Andrew Targowski's Classification of the Civilizational Approaches To Human History

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Evolution of Approaches Towards Understanding Civilizations

Andrew Targowski:

The Early Civilization Approach to Human Development

"In historiography, there were six major attempts to define a grand model of human development history. These undertakings generated more criticism than applause, and the Polish study cited below is not widely known to the historical community.

The German philosopher, Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) published The Decline of the West, 1918-22, in which he reflected the pessimistic atmosphere in Germany after World War I. Spengler maintained that history has a natural development, in which every culture is a distinct organic form that grows, matures, and decays. He insisted that civilizations are independent from external influences. He predicted a phase of "Caesarism" in the future development of Western Culture, which he believed was in its last stage.

The English historian Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) published his greatest work in the twelve-volume A Study of History (1934-61). He compared the history of twenty-one different civilizations and traced a cyclical pattern of growth, maturity, and decay in all of them. He believed that societies thrive best in response to challenges and that a society's most important task is to create a religion. He was less concerned than Spengler with characterizing civilizations, but more concerned with the criteria by which they are to be determined. Although he thought Western Civilization was in its decay phase, he saw hope for the future formation of one spiritually oriented world community.

The Polish historian Feliks Koneczny (1862-1949) wrote three books on the theory of civilizations: On the Plurality of Civilizations (London 1962, Polish edition 1934), For an Order in History, (only Polish edition, London 1977), and History Laws (only Polish edition, London 1982). His works on civilizations were not published in communist (then Stalinist) Poland. Koneczny, who published 173 works, was an empirical theoretician who discovered (in contrast to Spengler's a priori model) that there is no one linear history of mankind. He perceived seven major civilizations and examined their common laws. A civilization for him was a method of organizing life for the collective. His main inquiry was to find factors differentiating civilizations. They are named the Quincunx: Truth, Goodness, Beauty, Health, and Prosperity. Also the Triple Law (family law, inheritance law, and property law) differentiates civilizations. Human attitudes towards the Quincunx and laws are the key to understanding the civilizational process. He did not believe in the cyclical theory of civilizations, instead formulating two laws of civilizations.

According to the first law, each civilization has a cause and purpose. The second law states that to endure, each civilization must harmonize interrelations among categories of existence and laws, otherwise a civilization may vanish. Mergers between civilizations lead to chaos, disintegration, and decay, since each civilization may have opposing attitudes toward categories of existence and the Triple Law. Toynbee, in a Preface to the English edition of On the Plurality of Civilizations, judged highly Koneczny's contributions and called him "indomitable," because the Polish historian wrote his last works during the German occupation of Poland, living in very poor conditions.

Russian-bom Pitirim Sorokin, professor at Harvard in his Social and Cultural Dynamics (1937-41, four volumes) quantified all conceivable components of a culture from the Classical-Western tradition.

A.L Kroeber published Configurations of Culture Growth (1944), where he analyzed civilizations as anthropologically complex entities but not significantly different.

The French historian Ferdinand Braudel (1902-1985) was a "structuralist" who perceived human development to occur in three historical structures ("measures of time"): the quasi-immobile structure {la longue duree), the intermediate scale of "conjectures," (rarely longer than a few generations), and the rapid time-scale of events. Each was applied in one of the three parts of La Mediterranee (1949, 1972-74). In his book on A History of Civilizations (French edition 1987, American edition 1993), he contrasted his own approach to history to the "oversimple theories" of Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee. He assumed that the history of human development is the history of civilization. A student should learn history as a whole, as only this whole is a civilization. Civilization for him is a process rather than a temporarily stabilized construct. It is a structure of transformational streams in a realm of daily activities of human life. He perceives one civilization as a human continuum or, depending upon the context, he may eliminate hundreds of civilizations (ex.: "Roman Civilization" or "Industrial Civilization"). He also, like Koneczny, developed his Triple-Structure idea during World War II, while he was a prisoner in Germany.

The "Contemporary Civilization" Approach to Human Development

Carrol Quigley in his The Evolution of Civilization (1961) analyzed the mechanisms of civilization as they rose and fall, claiming that a process of change was neither rigid nor single in any society, but rather that each civilization is a confused melange of such processes in all types of human activities. Furthermore, he insisted that to recognize one decisive factor in this process would not be a description of reality. He also criticized approaches to periodizations of history, offering seven stages of human development from 950-1950: gestation, expansion, conflict, expansion, conflict, expansion, and conflict, and each stage divides into seven levels (two more than Toynbee's): intellectual, religious outlook, social group, economic control, economic organization, political, and military.

Matthew Melko, in his book The Nature of Civilizations (1969), defined some elements of a basic model of civilizations, such as their components (outlook, aesthetics, society, economics, government, international) and developmental stages (crystallization, transition, complete disintegration, ossification (a freezing at a crystal stage) and developmental macro-phases of feudal system, state system, imperial system, which he analyzes separately from stages. He thinks that civilizations are large and complex cultures, which can control their environments. Civilizations may have varying levels of different cultures integrated in them, but all of them have a basic pattern (of government, economics, war) that allow them to be distinguished from each other. Melko did not characterize any particular civilization. He recognized the civilization's ability to transform itself through its conflicts. His strong contribution is in providing an interesting model of civilizational development through three macro phases.

David Wilkinson proposes to analyze only one Central Civilization rather than several. For him, civilizations are not cultural groups but rather sociopolitical groups or polycultures. His civilizations are social units, larger than states integrated by political interest. Wilkinson insists that 13 major civilizations evolved in the last 3500 years into a Central Civilization, which today have been transformed into a single Global Civilization. This process began in 1500 BC, when Egyptian and Mesopotamian Civilizations merged. Later, the Central Civilization was swallowing other civilizations at different phases, such as Near Eastern (1500-500 BC), Greco-Roman (500 BC-500 AD), Medieval (500-1500 AD), Western (1500-2000), Global (2000). Of course, the penetration of ideas, people, and goods among civilizations takes place and influences internal dynamics of each one. However, particularly after September 11, 2001 the boundaries of different autonomous civilizations are obvious, and the civilization super-layer of the Global Civilization is well perceived in all paths of mainstream human development.

The International Society for Comparative Study of Civilization (ISCSC) several times in the 1970s and 1980s tried to generate discussions on civilizations classification, their origin, and spatial and temporal boundaries. About 56 researchers offered their views on these topics in a post-conference book: The Boundaries of Civilization in Space and Time, edited by Melko and Scott (1987). As a result, we read "comments to comments," and lack of clear agreement on most issues, with an exception of a definition of civilization which is perceived as a large and complex culture (super culture) with a history. This definition supports the Anglo-French-American view of civilization as a mono-elemental model because the United States is perceived by Americans as a melting pot of ethnic cultures, which blends them into one culture. However, by the end of the 20lh century the Americans have become "hyphenated:" African-Americans, Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, Polish-Americans, and so forth. This means that the myth that the American culture ("super-culture?") is truly a myth and that it is cohesive is no longer convincing.

Lee D. Snyder (1999) in his major book: Macro History — A Theoretical Approach To Comparative World History, which appeared by the end of the 20th century, had a chance to synthesize contributions of many the 20th century historians and scientists who made sense of world history. The author argues that the largest historic framework is a "culture-system," called a Culture or Civilization by many. However, his basic unit of study is the Historic Cycle of 300 to 400 years, during which macro and micro-history can be analyzed within a framework of five dimensions: economic, socio-political, intellectual (insight, spiritual aspect, subjective side, ideas, "culture"), geographic, and expressive (art, literature, and music). Since his book is rather on "World Macro-History" than on "Civilization," the author is mostly preoccupied with the timing of the historic cycle and how it is influenced by these five dimensions of culture-system. He is innovative in defining a role for the individual in a culture-system.

The World-System Approach to Human Development

A discussion on the role of civilization in human development at the end of the 20th century looked as if it were saturated with jeu le mot that led nowhere. Immanuel Wallerstein understood this very well and offered the world-system concept as a new approach in analyzing human development. In The Modem World-System (1974), he offered a tool for how to recognize what is the most useful interpretation of what happened historically. In his interpretation, "units of analysis" are "world systems," which mean something other than the modem nation-state, something larger than the nation-state, and something that was defined by the boundaries of an effective, ongoing division of labor. He was concerned about the special dimension of a world system, hence he later offered Einstein's "Time-Space" concept to keep "historical systems" issues. When he was working on this new approach, it was during the Cold War, and he used the new computer-oriented management and political systems applications (for example PERT technique), which analyze only main events (world systems) of a given project to find a critical path that determines the success or failure of the whole project). One such "world system" was North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a part of the capitalism world system, which was in conflict with the communist world system. Today we can add to them European Union (EU), North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), the Internet, World Trade Organization (WTO), "geopolitics" (Moczulski 2000), and so forth. The world system implies the hierarchy of a world core, semiperiphery, and periphery, which reflect the old issue of North versus South (Poverty War) or West versus East (Cold War). Of course, while this approach is a useful tool, it cannot substitute for the issues of civilization dynamics, governing human development at the small-scale, grassroots level. Wallerstein considers a concept of civilization only as it is useful for a long-term, large-scale social change analysis, but for a short-term analysis the world-systems approach proposed by him is a more useful technique of analysis.

The world systems analysis and synthesis became a popular approach, which is expanded by Christopher Chase-Dunn and Thomas D. Hall in their book Rise and Demise, Comparing World-Systems (1997). The authors' goal was to trace the transformation of "modes of accumulation" from "kin-based" (based on "normative" social cohesion) to "tributary" (where "organized coercion of labor" predominates) to "capitalist" and "socialist" world systems. David Wilkinson (1995) offers again a very interesting idea that "civilizations" are "world systems," particularly if he thinks about his unique Central Civilization. To a degree he is right, but not all civilizations are "world systems." Nowadays we could classify only Global Civilization and Western Civilization as world systems, which rule the world through their critical paths.

Lauren Benton (1996) rejects the word-system concept as the "master narrative," because it is more important to understand social experience and its cultural perspective rather than the goal illuminating the structure of the whole. This position simulates the progress made in modeling physics, when the Bohr Solar Model (1913) was modified by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (1927), which states that we do not know the precise location or the velocity of any given atom. The new Charge-cloud Model (1950s) uses indistinct and overlapping "probability clouds" to approximate the position of an electron in the orbit (defined by Neils Bohr and kept in the 1950s model). Therefore, positions taken by Wallerstein and Benton should not be exclusive but additive as it is shown in Figure 1.

All these maneuvers with the issues of civilizations, macro-history and world-systems are limited, because we have to investigate more components of civilization through modem system and cybernetic tools that can be applied to complex entities. For example we have to recognize a role of technology-driven infrastructures that support human life and culture. A sign of this role is indicated in William McGaughey's book Electronic Civilization (2001), which shows how civilization has moved from print to electronic culture, and its ideals have changed from the classic "truth, beauty, and good" to an elusive element called rhythm (the energy and control of the individual and of human society); and how self-consciousness (concentrating on ourselves), enemy of rhythm, underlines the complexity of modem life."


Evolution of Civilizations According To the Challenge They Respond To

Andrew Targowski:

Societal Civilizations

"Autonomous civilizations rose in a response to physical challenges of nature (ecosystem). Humans began to organize themselves into a society, which provided exchangeable and specialized services, such as food hunting, food production, house building, road construction, transportation, health care, entertainment, and so forth. These services and growing human communication led towards the formation of cities. These types of autonomous civilizations we will call societal civilizations.

Cultural Civilizations

In addition to the environmental challenges, societal civilization as a whole was threatened by its own internal structure involving power, wealth creation, beliefs enforcement, family formation, leadership, and so forth. As societal civilizations evolved into more complex entities, they were managed by cultural manipulation. By culture, we mean a value-driven patterned behavior of a human entity. This type of autonomous civilization we will name the cultural civilization. Ever since religion was transformed from beliefs in magic to beliefs in poly-gods and to then to a mono-god, the cultural civilization has applied religion as the main tool of cultural control. Religious and military force were the foundations of the power apparatus that maintained the society as a governed entity. These forces civilized the society and moved it into higher levels of organization.

Among cultural civilizations, one can recognize about 17 cases, such as the Egyptian Civilization, 3100 B.C.; Minoan, 2700 B.C.; Mycean. 1500 B.C.; Sinic, 1500 B.C.; Hebrew, 800 B.C.; Hellenic , 750 B.C.; Persian, 600 B.C to 600 A.D.; Canaanite Civilization 1100 B.C.; Hindu Civilization 600 B.C.; Roman Civilization, 31 B.C.; Eastern Orthodox, 350 A.D.; Hellenistic Civilization, 323 B.C.; Buddhist Civilization, 600 A.D.; Ethiopian Civilization 400 A.D., the SubSaharan Civilization 800 A.D., the Western Civilization 800 A.D., the Islamic Civilization, 632 A.D.; and the Maghrebian (Islamic Spain and North Africa), 1000 A.D.

Infrastructural Civilizations

The cultural civilization evolves into a civilization with challenges generated by intra and inter-civilizational issues of war and peace. These types of issues have been managed by technological means of domination. Such a civilization we will call the infrastructural civilization. The infrastructural civilization's purpose is to expand spheres of influence with the means of technology. Technology drives the development of infrastructural civilizations. The prime target of technology applications has been a war machine which supports the main values of a given civilization. By-products of military applications of technology affect the civilian part of its infrastructure.

Among eight infrastructural civilizations one can recognize Sinic 1500 B.C., Hindu 600 B.C., the Japanese 650 A.D., Western Civilization 800 A.D., the Byzantine 350 A.D., Buddhist 600 A.D., and the Islamic Civilization (limited to Ottoman Empire) 1300 A.D. By the end of the second millennium, infrastructural civilizations had become civilizations responsible for world and regional influence and domination. Hence, Western Civilization dominates the Western Hemisphere and Japan, Australia, and New Zealand; Hindu civilization dominates South Asia, Islamic Civilization dominates North Africa, the Middle East, and some parts of the Far East Hemisphere; the Chinese and Japanese dominate the Far East, with Buddhist civilizations influencing a small part of the Far East. In the majority of autonomous civilizations, one can differentiate more than one culture, with the exception of the Egyptian, Hittite, and Japanese Civilizations, which are monocultural. Figure 4 provides 75 examples of empirical civilizational cultures. By "empirical" cultures we would like to emphasize that their names have been created by historians along the discovery process. Of course, some names have been modified to read as they are perceived nowadays."