chapter  3
Civilised Attitudes
Pages 24

Thomas tells the historical erosion of metonymical classification by metaphorical attitudes towards the natural world in England. He argues that attitudes in the early modern period were unremittingly anthropocentric. Certainly, he asserts the importance of industrialisation in stimulating change in attitudes towards the natural world, but industrialisation crucially involved the urbanisation of social life. Elias would tell us that animal rights, and kindness to animals, are a product of human's social life, of civilisation and human embarrassment at our own animality. The great advantage of Elias's work is that it opens up the history of the profoundly linked 'sociogenetic' and 'psychogenetic' transformations. The Eliasian method would see animal rights as a system which, firstly, denounces violence because aggression is the preserve of the nation-state, and, secondly, voices an embarrassment about the 'animal' dimensions of human life which civilisation tries to suppress. The Durkheimian position that attitudes towards animals reflect the self-definition of a homogeneous society has been exploded.