If one of the themes of Classical Readings in Culture and Civilization is the relation between nation-building and the concepts of civilization and culture (see for example the essays by Jefferson, Mann and Febvre above), then this aspect comes to the fore in this essay by Norbert Elias, 'Nationalism and Nation-State Formation'. This extract, taken from the more recently published The Germans, builds on the foundations already laid in his The Civilizing Process, which was completed in Britain after Elias had left Germany in 1933, and published in German in 1939. The first volume concentrated on the relation between the image of civilization and transformations in conduct, while the second presents an empirically grounded model of the formation of states in Europe since the Middle Ages, and shows how changing power ratios and the monopolization of violence within society are connected to the 'curbing of affects' and changing patterns of both manners and people's habitus in the civilizing process proper.

Elias argues that the images of 'civilization' and 'culture' emerge in the context of the formation and transformation of elites, who define themselves against other elite groups, or against other social groups altogether. This is particularly clear in the development of the German nation-state and German nationalism, in which 'civilization' came to be associated with other countries' values — especially those of France - while 'culture' became the badge of distinctively German values.