuals a greater number of activities as well as greater dependence and complexity in the social relations network. Such factors required a common denominator to regulate such relationships. In this case, the denominator was called ‘time’. By studying time, we may contribute to correct this erroneous image of a world with watertight compartments such as nature, society, and individuals. These are mixed and interdependent and require an interdisciplinary approach. Interdisciplinary studies of time and what to expect of the future are still waiting to being done.


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A couple look over a medieval city centre