affect control

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The process, identified by Norbert Elias, whereby social constraints are brought to bear upon feelings, emotions, and associated behaviours. In the first volume of his The Civilizing Process (1939), subtitled ‘the history of manners’, Elias charted the developing inhibitions in social conduct that characterized the period in Western Europe of the emergence of the nation state and its accompanying bourgeois class: eating habits, sleeping conventions, urinating, and breaking wind were all subject to what Elias called ‘the pattern of affect control’ which regulated and transformed ‘what must and must not be restrained’: ‘bourgeois society applies stronger restrictions to certain impulses’. In the sphere of sport, a range of examples from 19th-century Britain—from restrictions on bare-knuckle boxing to legislation against cruel animal sports, from moves against unrestrained violence in street football to the moral disapproval of frog-hunting by early public schoolboys—illustrates how forms of intervention and regulation combined with the internalization of more restraining forms of affect control, to reform and transform the boundaries of acceptability relating to bodily practices and the new formalized forms of sports and games-playing. See also civilizing process; Eliasian.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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