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Amsterdam.

Elias’s approach has often been characterized as

figurational sociology, though he came to prefer

the term process sociology. This approach was

designed to avoid reified accounts of social institutions

and to emphasize the historical character

of social life. His work is therefore often contrasted

with the functionalism of Talcott Parsons.

The defining features of this approach hold

that: (1) human beings are born into relations of

interdependency so that the social structures that

they form with each other engender emergent

dynamics, which cannot be reduced to individual

actions or motivations. Such emergent dynamics

fundamentally shape processes of individual

growth and development, and the trajectory of

people’s lives; (2) these figurations are in a constant

state of flux and transformation; (3) longterm

transformations of human social figurations

are largely unplanned and unforeseen; and (4) the

development of knowledge takes place within

such figurations and forms one aspect of their

overall development.

Elias’s first work, though not published until

1969, was The Court Society, in which he examined

the social pressures facing the “court nobility”

under the reign of Louis XIV. According to Elias

the court rationality of the nobility, in which

rank and prestige determined expenditure, can

be contrasted with the economic rationality of

the bourgeoisie, where consumption is subordinated

to income. Like economic rationality, court

rationality involved forms of self-restraint which

were expressed in literature, architecture, and philosophy.

Elias’s magnum opus, however, remains

The Civilizing Process (1939 [trans. 2000]). Drawing

on a variety of thinkers, including Karl Marx,

Mannheim, Max Weber, and Sigmund Freud, Elias

offers a bifocal investigation of psychological and

behavioral transformations among the secular

upper classes in the West, which, he shows, are

integrally tied above all to processes of internal

pacification and state formation. Because of the

late and separate publication of volumes I and II

in English, in 1978 and 1981, the study of long-term

psychological changes, the history of manners, and

the capacity for greater self-control in volume I

has often, misleadingly, been read independently

from the study of changes in social structure and

state formation outlined in volume II.

Elias’s other writings often develop ideas originally

elaborated in The Civilizing Process. Together

with Involvement and Detachment (1987), which outlines

the social conditions for the possibility of a

scientific sociology, Elias’s other crucial work is

What is Sociology? (1978), in which he outlines

among other things a series of “game models.”

These demonstrate the regularity of social processes

which generate emergent dynamics that

cannot be reduced to individual actions. These

constrain and mold the habitus and behavior of

individuals.

Other important works by Elias include (with

J. Scotson) The Established and the Outsiders (1965);

and (with Eric Dunning) Quest for Excitement (1986);

The Society of Individuals (1991); and Time: An Essay

(1992). STEVEN LOYAL

elective affinity Elias, Norbert (1897–1990)

161


elite(s)

While in classic analyses the term elite carries

a connotation of superiority (“the cream”), in

contemporary social analysis it is used in a nonevaluative

manner: it means a powerful minority

affecting public and political outcomes in a

systematic and significant way. Elite influence

reflects control over “power resources” concentrated

in large organizations, for example capital,

authority, means of coercion, mass communication,

knowledge, and charisma, as well as the

capacity of elite groups to act in concert. Elites

emerge in all organized societies, especially

those with strong bureaucratic states. Therefore,

the most visible parts of national elites are political

elites (leaders). In democratic regimes, such

elites operate electoral systems in which they

compete for popular support. They also interact –

collaborate, compete, and sometimes contend –

with state-administrative, business, media, trade

union, military, and religious elite groups. If this

interaction is peaceful, and if elite groups achieve

a high degree of consensus, stable democratic

regimes may emerge. Elite warfare, by contrast,

is a trademark of unstable and non-democratic

polities.

While the empirical delineations of elites are

arbitrary – power and influence are matters of

degree – most elite researchers restrict their size

to about 300–1,000 persons. Such elite persons are

identified “positionally,” as holders of the top

power positions in the largest and most resourcerich

organizations, or by involvement in making

key decisions, or by reputation among their peers,

or, finally, by a combination of the three methods.

National elites are also seen as internally stratified,

with political leaders typically placed at

the apex of national power structures. At the

other end of the power spectrum are the masses

(“non-elites”). Between these two extremes, social

scientists also distinguish “political classes” – the

power strata from which elites are drawn, and

on which elites rely in wielding power – and

“influentials,” those who can affect elite decisions.

Elites are sometimes conflated and sometimes

contrasted with “ruling classes” (see social class).

The latter are seen as much broader collectivities

distinguished by ownership of capital. Class theorists

typically see elites as “executive arms” of the

ruling class(es). Elite theorists, by contrast, criticize

class reductionism and point to the autonomy

of political elites, as reflected in their

capacity to expropriate ownership classes (for

example in revolutions).

Classical elite theory was developed at the turn

of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by

Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca, and Robert

Michels, under the strong influence of both positivism

and the theories of Max Weber. It constituted

a critique of democratic theory that

predicted a radical dispersion of political power,

and of Marxism that foresaw class conflicts and

a triumph of egalitarian socialism. In contrast

with both, the classic elite thinkers suggested persistent

and inescapable power concentration in

elites’ hands. Revolutions (see revolution, theory

of ), including “socialist revolutions,” claimed

elite theorists, merely reconstituted elites, and

they did not narrow down the elite–mass power

gaps.


Both classic and contemporary elite theorists

see the bases of elite power in certain psychological

predispositions, organizational abilities

(rare in general populations), small size, and internal

cohesion. Elite cohesion does not preclude

the possibility of temporary intra-elite conflicts

and divisions on specific policy questions. However,

when their power is threatened, elite

members defend it in a solidary way. Their firm

grip on power is strengthened by alliances with

non-elite social forces – dominant strata, movements,

classes, and organized groups – and by

control over their succession exercised through

exclusive schools, corporate hierarchies, and party

machines. Contemporary elite theorists, such as

C. Wright Mills, see the United States elite as

firmly anchored in the core organizations: the

national government, the military directorate,

and the largest business corporations.

A comprehensive overview of modern elites is

provided by Tom Bottomore in Elites and Society

(1993) and by Robert Putnam in Comparative Study

of Political Elites (1976). Bottomore highlights elite –

ruling class connection. Putnam stresses elites’

anchoring in social and institutional structures,

and he sees elite conduct as heavily constrained

by ideologies (revolutionary elites) and national

legal frameworks (liberal elites). Other contemporary

elite theorists, such as John Higley and

Eva Etzioni-Halevi, elaborate the conceptions

of elite unity and democracy. They focus on

elite effectiveness, consensus, and competition.

According to Higley and his collaborators, elites

that “craft” and maintain stable democratic

regimes are united in their support of peaceful

electoral competition, broadly integrated, and

well connected with the major mass constituencies,

typically through party organizations and

elite(s) elite(s)

162


civic associations. Etzioni-Halevi sees effective

“coupling” of elites with lower/working classes as

a key condition of democracy, the latter seen as a

regime of competing elites.

More recently, there has been a shift in elite

researchers’ attention, reflecting a change in the

structure and composition of contemporary elites.

It can be summarized in five points:

(1) The emergence of transnational power networks

and elites. While nation-states remain

the most important institutional loci of power,

other power concentrations emerge in the

process of globalization and the formation

of such transnational bodies as the United

Nations, the World Bank, the International

Monetary Fund, Greenpeace, and Islamicmovements.

The increasingly transnational/global

nature of the problems national elites face

(for example terrorism, environmental degradation,

the drugs trade, uncontrolled migrations

and the spread of AIDS) forces them

into supra-state and transnational domains.

(2) Widening elite autonomy. One of the key

trends of the last decades seems to be a

widening of non-elective elites capable of

initiating, and sometimes directing, social

change. Thus what are arguably the most

momentous events of the twentieth century,

such as the dissolution of the Soviet Union,

the collapse of Soviet communism in eastern

Europe, and the liberalization of the Chinese

economy, have been engineered by elites.

(3) Emergence of pro-democratic elites. The recent

wave of democratization (1989–95) has been

championed mainly by elites “crafting” and

consolidating democratic regimes, often with

only weak support from mass populations.

Pro-democratic elites have emerged in southern

Europe, Russia, central and eastern Europe,

and East Asia.

(4) Intense elite differentiation and circulation.

Contemporary studies show that new elite

groups emerge with the expansion of new

industries, civic groups, social movements,

and nongovernmental organizations.

(5) The declining impact of ideologies in advanced

western societies. Western elites cultivate

mass support in a pragmatic and ad hoc

manner, often through media “spin” and campaigns

focusing on personalities of leaders.

This reflects the fact that the support constituencies

of western elites are less anchored in

specific classes, ethno-segments, or religious

categories. J AN PAKULSK I

embeddedness

This concept suggests that economic conduct is embedded

within and influenced by wider social structures,

institutions, and cultures, and represents a

sociological critique of standard economic models

that equate economic processes with atomistic

market transactions between self-interested individuals.

Mark Granovetter codified this critique in

“Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem

of Embeddedness” (1985), in the American Journal

of Sociology. He argued that trust, suspicion, and

manipulation in market transactions cannot be

explained by the calculations of autonomous

(undersocialized) economic actors or by (oversocialized)

cultural determinism. Rather, they are explicable

in terms of the specific networks of social

relations inhabited by such actors: a shared network

may underpin trust rather than suspicion,

but may also create more scope for abuse of trust.

This is not an argument for uniform embeddedness.

First, in some societies economic processes are

largely structured in terms of nonmarket relations,

in which case formal market models are entirely

inappropriate. Second, market processes in capitalist

societies are not autonomous and self-sustaining,

as much economic theory implies, but rather

generate tensions and challenges that prompt

efforts at institutional regulation. Third, market

transactions are differently conditioned by specific

institutional features: thus different liberal market

and “alliance” capitalisms involve various levels

and types of embeddedness. Finally, the greater

embeddedness of economic processes in “alliance”

capitalisms, through ties among enterprises and

with the state (and sometimes organized labor),

may generate trust and cooperation more readily

than liberal market capitalisms.

However, the invocation of embeddedness only

provides a starting point for such arguments. The

consequences of different sorts of embeddedness,

and their advantages and disadvantages for different

economic actors, have to be addressed

through more detailed specification and research.

TONY ELGER

embodiment

– see body.

emotional labor

– see emotions.

emotions

Although typically understood in terms of feelings

and bodily sensations, which are components of

elite(s) emotions

163

any emotion, emotions are best regarded as



experiences of involvement. Social circumstance,

expressive communication, and actor intentions

are crucial to the genesis of emotional experience

and its quality. Thus, emotions can be seen to

underscore values, interests, and meanings in

social life. Emotions, then, are implicated in rational

as well as irrational action and outlook.

Max Weber’s distinction, for instance, between

rational action and affective action, therefore

loses its coherence when emotion is not confined

to a particular type of action but seen to underlie

all action. Similarly, while some emotions may

rise and fall within a short time-frame, it is not a

necessary characteristic of emotions that they

are of short duration, though this applies to those

emphasized by experimental work in psychology:

here laboratory research studies chiefly reactive

and highly visceral emotions, readily elicited

from experimental subjects usually drawn from

undergraduate student populations. Many important

emotions, however, are not brief and

episodic but enduring or ongoing. Another misunderstanding

holds that those experiencing emotions

are necessarily conscious of them. They

need not be. Many emotions, including the most

important for social processes, are experienced

below the threshold of awareness. Thomas J.

Scheff, for instance, has shown that much social

conformity can be explained in terms of shame of

which the subject is not consciously aware.

The relevance of emotions to sociological explanation

is original to the discipline, central to

the eighteenth-century precursors of sociology, including

Adam Smith (1723–90) in The Theory of

Moral Sentiments (1759) and Adam Ferguson

(1723–1816) in An Essay on the History of Civil Society

(1767), and to nineteenth- and early twentiethcentury

sociological pioneers, including Alexis

de Tocqueville, E´mile Durkheim, Vilfredo Pareto,

Ferdinand To¨nnies, and Georg Simmel. Since the

1970s, after at least half a century of neglect by

sociologists, a sociology of emotions has emerged.

An approach associated with these developments

concerns emotion management and emotional

labor as in Arlie Russell Hochschild’s The Managed

Heart (1983). Emotion management is the broad

process that matches face or emotional expression

to circumstance, a process achieved by emotional

labor. Emotional labor, like labor in general,

refers to activities performed in an employment

setting for a wage, in which the labor is to induce

or suppress feelings in order to sustain an outward

countenance or emotional expression intended

to produce a particular state of mind in

others. The affective parameters within which

emotional labor is performed are the culturally

defined feeling rules that prescribe the content

of emotional expression and the circumstances

in which particular expressions are appropriate.

Hochschild estimated that, in the early 1980s

when she wrote her book, approximately onethird

of American workers had jobs substantially

involving emotional labor and that approximately

half of all female workers had jobs involving such

forms of emotional work. She argues that the

costs of emotional labor to those engaged in it

are high: it affects the capacity to feel and may

lead to loss of the function of emotional display or

expression. The deleterious consequence of performance

of emotional labor postulated by Hochschild

is supported in many of the documented

cases of emotional labor. And yet case studies

seldom control for other aspects of the work that

may be responsible for negative emotional outcomes.

In a comparative examination of occupations,

Amy Wharton in Work and Occupations (1993)

found that emotional laborers are no more likely

than other workers to suffer emotional exhaustion

and somewhat more likely to be satisfied

with their job. What determines whether work

leads to emotional exhaustion or a sense of emotional

inauthenticity is the level of job autonomy

and involvement. When these are low then the

jobs involved tend to produce emotional exhaustion

and low job satisfaction, whether emotional

labor is a primary aspect of the job or not.

The sociology of emotion management and

emotional labor predominantly understands emotions

in terms of social and cultural manipulation,

transformation, and restraint. While this

aspect of emotions is important it does not exhaust

the ways in which emotions may be sociologically

considered. The way in which emotions

spontaneously emerge in social processes and also

the extent to which they constrain and orient

social processes. A general theory of emotions developed

by Theodore Kemper in A Social Interactional

Theory of Emotions (1978) postulates three

basic propositions. First, all social interactions can

be characterized in terms of two formal dimensions

of social relations, namely power and status,

or involuntary and voluntary compliance, scaled

in terms of whether they are in excess of what is

required in the relationship, adequate for it, or

insufficient. Agency – who might be responsible

for too much or not enough power, say – can

similarly be differentiated, as “self ” or “other.”

Second, specific physiological processes are stimulated

by specific experiences of power and status.

emotions emotions

164

Finally, particular emotions are physiologically



specific. Physiological processes are thus the

mechanisms that translate the structure of interactions

into the emotions of the actors and are

therefore an intermediary variable. In summary,

the particular emotions that people experience

arise out of the structure of the relations of power

and status in which they are implicated. Thus,

insufficient power in a relationship is likely to

lead to experience of fear, excess of power to guilt;

excess status is likely to lead to shame, insufficient

status to depression, and so on. According

to this account, emotion is in the social relationship:

the subject of relations of power and status

experiences emotional change, and, in being so

changed, is disposed to change the relationship

itself. Thus emotion is a necessary link between

social structure and social actor. The connection is

never mechanical, though, because emotions normally

do not compel but bias activity. Emotion is

provoked by circumstance and is experienced as

transformation of dispositions to act. It is through

the subject’s active exchange with others that

emotional experience is both stimulated in the

actor and orientating of their conduct. Emotion

is directly implicated in the actors’ transformation

of their circumstances, as well as the circumstances’

transformation of the actors’ disposition

to act. JACK BARBALET

empiricism

This is a position in epistemology which states that

only that which is observable, that is, empirical,

can be used in the generation of scientific knowledge.

There can be no recourse to unseen forces,

underlying causes, or claims that behind the appearance

of reality there lies a more fundamental

reality.


In contrast to theological accounts of how we

gain knowledge of the world – through divine

revelation, faith, and the teachings of the church

fathers – empiricism was an epistemological position,

evolved through the Enlightenment, arguing

that knowledge of the world was a product of

careful observation by the individual, the sorting

of these observations, and the generation of laws

governing them. As developed in Newtonian

mechanics, the world was conceptualized as orderly

and lawful. As developed by John Locke

(1632–1704) in political philosophy, we are born

into the world as a blank sheet and, through sensory

experience and by induction (that is, by

moving from the knowledge of the particular to

the knowledge of the general), gradually build our

knowledge of the world. However, Immanuel Kant

(1724–1804) argued that reality is too infinitely

complex for us to know what to abstract out

of it; that in our own lifetime we could never

make sense of it; and hence the mind must come

prepared to make sense of the empirical world.

Thus he proposes that the categories of reason –

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