edited with an Introduction by RICHARD KILMINSTER,
University of Leeds
"It transcends conventional disciplinary boundaries--between the
life sciences and the social sciences, as well as between
empirical science and philosophy. . . . He displays a great
sensitivity for language, both as an object of study and as a
means of thought and expression. . . . [A] most ambitious book. .
. . Few readers will fail to be impressed by the breadth of vision
and the clarity of expression. For many, the book may supply a
welcome, undogmatic antidote to skepticism."
Norbert Elias, one of the prominent figures in international
sociology and social science, draws together three central themes
in The Symbol Theory. At the first level, Elias introduces symbols
in relation to language, knowledge, and thought. He presents a
fresh glance into areas of inquiry normally associated with
cultural anthropology and semiology. Second, Elias focuses on
symbols that are also tangible sound-patterns of communication.
And finally at level three, he addresses theoretical issues about
the ontological status of knowledge, moving beyond traditional
philosophical dualisms such as subject/object and
The Symbol Theory extends Elias' theoretical ideas into the
boundaries of cultural and physical anthropology on one side and
evolutionary biology on the other. In addition, he demonstrates
the potential of sociology as a unifying human science which pulls
in data from various disciplines--history, psychology, economics,
political science, and anthropology. Though Elias is primarily a
sociologist, his work is known across all the social sciences.
This volume is essential reading for all those who have followed
his earlier work and to students and professors of social theory,
communication, sociology, anthropology, and general social