Historical Social Research

Norman Gabriel: Growing Up in Society. A Historical Social Psychology of Childhood. [Abstract]

This paper develops a historical social psychology that can be used to understand young children’s social development. It compares the theoretical frameworks of three of the most important relational thinkers in the 20th century – Norbert Elias, Pierre Bourdieu, and Erich Fromm – to shed light on their attempts to integrate the insights of psychoanalysis into their sociological perspectives. I begin by exploring Bourdieu’s “uneasy” relationship with psychoanalysis, arguing that this has led to a less than successful quest by his followers for bridging concepts that can further develop the concept of social habitus. Fromm, one of the foremost but relatively neglected psychoanalysts of his generation, developed a relational psychoanalysis to explain the social relatedness of individuals in society. However, although his key concept of social character is a bold attempt to make sense of the historical forces that shape our individual and collective lives, it is still too heavily tied to the influence of economic structures in society. I argue that Elias is a more consistent, relational sociologist, able to develop highly nuanced concepts that can fully explain the social habitus of young children, focusing on his concept of “love and learning relationships” to explain how they grow up in society.

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