Vol. 2 No. 3 (2012)
Eliasian Themes

Living and Surviving: For an Eliasian Theory of Human Acting in the Nuclear Age

Published 2016-11-23


  • Norbert Elias,
  • Theory of human acting,
  • Survival unit,
  • Power,
  • Conflict

How to Cite

Giovannini, P., & Perulli, A. (2016). Living and Surviving: For an Eliasian Theory of Human Acting in the Nuclear Age. Cambio. Rivista Sulle Trasformazioni Sociali, 2(3), 137–149. https://doi.org/10.13128/cambio-19457


The whole of Norbert Elias’s work is characterized by an attempt to overcome those effects of the Western thought development that are at the basis of knowledge specialization and of the consequent fragmentation of disciplinary items. Many are the examples: from the famous theory of civilization to the reflection on time; from the pages on the production and reproduction of social inequalities to notes on the human condition; from the considerations on death to the role of emotions in the dynamics of power and social action; not to mention those essays which specifically deal with the relationship between sociology and other human sciences. One can constantly see the attempt to carry on the analysis as close as possible to the concrete reality, through a vision of holistic knowledge where different disciplinary approaches and key concepts are interwoven. While keeping in the background those aspects which epistemologically emerge as milestones of the Eliasian approach - the refusal of dichotomous knowledge (nature/culture; individual/society; order/change; psychogenesis and sociogenesis); the need for a processual perspective in the analysis of social phenomena; the relationship between reason and emotion - the article deals with the issue of distinctive forms and figurations of human beings acting in a historical period characterized by the nuclear threat. The focus is on three closely related aspects, which bring out a kind of Eliasian theory of human acting, characterized by multidisciplinary elements and contributions. The first is that of the survival unit, a concept through which one can address the issue of motivations and of different modes of acting. The second is the role of power, or rather of changing power balance, in the determination of different forms of human interdependence. The third is the particular mode of acting that is a conflicting one, with specific reference to the distinctive form of conflict interdependence proper to the nuclear age.


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