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Palgrave Macmillan

On the Process of Civilisation in Japan

Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations

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  • © 2022


  • Presents readers with a distinct approach to examining the question of Japanese modernity
  • Extends Norbert Elias’s theory of civilising processes beyond Europe
  • Examines the development of Japanese society from longitudinal and latitudinal and macro and micro ways

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies on Norbert Elias (PSNE)

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About this book

This book charts the process of civilisation in Japan. Using the theory of civilising processes developed by Norbert Elias, the author examines the complex underlying structural and psychological processes from the seventh century to the twentieth century. Furthermore, by drawing on rich historical data, the author illustrates how these complex processes led the Japanese to see themselves as ‘more civilised’ than their forebears and neighbouring countries. Although the theory serves as an important reference point, the author draws on other works to address different complex questions surrounding Japanese development. Therefore, this book presents three key themes: first, it gives an alternative understanding of the complex developments of Japanese society; second, it intercedes into an ongoing debate about the applicability of Elias’s theory in a non-Western context; and third, it expands Elias’s theory.

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Table of contents (18 chapters)


“A study of Japanese civilization in the perspective of Norbert Elias’s classic on The Civilising Process in Western Europe has been long overdue. Wai Lau has brought it off. His work is grounded in a thorough understanding of the comparative and historical theory of civilization and a deep knowledge of the evolution of Japanese society – a unique combination that makes this study an indispensable source for students of Japan and for anyone interested the process of civilization across continents.”

—Abram de Swaan, em. Distinguished Research Professor, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

“This important book uses Norbert Elias’s theory of civilising processes to interpret the broad sweep of Japanese history over the best part of two millennia. It is also a test of the theory itself, especially in the light of the charge of Eurocentrism so often levelled at it. A most ingenious feature, in the absence of Japanese counterparts to European ‘manners books’, is thedetailed account of the long-term development of the celebrated Japanese ‘tea ceremony’.”

—Stephen Mennell, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University College Dublin, Ireland

“On the Process of Civilisation in Japan is one of the most important books that have recently been written from an Eliasian perspective. By using an extensive knowledge of Japanese history, the author successfully demonstrates that Norbert Elias’s figurational theory can be applied to Asian countries like Japan, encouraging us to build new sociological models on that basis.”

Akira Ohira, Professor Emeritus, Waseda University, Japan


Authors and Affiliations

  • School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

    Wai Lau

About the author

Wai Lau is Researcher in Sociology at the University of Manchester, UK.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: On the Process of Civilisation in Japan

  • Book Subtitle: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations

  • Authors: Wai Lau

  • Series Title: Palgrave Studies on Norbert Elias

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Social Sciences, Social Sciences (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-031-11423-6Published: 04 November 2022

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-031-11426-7Published: 05 November 2023

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-031-11424-3Published: 03 November 2022

  • Series ISSN: 2662-3102

  • Series E-ISSN: 2662-3110

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XVIII, 438

  • Number of Illustrations: 20 b/w illustrations

  • Topics: Sociological Theory, Sociology of Culture, History of Japan, Asian Culture

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