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The American Civilizing Process (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007) re-examines the whole course of the development of the USA in the light of Norbert Elias’s theory of civilising processes. The book is structured in the same way as Elias’s The Civilising Process – it begins with the intellectual history of the idea of ‘civilisation’ in America, then proceeds to discuss the development of manners and habitus.

A chapter on violence leads into several chapters on state formation processes and integration conflicts. There follow chapters on religiosity and social inequality in America, and the volume is rounded off with a conclusion that questions many aspects of America’s official ideology and national mythology.

The central thesis that the essence of Americans’ experience right through from the first settlements until the last few years has been of their country becoming more and more powerful vis-à-vis its neighbours, and that this has had a profound effect upon how they perceive the rest of the world where the other 95 per cent of human beings live, how they perceive themselves, and how they are perceived by non-Americans.