Cas Wouters stakes out a powerful theory about changes in human relationships in the Western world over the past twelve decades... essential reading for anyone interested in the contemporary human condition.
This book shows that manners, far from being superficial adornments of behaviour, are thoroughly interwoven with our personalities and the structures of our societies. The concept of ‘informalization’ provides both an invaluable addition to Norbert Elias’s theory of civilizing processes and a most useful tool for understanding how changes in manners are related to shifts in the balances of power between social classes, sexes, and generations.
Supplants and surpasses all previous work on the changing manners and emotional styles of the West in the last century. Wouters helps us to understand trends in Britain and the USA, comparing them not just with each other, but also with Germany and the Netherlands.
In the academic environment in which I work, Norbert Elias’ work on culture and civilizing processes continues to be a fundamental reference... I have often wondered when someone drawn to the Eliasian theoretical and methodological framework would come along to take up the task of extending Elias’ work into more recent periods in the history of modern Western societies.
It is written in clear, unequivocal language, abounds with detail and replaces many normative statements about the alienating state of contemporary, capitalist, mass-consumption-oriented bureaucracy.... A nuanced, subtle and theoretically informed analysis of the sometimes quite chaotic civilising process of the last century.
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