Leisure and “The Civilising Process”

  • Stephen Wagg


This chapter examines the German sociologist Norbert Elias’ theory of “The Civilising Process” in relation to leisure. It sets out the main tenets of this theory and its implications for thinking sociologically about leisure (and sport). It discusses the international debate among scholars over “football hooliganism” that took place in the late 1980s and 1990s in which Eliasan theorists (self-styled “figurationists”) played a leading role. It also examines the key Eliasan proposition that leisure in modern societies, since these societies are inherently “unexciting”, entails a necessary quest for excitement. This chapter suggests that discussion of these questions did less to enhance understanding of these matters than it might have. This chapter closes with a brief consideration of the main criticisms that have been levelled at Eliasan sociologists and their understanding of leisure.


Civilising process Leisure Sport, the body Hooliganism Emotions Excitement 



Thanks to Peter Bramham and Spencer Swain for commenting on, and helping to improve, the earlier drafts of this chapter.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Wagg
    • 1
  1. 1.Leeds Beckett UniversityLeedsUK

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