A Definition Of Civilization by Philip Atkinson All Human inventions are first thoughts before they become things. So the creations of communities such as cities, governments, armies, as well as communal achievements such as conquests and discoveries— everything that goes to make a civilization — must spring from a community’s thoughts. Hence: Civilization: is the tangible expression of a communal understanding. Communal Understanding: is that single understanding allowed by the set of values common to each member of a community.
For example it is this influence that decided one community to persecute the scientist Galileo and suppress his notions, while another community to honour the scientist Isaac Newton and embrace his notions. It decides what the community thinks and does. Expressed And Refined By Conversation Communal Understanding exists, as it is expressed, in the unique language of the citizens, who mould it by their conversation. Conversation: is the daily expression and exchange of individual opinions; a mechanism that refines communal understanding by promoting popular, while suppressing unpopular, notions.
That is, all those ideas which match common feelings of right and wrong, will be repeated and magnified into reasons to act, while those which receive little or no support will inevitably be ignored; which makes conversation the ideas filter, or the mind, of the community. A Community: is that group of people sharing a common understanding who reveal themselves by using the same language, manners, customs and law: tradition.
A Communal Mind: is similar in operation to an individual mind, except that audible conversation replaces silent thoughts; but the mechanism of understanding is the same—ideas, expressed in words, which are filtered by a code of values to determine which should become reasons for action. If a man is an irrational vegetarian crank whose conversation is mainly tirades against imaginary persecutors, then it is this process that will decide the man’s future— whether as a despised social outcast, or as an absolute monarch, like Hitler. This does not mean that everyone believes what is popular, but unpopular concepts are ignored.
Consequently: |1. |By sharing the same process of thought as individuals, communal minds are subject to the same shortcomings of understanding as | | |individuals: | | |i. | | |Understanding appears only after the formation of a basic set of values (morality), which become an essential and immutable part of | | |the creature. | | | | | |ii. | | |Personality As the understanding of an individual confers a personality, so does the understanding of a community, and this the | | |culture of the community. | | | | |iii. | | |Honesty depends upon their nature, if unselfish, they will revere truth; otherwise truth will be discarded in favour of convenience. | | |(See the two modes of communities. ) | | | | | |iv. | |Sanity may be lost, a graphic example being the Nazi phenomenon, when a whole nation behaved like a lunatic. | | | | | |v. | | |Senility may occur as the organ that allows understanding fails; in the individual it is a corruption of the brain, and in a | | |community it is a corruption of tradition. (see the difference between Insanity and Senility . ) | | | | |2. As words are the currency of thought, the use of language is critical to both private and public understanding, with the particular | | |choice of words revealing the nature of an author’s understanding. So the nature of the literature published by a community must | | |reflect the nature of that community’s understanding. Hence the history of a community’s literature must be the history of that | | |community’s understanding. | |3. |As the nature and concerns of communal conversation are echoed by the media, the media can be considered the mirror of the mind of | | |our society, with the character displayed by the edia being the character of our civilization. | |4. |All intelligence has a memory, and communal memory is made up of the manners, customs, language, laws, and beliefs: the tradition of| | |the community, which must be maintained by succeeding generations. | The Strength Of An Understanding is a function of the knowledge, determination and ability to think clearly of that understanding; and is revealed by the understanding’s ability to assert itself. As an understanding can only assert itself over other understandings by violence, or its threat, this is why the history of humanity is the violent resolution of opposing understandings —war.
Hence: |1. |The Wealth And Achievements obtained by communal understanding are dependent upon the successful use of violence, or its threat. | | |’Pax Romana’ only existed as long as the Ancient Romans were willing and able to inflict superior violence upon their enemies. | |2. |A Community That Recoils From Violence is a community whose understanding has become senile and is thus doomed. | A Simple Example of the creation and development of a Communal Understanding (a community) can be found in the book “The Great Trek” by Oliver Ransford.
This history of the Boers describes how these people came together and formed a communal understanding, expressed in its own unique language —Afrikaner. It also reveals the essential role of violence necessary for the Boers to assert themselves among other communities. Indeed Boer tradition celebrates victories like Vegkop and Blood River as of crucial and lasting significance. |« NEXT » |« The Theory » |« A Study Of Our Decline » | Civilization as a concept : The definitions of the term “civilization” are numerous.
They vary according to the school of thought which adopts them. However, the most comprehensive definition which expresses the general meaning of civilization is the one which views civilization as the expression of a system of beliefs, values and principles as well as the synthesis of human activities in the various fields of science, literature and art, without any distinction whatsoever, along with the ensuing trends, tendencies and tastes shaping the pattern of conduct, the lifestyle, the way of thinking and the standards to be heeded and sought.
The term civilization has evolved from an era to another. Ibn Khaldoun defined civilization as “a sophistication in luxury and the mastery of crafts used to advance it in various aspects such as cooking, clothes, decoration, architecture, and all social situations. Each of these requires skills and crafts to achieve it. They are specific and corollary one to another, but vary according to the variation of the inclinations of the soul towards the pleasures, delights and enjoyment of luxury that are determined by the decorum.
Therefore, the cycle of civilization related to monarchy is necessarily intertwined with the cycle of peasantry, since peasantry and monarchy are consubstantial with one another. “(3) Ibn Khaldoun argues that civilization is the supplementary welfare added to the basics of life for any human society. It varies depending on the degree of luxury and the unlimited differences between nations, in terms of abundance and scarcity(4). Ibn Khaldoun then provides a more elaborate definition of civilization, holding that monarchy and statehood are the ultimate expression of nationalism and that civilization is the ultimate expression of rural life.
Every human entity be it peasantry, civilization, monarchy or the folk, has a limited lifetime like any of its individual constituents(5). This is what confirms the theory of the rise and fall of civilizations which Ibn Khaldoun had been the first to develop, well before European philosophers and thinkers. Only late in the twentieth century, had the British historian Arnold Toynbee expounded and reformulated this theory in a modern way to become an axiom in the field of history philosophy. Ibn Khaldoun also describes civilization as the age of toddling in the life of statehood and society(6).
As for Ibn AL Azraq, he brings out a definition of civilization saying “civilization is the ultimate stage of the sophistication of society which leads it towards corruption and unlimited evil; he who keeps aloof from it shall be closer to virtue”(7) In modern times, the meaning of the term civilization has evolved considerably. The American historian, Diorant, states in his large encyclopedia “The story of civilization”, translated into many languages, that civilization is a social system which allows man to increase his cultural production.
Civilization is made up of four components: social resources, political systems, ethical standards and the pursuit of science and art. It (civilization) begins where anguish and uncertainty end”(8). In this sense, civilization is more pregnant with meaning and significance to express the spirit which animates a given society. It is therefore more comprehensive than culture, which has more to do with essence, identity and specificity than with the appearance and the general character of human life in a social environment, as Toynbee put it : “civilization contains but can never be contained”(9).
Based on this concept, civilization starts from the interaction between various cultures, whose features and specificities are shaped by peoples of different origins and cultures. Those cultures merge together in one main stream that constitutes civilization. Civilization has no ethnic character and cannot be associated with a given race or a given people. When it is sometimes ascribed to a given nation or geographical region, this is only for the sake of definition.
Conversely, culture is the symbol of identity, the reflection of subjectivity and the expression of the specificities of a particular nation or a people. Civilization is a crucible of various cultures with different origins and backgrounds which blended and cross-fertilized to shape the characteristics of civilization, that reflect the human spirit in its sublimity and express the general principles and values shared among them all. Every civilization is underpinned by general principles, which stem from religious creeds or positive philosophies.
No matter how numerous creeds and philosophies are, the distinctive characteristics of a civilization are determined by the most well-entrenched creeds in the hearts and minds of people and the most influential in the public life, to the extent that civilization becomes tainted and associated with them. This association is all the more sound when these underpinnings are sound in themselves, as is the case with the Islamic civilization. The major civilizations in the history of humanity differ from one another depending on their stance on material and spiritual life.
There are in fact civilizations where materialism is overwhelming, others which favor the spiritual life and finally those which strike a fair balance between the materialistic and the spiritual sides(10). There is, in fact, a succession of civilizations, each giving way to its succeeding civilization. A state of affairs that led many a thinker to go as far as to argue that there is a resemblance or similitude among civilizations(11). If I look in the dictionary to find out what the commonly used definition of civilization is, here’s what it says: civilization 1: a society in an advanced state of social development (e. g. with complex legal and political and religious organizations); “the people slowly progressed from barbarism to civilization” [syn: civilisation] 2: the social process whereby societies achieve civilization [syn: civilisation] 3: a particular society at a particular time and place; “early Mayan civilization” [syn: culture, civilisation] 4: the quality of excellence in thought and manners and taste; “a man of intellectual refinement”; “he is remembered for his generosity and civilization” [syn: refinement, civilisation] The synonyms include “advancement, breeding, civility, cultivation, culture, development, edification, education, elevation, enlightenment, illumination, polish, progress” and “refinement. ” It goes without saying that the writers of dictionaries are “civilized” people – it certainly helps explain why they define themselves in such glowing terms. As Derrick Jensen asks, “can you imagine writers of dictionaries willingly classifying themselves as members of ‘a low, undeveloped, or backward state of human society’? ” In contrast, the antonyms of “civilization” include: “barbarism, savagery, wilderness, wildness. These are the words that civilized people use to refer to those they view as being outside of civilization – in particular, indigenous peoples. “Barbarous”, as in “barbarian”, comes from a Greek word, meaning “non-Greek, foreign. ” The word “savage” comes from the Latin “silvaticus” meaning “of the woods. ” The origins seem harmless enough, but it’s very instructive to see how civilized people have used these words: barbarity 1: the quality of being shockingly cruel and inhumane [syn: atrocity, atrociousness, barbarousness, heinousness] 2: a brutal barbarous savage act [syn: brutality, barbarism, savagery] savagery 1. The quality or condition of being savage. 2. An act of violent cruelty. 3. Savage behavior or nature; barbarity.
These associations of cruelty with the uncivilized are, however, in glaring opposition to the historical record of interactions between civilized and indigenous peoples. For example, let us take one of the most famous examples of “contact” between civilized and indigenous peoples. When Christopher Columbus first arrived in the “Americas” he noted that he was impressed by the indigenous peoples, writing in his journal that they had a “naked innocence. … They are very gentle without knowing what evil is, without killing, without stealing. ” And so he decided “they will make excellent servants. ” In 1493, with the permission of the Spanish Crown, he appointed himself “viceroy and governor” of the Caribbean and the Americas.
He installed himself on the island now divided between Haiti and the Dominican republic and began to systematically enslave and exterminate the indigenous population. (The Taino population of the island was not civilized, in contrast to the civilized Inca who the conquistadors also invaded in Central America. ) Within three years he had managed to reduce the indigenous population from 8 million to 3 million. By 1514 only 22,000 of the indigenous population remained, and after 1542 they were considered extinct. The tribute system, instituted by [Columbus] sometime in 1495, was a simple and brutal way of fulfilling the Spanish lust for gold while acknowledging the Spanish distaste for labor.
Every Taino over the age of fourteen had to supply the rulers with a hawk’s bell of gold every three months (or, in gold-deficient areas, twenty-five pounds of spun cotton; those who did were given a token to wear around their necks as proof that they had made their payment; those did not were . “punished” – by having their hands cut off . and [being] left to bleed to death. More than 10,000 people were killed this way during Columbus’ time as governor. On countless occasions, these civilized invaders engaged in torture, rape, and massacres. The Spaniards . made bets as to who would slit a man in two, or cut off his head at one blow; or they opened up his bowels. They tore the babes from their mother’s breast by their feet and dashed their heads against the rocks . . . They spitted the bodies of other babes, together with their mothers and all who were before them, on their swords. On another occasion: A Spaniard . . . uddenly drew his sword. Then the whole hundred drew theirs and began to rip open the bellies, to cut and kill – men, women, children and old folk, all of whom were seated off guard and frightened . . . And within two credos, not a man of them there remains alive. The Spaniards enter the large house nearby, for this was happening at its door, and in the same way, with cuts and stabs, began to kill as many as were found there, so that a stream of blood was running, as if a number of cows had perished. This pattern of one-way, unprovoked, inexcusable cruelty and viciousness occurred in countless interactions between civilized and indigenous people through history.
This phenomena is well-documented in excellent books including Ward Churchill’s A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas, 1492 to the Present, Kirkpatrick Sale’s The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy, and Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. Farley Mowat’s books, especially Walking on the Land, The Deer People, and The Desperate People document this as well with an emphasis on the northern and arctic regions of North America. There is also good information in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present and Voices of a People’s History of the United States.
Eduardo Galeando’s incredible Memory of Fire trilogy covers this topic as well, with an emphasis on Latin America (this epic trilogy as reviews numerous related injustices and revolts). Jack D. Forbes’ book Columbus and Other Cannibals: The Wetiko Disease of Exploitation, Imperialism and Terrorism is highly recommended. You can also find information in Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, although I often disagree with the author’s premises and approach. The same kind of attacks civilized people committed against indigenous peoples were also consistently perpetrated against non-human animal and plant species, who were wiped out (often deliberately) even when civilized people didn’t need them for food; simply as blood-sport.
For futher readings on this, check out great books like Farley Mowat’s extensive and crushing Sea of Slaughter, or Clive Ponting’s A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations (which also examines precivilized history and European colonialism). With this history of atrocity in mind, we should (if we haven’t already) cease using the propaganda definitions of civilized as “good” and uncivilized as “bad” and seek a more accurate and useful definition. Anthropologists and other thinkers have come up with a number of somewhat less biased definitions of civilization. Nineteenth century English anthropologist E. B.
Tylor defined civilization as life in cities that is organized by government and facilitated by scribes (which means the use of writing). In these societies, he noted, there is a resource “surplus”, which can be traded or taken (though war or exploitation) which allows for specialization in the cities. The wonderful contemporary writer and activist Derrick Jensen, having recognized the serious flaws in the popular, dictionary definition of civilization, writes: “I would define a civilization much more precisely, and I believe more usefully, as a culture-that is, a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts-that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities civilization, see civil: from civis, meaning citizen, from latin civitatis, meaning state or city), with cities being defined-so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on-as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life. ” Jensen also observes that because cities need to import these necessities of life and to grow, they must also create systems for the perpetual centralization of resources, yielding “an increasing region of unsustainability surrounded by an increasingly exploited countryside. ” Contemporary anthropologist John H.
Bodley writes: “The principle function of civilization is to organize overlapping social networks of ideological, political, economic, and military power that differentially benefit privileged households. ” In other words, in civilization institutions like churches, corporations and militaries exist and are used to funnel resources and power to the rulers and the elite. The twentieth century historian and sociologist Lewis Mumford wrote one of my favourite and most cutting and succinct definitions of civilization. He uses the term civilization . to denote the group of institutions that first took form under kingship. Its chief features, constant in varying proportions throughout history, are the centralization of political power, the separation of classes, the lifetime division of labor the mechanization of production, the magnification of military power, the economic exploitation of the weak, and the universal introduction of slavery and forced labor for both industrial and military purposes. Taking various anthropological and historical definitions into account, we can come up with some common properties of civilizations (as opposed to indigenous groups). • People live in permanent settlements, and a significant number of them in cities. • The society depends on large-scale agriculture (which is needed to support dense, non-food-growing urban populations). • The society has rulers and some form of “aristocracy” with centralized political, economic, and military power, who exist by exploiting the mass of people. • The elite (and possibly others) use writing and numbers to keep track of commodities, the spoils of war, and so on. There is slavery and forced labour either by the direct use of physical violence, or by economic coercion and violence (through which people are systematically deprived of choices outside the wage economy). • There are large armies and institutionalized warfare. • Production is mechanized, either through physical machines or the use of humans as though they were machines (this point will be expanded on in other writings here soon). • Large, complex institutions exist to mediate and control the behaviour of people, through as their learning and worldview (schools and churches), as well as their relationships with each other, with the unknown, and with the nature world (churches and organized religion).
Anthropologist Stanley Diamond recognized the common thread in all of these attributes when he wrote; “Civilization originates in conquest abroad and repression at home. ” This common thread is control. Civilization is a culture of control. In civilizations, a small group of people controls a large group of people through the institutions of civilization. If they are beyond the frontier of that civilization, then that control will come in the form of armies and missionaries (be they religious or technical specialists). If the people to be controlled are inside of the cities, inside of civilization, then the control may come through domestic militaries (i. e. , police).
However, it is likely cheaper and less overtly violent to condition of certain types of behaviour through religion, schools or media, and related means, than through the use of outright force (which requires a substantial investment in weapons, surveillance and labour). That works very effectively in combination with economic and agricultural control. If you control the supply of food and other essentials of life, people have to do what you say or they die. People inside of cities inherently depend on food systems controlled by the rulers to survive, since the (commonly accepted) definition of a city is that the population dense enough to requite the importation of food. For a higher degree of control, rulers have combined control of food and agriculture with conditioning that reinforces their supremacy.
In the dominant, capitalist society, the rich control the supply of food and essentials, and the content of the media and the schools. The schools and workplaces act as a selection process: those who demonstrate their ability to cooperate with those in power by behaving properly and doing what they’re told at work and school have access to higher paying jobs involving less labour. Those who cannot or will not do what they’re told are excluded from easy access to food and essentials (by having access only to menial jobs), and must work very hard to survive, or become poor and/or homeless. People higher on this hierarchy are mostly spared the economic and physical violence imposed on those lower on the hierarchy.
A highly rationalized system of exploitation like this helps to increase the efficiency of the system by reducing the chance of resistance or outright rebellion of the populace. The media’s propaganda systems have most people convinced that this system is somehow “natural” or “necessary” – but of course, it is both completely artificial and a direct result of the actions of those in power (and the inactions of those who believe that they benefit from it, or are prevented from acting through violence or the threat of violence). In contradiction to the idea that the dominant culture’s way of living is “natural”, human beings lived as small, ecological, participatory, equitable groups for more than 99% of human history.
There are a number of excellent books and articles comparing indigenous societies to civilization: Chellis Glendinning’s My name is Chellis and I’m in recovery from western civilization is an amazing and readable book, and it’s one of my favourites. You can also read an excerpt of the chapter “A Lesson in Earth Civics” online. See http://www. eco-action. org/dt/civics. html. She has also written several related books, including When Technology Wounds: The Human Consequences of Progress. Marshall Sahlin’s Stone Age Economics is a detailed classic in that same vein. You can read his essay “The Original Affluent Society” online at numerous places, including: http://www. primitivism. om/original-affluent. htm. Anthropologist Stanley Diamond’s book In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization is another great classic. Richard Heinberg’s essay “The Primitivist Critique of Civilization” is also highly readable, and available online in many places including http://www. eco-action. org/dt/critique. html. There are also some good general websites with related writings, excerpts and articles. Check out Radical Anthropology at http://www. radicalanthropology. com/writings. htm, Primitivism. com, Dead Trees EF! Online Publishing (http://eco-action. org/dt/index. html), and the essays at Earth Crash Earth Spirit (http://eces. org/).
What these sources show is there were healthy, equitable and ecological communities in the past, and that they were the norm for countless generations. It is civilization that is monstrous and aberrant. Living inside of the controlling environment of civilization is an inherently traumatic experience, although the degree of trauma varies with personal circumstance and the amounts of privilege different people have in society. Derrick Jensen makes this point very well in his incredible book A Language Older than Words, and Chellis Glendinning covers it as well in My name is Chellis. The inherent ecological unsustainability of civilization is another important point.
That issue will be expanded on in writings here, in particular in the writings on the city and industry. Related: See Ran Prieur’s Critique of Civilization FAQ for related information and critiques. Jensen, Derrick, Unpublished manuscript. I owe many of the sources in this section to the research of Ward Churchill. The figure of 8 million is from chapter 6 of Essays in Population History, Vol. I by Sherburn F. Cook and Woodrow Borah (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971). The figure of 3 million is from is from a survey at the time by Bartolome de Las Casas covered in J. B. Thatcher, Christopher Columbus, 2 vols. (New York: Putnam’s, 1903-1904) Vol. 2, p. 384ff.
They were considered extinct by the Spanish census at the time, which is summarized in Lewis Hanke’s The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of America (Philapelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1947) p. 200ff. Sale, Kirkpatrick. The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990) p. 155. de Las Casas, Bartolome. The Spanish Colonie: Brevisima revacion (New York: University Microfilms Reprint, 1966). de Las Casas, Bartolome. Historia de las Indias, Vol. 3, (Mexico City: Fondo Cultura Economica, 1951) chapter 29. Jensen, Derrick, Unpublished manuscript. Bodley, John H. , Cultural Anthropology: Tribes, States and the Global System. Mayfield, Mountain View, California, 2000. Mumford, Lewis. Technics and Human Development, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1966. p. 86. Diamond, Stanley, In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, 1993. p. 1. Civilization From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to: navigation, search For other uses, see Civilization (disambiguation). [pic] [pic] Cities are a major hallmark of human civilization. [pic] [pic] The Parthenon in Athens is an example of classical Greek Civilization. [pic] [pic] The ruins of Machu Picchu, “the Lost City of the Incas,” has become the most recognizable symbol of the Inca civilization. The term civilization (British English also civilisation) has a variety of meanings related to human society.
Most often it is used to refer to “complex” societies: those that practice intensive agriculture; have a significant division of labour; and have population densities sufficient to form cities. “Civilization” may be used more broadly to refer to the sum, or current extent, of human accomplishment and spread (human civilization or global civilization). A mere 10-12 thousand years ago the nomadic communal hunter-gatherer way of life, which is often described as the cradle-of-humanity, was overwhelmed by a more intense way of producing a few basic foods, the first Agricultural Revolution, the Neolithic Revolution ocurred. Concentrated agriculture allowed for massive population increases in towns and cities. With settlement, houses and institutions, craftsmanship and the arts flourished. Contents | |[hide] | |1 Etymology | |2 Senses of the word | |2. 1 Literal and technical definitions | |2. 2 Human society as a whole | |2. As a way of characterizing human cultures | |3 What characterizes civilization | |4 Civilization as a cultural identity | |5 Civilizations as complex systems | |6 The future of civilizations | |7 The fall of civilizations | |8 Negative views of civilization | |9 Problems with the term “civilization” | |10 Development of early civilizations | |10. African and Eurasian civilizations of the “Old World” | |10. 1. 1 Sumer 3500–2334 BC | |10. 1. 2 Indus Valley and the Indian subcontinent 3200–1700 BC | |10. 1. 3 Ancient Egypt 3200–343 BC | |10. 1. 4 Elamite (Iran) (2700–539 BC) | |10. 1. 5 Persia (Iran)(550 B. C — 330 B. C) | |10. 1. China 2200 BC–present | |10. 1. 7 Greece 2000–1450 BC | |10. 1. 8 Korea c. 900 BC[dubious — see talk page] – present | |10. 1. 9 Etruscans and Ancient Rome 900BC-500AD | |10. 2 American Civilizations of the “New World” | |10. 2. 1 Norte Chico 3000-1600 BC | |10. 2. Olmec (New World) 1200–450 BC | |11 Alleged prehistoric civilizations | |12 Further reading | |13 References | [pic] Etymology The word ‘civilization’ has two origins: (1) “civis” (Latin word for citizen or townsman), and (2), civilis (the adjective form of “civis”). In this sense, being “civilised” means being a citizen, who is governed by the law of his/her city, town or community. Civilisation may also refer to the culture of a particular community.
In the 6th century, Roman civil law was consolidated into the “Corpus Juris Civilis” for Emperor Justinian (AD 483- AD 565). In the 11th century, “Corpus Juris Civilis” was rediscovered and used by law professors at the University of Bologna — Western Europe’s first University. In 1388, the word “civil” appeared in English. In 1704, “civilisation” began to mean “a law which makes a criminal process civil”. In 1722, deriving probably from the French language, “civilisation” took on the opposite meaning of “barbarity”.  Senses of the word  Literal and technical definitions By the most minimal definition, a civilization is a complex society.
Anthropologists distinguish civilizations, in which many people depend on agriculture for food and live in cities, from band societies, in which people live in nomadic, semi-nomadic groups, or tribal societies, in which people may live in small semi-permanent settlements. Bands usually subsist by hunting and gathering; tribes by horticulture. Sometimes, tribes may also supplement their food by hunting or fishing. Simple and more complex tribes are distinguished by the presence or absence of Chieftains, who take specialist leadership roles. Unlike bands which are more egalitarian, where decision making structures are less formal, power within a tribe is not evenly shared.
Civilizations are more complex even than chieftain societies. Also, in addition to a variety of specialist artisans and craftspeople, civilizations are all characterised by a social elite, whose status is inherited from birth. The term “civilization” is used in common parlance with both a normative and a descriptive dimension. In the past, to be “civilized,” was linked to the feeling of being “civil” – a term for politeness and propriety. To be “uncivilized” in this usage means to be “rude,” “barbaric” or a “savage. ” In this sense, civilization implies sophistication and refinement. People that all work in a small village or settlement could be civilized.
This normative use has been used to justify many forms of imperialism, for instance in Late Victorian times it was specifically seen as “bringing civilization to the savages,” a task referred to with indigenous cultures in Africa, the Pacific and other peoples today recognised as “Third World,” as “taking up the white man’s burden” when engaged in by Modern Europeans. Alternatively, it can be said that most people choose to live in increasingly complex societies because of increased standards of living: since the beginnings of civilization there has been the migration of people from outlying rural and undeveloped areas to cities (See Dick Whittington syndrome). This article will mainly treat civilizations in the first, narrow, sense. See culture, society, etiquette, and ethnocentrism and for topics related to the broader senses of the term. See also Problems with the term.
To remove these pejorative uses the meaning of civilization has been broadened so that “civilization” often can refer to any distinct society, whether complex and city dwelling, or simple and tribal (for example “Australian Aboriginal civilization”). This sense of the term is often perceived as less exclusive and ethnocentric, not making the distinction between civilized or barbaric, common to these meanings of the word. The weakness of this less ethnocentric approach is that the descriptive power of the word “civilization” has been significantly weakened. Anthropologists and archaeologists for instance argue that such a usage is alternatively less useful and meaningful, than the first. In this sense, civilization becomes nearly synonymous with culture.  Human society as a whole
In this broader sense “Civilization” can sometimes refer to human society as a whole, as in “A nuclear war would wipe out Civilization” (see End of civilization) or “I’m glad to be safely back in Civilization after being lost in the wilderness for weeks. ” Additionally, it is used in this sense to refer to the global civilization. Such a usage is often found in the context of discussions about globalisation, again often used in a normative sense. Critics of globalisation reject such a coupling of the terms, saying that what is called globalisation is in fact a form of “global corporatisation” and that other forms of globalisation are possible.
The descriptive sense of “global civilization” would consider, with William McNeill’s thesis of “the Rise of the West,” that at least since the age of the great voyages of discovery of Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan, that the world comprises a single socio-economic and political system (see “World Systems Theory”). Recently it has been suggested that there are in fact three waves of the globalisation of civilization. The First Wave: was associated with technologies of “Wind and Water” energies. Leadership of this phase passed from Spain and Portugal to the Netherlands, and then Britain, in what Lewis Mumford calls the Eotechnic phase. The Second Wave: was associated with technologies of coal, iron, steel and steam power. (See “Industrial Revolution. ” Lewis Mumford refers to this as a “Paleotechnic” phase.
Leadership was contested between England and France in the first half of this period in the Napoleonic and Revolutionary Wars, linked in part to the contest between old and new technological and social systems. The Third Wave(of which we are approaching the end), is based upon the technologies of oil, electricity, plastics, chemicals, and the automobile. Mumford refers to this as the age of “Neotechnic” civilization. Like earlier phases, world leadership of this phase was contested, initially by Germany and Britain, then by Japan, the United States, and the Soviet Union. In each case, the transition between one technology and the next has required an often revolutionary reorganization of society, and these revolutions have had social, economic and political dimensions as well as technological ones.
It is argued that contemporary global civilization is beginning to undergo another transition, beyond the dependence on oil (See “Peak oil”) once again towards sustainable or renewable technologies not dependent upon parasitic dependence upon fossil fuels. The current War on Terrorism in this context has been claimed by a number of writers to be a part of such a transitional pattern, where existing great powers first try to monopolise the declining stock of depleting strategic resources.  As a way of characterizing human cultures Morton Fried, a conflict theorist, and Elman Service, an integration theorist, have produced a system of classification for all human cultures and societies based on the evolution of social inequality and the role of the state.
This system of classification contains four categories: • hunter-gatherer bands, which are generally egalitarian. • horticultural/pastoral societies in which there are generally two inherited social classes;chief and commoner. • highly stratified structures with several inherited social classes;king, noble, freemen, serf and slave. • civilizations, with complex social hierarchies and organized, institutional governments.  What characterizes civilization [pic] [pic] An Egyptian farmer using a plough drawn by domesticated animals, two developments in agriculture that started the Neolithic Revolution and led to the first civilizations.
Literally, a civilization is a complex society, as distinguished from a simpler society. See also [Richard Leakey]], Origins, “The hunter-gatherer is part of the natural order: a farmer necessarily distorts that order. But more important, sedentary farming communities have the opportunity to accumulate possessions, and having done so they must protect them. This is the key to human conflict, and it is greatly exaggerated in the highly materialistic world we now live in. ” Everyone lives in a society and a culture, but not everyone lives in a civilization. Historically, civilizations have shared some or all of the following traits (some of these were suggested by V.
Gordon Childe): • Settlement from nomadic life meant possessions could be accumulated, land could be individually owned. Laws, the state and armies were developed to protect possessions and inequality. • Intensive agricultural techniques, such as the use of human power, crop rotation, and irrigation. This has enabled farmers to produce a surplus of food that is not necessary for their own subsistence. • A significant portion of the population that does not devote most of its time to producing food. This permits a division of labor. Those who do not occupy their time in producing food may instead focus their efforts in other fields, such as industry, war, science or religion. This is possible because of the food surplus described above. The gathering of some of these non-food producers into permanent settlements, called cities. • A form of social organization. This can be a chiefdom, in which the chieftain of one noble family or clan rules the people; or a state society, in which the ruling class is supported by a government or bureaucracy. Political power is concentrated in the cities. • The institutionalized control of food by the ruling class, government or bureaucracy. • The establishment of complex, formal social institutions such as organized religion and education, as opposed to the less formal traditions of other societies. • Development of complex forms of economic exchange.
This includes the expansion of trade and may lead to the creation of money and markets. • The accumulation of more material possessions than in simpler societies. • Development of new technologies by people who are not busy producing food. In many early civilizations, metallurgy was an important advancement. • Advanced development of the arts, especially writing. Epidemics among both humans and animals are also characteristics of civilization. By this definition, some societies, like Greece, are clearly civilizations, whereas others like the Bushmen or the early nomadic Native Americans clearly are not. However, the distinction is not always clear.
In the Pacific Northwest of the US, for example, an abundant supply of fish guaranteed that the people had a surplus of food without any agriculture. The people established permanent settlements, a social hierarchy, material wealth, and advanced artwork (most famously totem poles), all without the development of intensive agriculture. Meanwhile, the Pueblo culture of southwestern North America developed advanced agriculture, irrigation, and permanent, communal settlements such as Taos. However, the Pueblo never developed any of the complex institutions associated with civilizations. All civilizations, as sedentary cultures, have a problem in that they deplete important local resources in the vicinity of their first settlements.
As a result civilizations, if they are to survive, are inherently expansive, as they require to draw resources essential to their survival from progressively further and further away from their core. This leads World Systems Theorists like Immanuel Wallerstein to propose that civilizations can be geographically divided between a “core,” a hinterland or “semi-periphery” and a “periphery,” in which the core draws upon the resource base of the other two areas. According to the World Systems Theorists, the evolution of most civilizations has been summarized as follows: 1. All civilizations start small, establishing their genesis with the creation of state systems for maintaining the elite. 2. Successful civilizations then flourish and grow, becoming larger and larger in an accelerating fashion. 3.
They then reach a limiting maximum extent, perhaps managing to hold a degree of stability for a length of time. 4. Competition between states in a civilization may result in one achieving predominance over the others. 5. Dominance may be indirect, or may formalize into the structure of single multi-ethnic empires. 6. Over the long term, civilizations either collapse or get replaced by a larger, more dynamic civilization.  Civilization as a cultural identity “Civilization” can also describe the culture of a complex society, not just the society itself. Every society, civilization or not, has a specific set of ideas and customs, and a certain set of items and arts, that make it unique.
Civilizations have even more intricate cultures, including literature, professional art, architecture, organized religion, and complex customs associated with the elite. Civilization is such in nature that it seeks to spread, to have more, to expand, and the means by which to do this. Nevertheless, some tribes or peoples remained uncivilized even to this day (2007). These cultures are called by some “primitive,” a term that is regarded by others as pejorative. “Primitive” implies in some way that a culture is “first” (Latin = primus), and as all cultures are contemporaries today’s so called primitive cultures are in no way antecedent to those we consider civilized. Many anthropologists use the term “non-literate” to describe these peoples.
In the USA and Canada, where people of such cultures were the original inhabitants before being displaced by European settlers, they use the term “First Nations. ” Generally, these people do not have hierarchical governments, organized religion, writing systems or money. The little hierarchy that exists, for example respect for the elderly, is mutual and not instituted by force, rather by a mutual reciprocal and customary agreement. A specialised monopolising government does not exist, or at least the civilized version of government which most of us are familiar with. The civilized world has been spread by invasion, conversion and trade, and by introducing agriculture, writing and religion to non-literate tribes. Some tribes may willingly adapt to civilized behaviour.
But civilization is also spread by force: if a tribe does not wish to use agriculture or accept a certain religion it is often forced to do so by the civilized people, and they usually succeed due to their more advanced technology, and higher population densities. Civilization often uses religion to justify its actions, claiming for example that the uncivilized are “primitive,” savages, barbarians or the like, which should be subjugated by civilization. It has been difficult for the uncivilized world to mount any counter-assault on civilization since that would mean complying to civilization’s standards and concepts of advanced violence (war).
Guerilla struggles have been waged, and American Indians fought a long and bitter struggle against Anglo-American invaders of their lands, who successively violated treaties signed with them, supposedly protecting their territories from European invaders. In other cases they have needed to become civilized in order to engage in any sort of war. Thus, the intricate culture associated with civilization has a tendency to spread to and influence other cultures, sometimes assimilating them into the civilization (a classic example being Chinese civilization and its influence on Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and so forth), all of them sharing the fact that they belong to an East Asian civilization, sharing Confucianism, Mahayana Buddhism, a “Mandarin” class an educated understanding of Chinese ideograms and much else.
Many civilizations are actually large cultural spheres containing many nations and regions. The civilization in which someone lives is that person’s broadest cultural identity. A female of African descent living in the United States has many roles that she identifies with. However, she is above all a member of “Western civilization. ” In the same way, a male of Kurdish ancestry living in Iran is above all a member of “Islamic civilization. ” Whereas the etiology of civilization is Latin or Roman, defined above as the application of justice by “civil” means, one must also examine and reflect upon Jewish or Hebrew civilization – the history of a people running separate but parallel to, Egyptian, Greek and Roman “civilizations. To the contrary, a Hebrew “civilization” is defined not as an expression or extension of the subjective trappings of culture and society, but rather as a human society and/or culture being an expression of objective moral and ethical moorings as they are known, understood and applied in accordance with the Mosaic Covenant. A “human” civilization, in Hebrew terms for instance, may contrast sharply with conventional notions about “civilization. ” A “human” civilization, therein, would be an expression and extension of the two most basic pillars of human “civilization. ” These two pillars are, honest standardised weights and measures and a moral and healthy constitution. Everything else, whether technology, science, art, music, etc. , is by this definition considered as commentary. Indeed, to the degree the surface terrain of a human society, i. e. culture is “civilized,” is to the degree the internal terrain (characteristics, personality or substance) of the people and leadership must also have been inoculated by, and inculcated with a moral foundation. The Biblically described Sodom, for instance, while being a society comprised of people with a culture, would by Jewish or Biblical standards of “civility” have been uncivilized. And while the Roman sentiment is largely focused upon how justice must “appear” to be done in a “civil” manner, the Hebrew or Biblical approach to justice, in principle, is never limited to subjective pretenses or appearance, but more importantly, justice must be predicated upon objective principles. Ultimately, there is no true or lasting “civility” for any man in the absence of moral composure.
Many historians have focused on these broad cultural spheres and have treated civilizations as single units. One example is early twentieth-century philosopher Oswald Spengler, even though he uses the German word “Kultur,” “culture,” for what we here call a “civilization. ” He said that a civilization’s coherence is based around a single primary cultural symbol. Civilizations experience cycles of birth, life, decline and death, often supplanted by a new civilization with a potent new culture, formed around a compelling new cultural symbol. This “unified culture” concept of civilization also influenced the theories of historian Arnold J. Toynbee in the mid-twentieth century.
Toynbee explored civilization processes in his multi-volume A Study of History, which traced the rise and, in most cases, the decline of 21 civilizations and five “arrested civilizations. ” Civilizations generally declined and fell, according to Toynbee, because of moral or religious decline, rather than economic or environmental causes. Samuel P. Huntington similarly defines a civilization as “the highest cultural grouping of people and the broadest level of cultural identity people have short of that which distinguishes humans from other species. ” Besides giving a definition of a civilization, Huntington has also proposed several theories about civilizations, discussed below.  Civilizations as complex systems
Main article: Genesis of a civilisation Another group of theorists, making use of systems theory, look at civilizations as complex systems or networks of cities that emerge from pre-urban cultures, and are defined by the economic, political, military, diplomatic, and cultural interactions between them. For example, urbanist Jane Jacobs defines cities as the economic engines that work to create large networks of people. The main process that creates these city networks, she says, is “import replacement”. Import replacement is the process by which peripheral cities begin to replace goods and services that were formerly imported from more advanced cities.
Successful import replacement creates economic growth in these peripheral cities, and allows these cities to then export their goods to less developed cities in their own hinterlands, creating new economic networks. So Jacobs explores economic development across wide networks instead of treating each society as an isolated cultural sphere. Systems theorists look at many types of relations between cities, including economic relations, cultural exchanges, and political/diplomatic/military relations. These spheres often occur on different scales. For example, trade networks were, until the nineteenth century, much larger than either cultural spheres or political spheres.
Extensive trade routes, including the Silk Road through Central Asia and Indian Ocean sea routes linking the Roman Empire, Persian Empire, India, and China, were well established 2000 years ago, when these civilizations scarcely shared any political, diplomatic, military, or cultural relations. The first evidence of such long distance trade is in the ancient world. During the Uruk phase Guillermo Algaze has argued that trade relations connected Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran and Afghanistan.  Resin found later in the Royal Tombs of Ur it is suggested was traded northwards from Mozambique. Many theorists argue that the entire world has already become integrated into a single “world system”, a process known as globalization. Different civilizations and societies all over the globe are economically, politically, and even culturally interdependent in many ways.
There is debate over when this integration began, and what sort of integration – cultural, technological, economic, political, or military-diplomatic – is the key indicator in determining the extent of a civilization. David Wilkinson has proposed that economic and military-diplomatic integration of the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations resulted in the creation of what he calls the “Central Civilization” around 1500 BC.  Central Civilization later expanded to include the entire Middle East and Europe, and then expanded to a global scale with European colonization, integrating the Americas, Australia, China and Japan by the nineteenth century.
According to Wilkinson, civilizations can be culturally heterogeneous, like the Central Civilization, or relatively homogeneous, like the Japanese civilization. What Huntington calls the “clash of civilizations” might be characterized by Wilkinson as a clash of cultural spheres within a single global civilization. Others point to the Crusades as the first step in globalization. The more conventional viewpoint is that networks of societies have expanded and shrunk since ancient times, and that the current globalized economy and culture is a product of recent European colonialism.  The future of civilizations Political scientist Samuel P. Huntington has argued that the defining characteristic of the 21st century will be a clash of civilizations.
According to Huntington, conflicts between civilizations will supplant the conflicts between nation-states and ideologies that characterized the 19th and 20th centuries. Currently, world civilization is in a stage that has created what may be characterized as an industrial society, superseding the agrarian society that preceded it. Some futurists believe that civilization is undergoing another transformation, and that world society will become an informational society. Some environmental scientists see the world entering a Planetary Phase of Civilization, characterized by a shift away from independent, disconnected nation-states to a world of increased global connectivity with worldwide institutions, environmental challenges, economic systems, and consciousness. 11] In an attempt to better understand what a Planetary Phase of Civilization might look like in the current context of declining natural resources and increasing consumption, the Global scenario group used scenario analysis to arrive at three archetypal futures: Barbarization, in which increasing conflicts result in either a fortress world or complete societal breakdown; Conventional Worlds, in which market forces or Policy reform slowly precipitate more sustainable practices; and a Great Transition, in which either the sum of fragmented Eco-Communalism movements add up to a sustainable world or globally coordinated efforts and initiatives result in a new sustainability paradigm.  The Kardashev scale classifies civilizations based on their level of technological advancement, specifically measured by the amount of energy a civilization is able to harness. The Kardashev scale makes provisions for civilizations far more technologically advanced than any currently known to exist. (see also: Civilizations and the Future, Space civilization)  The fall of civilizations See Societal collapse and Fall of a civilisation There have been many explanations put forward for the collapse of civilization.
Edward Gibbon’s massive work “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” began an interest in the Fall of Civilizations, that had begun with the historical divisions of Petrarch between the Classical period of Ancient Greece and Rome, the succeeding Medieval Ages, and the Renaissance. For Gibbon:- “The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the cause of the destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and, as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. The story of the ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it has subsisted for so long. “[Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 2nd ed. , vol. 4, ed. by J. B. Bury (London, 1909), pp. 173-174. Gibbon suggested the final act of the collapse of Rome was the collapse of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 AD. Theodor Mommsen in his “History of Rome”, suggested Rome collapsed with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD and he also tended towards a biological analogy of “genesis,” “growth,” “senescence,” “collapse” and “decay. ” Oswald Spengler, in his “Decline of the West” rejected Petrarch’s chronological division, and suggested that there had been only eight “mature civilizations. ” Growing cultures, he argued, tend to develop into imperialistic civilizations which expand and ultimately collapse, with democratic forms of government ushering in plutocracy and ultimately imperialism. Arnold J.
Toynbee in his “A Study of History” suggested that there had been a much larger number of civilizations, including a small number of arrested civilizations, and that all civilizations tended to go through the cycle identified by Mommsen. The cause of the fall of a civilization occurred when a cultural elite became a parasitic elite, leading to the rise of internal and external proletariat. Joseph Tainter in “The Collapse of Complex Societies” suggested that there was diminishing returns to complexity, due to which, as states achieved a maximum permissible complexity, they would decline when further increases actually produced a negative return. Tainter suggested that Rome achieved this figure in the 2nd Century AD.
Jared Diamond in his recent book “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” suggests five major reasons for the collapse of 41 studied cultures. • Environmental damage, such as deforestation and soil erosion • Climate change • Dependence upon long-distance trade for needed resources • Increasing levels of internal and external violence, such as war or invasion • Societal responses to internal and environmental problems Peter Turchin in his Historical Dynamics and Andrey Korotayev et al. in their Introduction to Social Macrodynamics, Secular Cycles, and Millennial Trends suggest a number of mathematical models describing collapse of agrarian civilizations.
For example, the basic logic of Turchin’s “fiscal-demographic” model can be outlined as follows: during the initial phase of a sociodemographic cycle we observe relatively high levels of per capita production and consumption, which leads not only to relatively high population growth rates, but also to relatively high rates of surplus production. As a result, during this phase the population can afford to pay taxes without great problems, the taxes are quite easily collectible, and the population growth is accompanied by the growth of state revenues. During the intermediate phase, the increasing overpopulation leads to the decrease of per capita production and consumption levels, it becomes more and more difficult to collect taxes, and state revenues stop growing, whereas the state expenditures grow due to the growth of the population controlled by the state. As a result, during this phase the state starts experiencing considerable fiscal problems.
During the final pre-collapse phases the overpopulation leads to further decrease of per capita production, the surplus production further decreases, state revenues shrink, but the state needs more and more resources to control the growing (though with lower and lower rates) population. Eventually this leads to famines, epidemics, state breakdown, and demographic and civilization collapse (Peter Turchin. Historical Dynamics. Princeton University Press, 2003:121–127). Peter Heather argues in his book The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians that this civilization did not end for moral or economic reasons, but due to the fact that centuries of contact with barbarians across the frontier generated its own nemesis by making them a much more sophisticated and dangerous adversary.
The fact that Rome needed to generate ever greater revenues to equip and re-equip armies that were for the first time repeatedly defeated in the field, led to the dismemberment of Empire. Although this argument is specific to Rome, it can also be applied to the Asiatic Empire of the Egyptians, to the Han and Tang Empires of China, to the Muslim Abbasid Caliphate, and others. Bryan Ward-Perkins, in his book The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization shows the real horrors associated with the collapse of a civilization for the people who suffer its effects, unlike many revisionist historians who downplay this. The collapse of co