The author discusses the value of Norbert Elias work for the analysis of penal history and contemporary penal institutions, focusing on the question of American capital punishment and its persistence into the 21st century. He argues that although Elias civilizing process? theory offers a plausible account of the broad course of western penal development, it is inadequate to the task of more detailed comparative analysis. He further suggests that the civilizing process? theory might best be regarded not as a general theory of socio-historical development but as a specific application of Norbert Elias general sociological framework (process sociology?) to a specific historical period and problem.
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