In The Symbol Theory, Norbert Elias draws together three central themes.
At the first level the book is concerned with symbols in relation to language, knowing and thinking.
Secondly, Elias stresses that symbols are also tangible sound-patterns of human communication, made possible by the evolutionary biological precondition of human vocal apparatus.
At a third level, the book addresses theoretical issues about the ontological status of knowledge, moving beyond traditional philosophical dualisms such as subject/object and idealism/materialism. The bulk of The Symbol Theory was published in Vol 6, issues 2, 3 and 4 of Theory, Culture & Society.