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= "a kind of vast social entity, a collection of interacting cities, a civilization, which functions in varying degrees as a real unity or "atomism," and as a field. A "civilization" is not a "culture," a "state," or a "nation." Ordinarily the boundaries of this social entity transcend the geographical boundaries of national, state, economic, linguistic, cultural, or religious groups".


David Wilkinson:

"1 In the time and space-bounded "ocean" of human sociocultural phenomena there exists a kind of vast social entity, a collection of interacting cities, a civilization, which functions in varying degrees as a real unity or "atomism," and as a field. A "civilization" is not a "culture," a "state," or a "nation." Ordinarily the boundaries of this social entity transcend the geographical boundaries of national, state, economic, linguistic, cultural, or religious groups.'

2 Due to the interdependence of the whole civilization as a system/field and its parts, these vast civilizational social networks tangibly condition most of the surface ripplings of the sociocultural ocean, including the historical events and life-processes of smaller sociocultural systems and the actions of individuals and groups living in a given civilization.

3 Without an adequate knowledge of the civilization we can hardly understand the structural and dynamic properties of its important parts of all its subsystems, regions, and components - just as without a sufficient knowledge of a primate troop as a whole, of its gross structure and. gross functioning, we cannot understand the nature and behavior of its member individuals.

4 Screening a list of some 70 candidates yielded a list of 14 entities which appeared to be societies at a civilized level (criterion: cities; further evidence: record-keeping, economic surplus, nonproducing classes, etc.) which were also connected world systems - militarily closed, geotechnologi-cally isolated social-transactional networks with an autonomous political history during which they did not take or need not have taken much account of the possibility of conquest invasion, attack (or alliance and cooperation) from any outsiders, although the members of each such system did recurrently conquer, invade, attack, ally with, command, rule, legislate, cooperate with, and conflict significantly and effectively with, and only with, one another. own 1961 revision of his earlier list, mainly by combining members of the prior rosters. The current civilizations list is different from Toynbee's and Quigley's, but still more different from Spengler's (1926-8) or Danilevsky's (1920).

6 Vis-a-vis Toynbee: of Toynbee's revised 1961 list I recognize Aegean under that name, Egyptic as "Egyptian," Middle American as "Mexican," Andean as "Peruvian," Sumero-Akkadian as "Mesopotamian;" combine Indus and Indie as a single "Indie;" combine Sinic and the Toynbeean "satellites" of Sinic - Korean, Vietnamian, and Tibetan - as "Far Eastern;" promote the Toynbeean satellites Mississippian, North Andean (as "Chib-chan"), Japanese, and South-East Asian (as "Indonesian") and a combination of Toynbee's "abortive" Far Western Christian and Scandinavian (as "Irish") to full civilizational status. Of Toynbee's full civilizations, five are not on my list: Syriac, Hellenic, Orthodox Christian, Western, and Islamic are regions or phases of a single continuing civilized society which I call (see Table 7.1 and Figure 7.1) "Central civilization." The same treatment is meted out to some of Toynbee's satellite civilizations -"Elamite," Hittite, "Urartian," Iranian, "Italic," and Russian - and to several of his abortive civilizations - Nestorian, Monophysite, and the Medieval Western City-State Cosmos. Toynbee's abortive First Syriac civilization I have treated as a shared semiperihery of Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations.

7 Vis-a-vis Quigley: my list includes Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Japanese civilizations, and contains reasonable matches to Quigley's Cretan, Mesoamerican, and Andean. I do not accept the separateness of Quigley's "Indie" and "Hindu" civilizations, nor of his "Sinic" and "Chinese." And Quigley's Hittite, Canaanite, Classical, Islamic, Orthodox, and Western civilizations seem to me to constitute cultural regions and epochs within the polyculture of a larger civilization, that which I have called Central civilization.

8 Vis-a-vis Spengler: while my list mentions Egyptian and Mexican civilizations, and contains reasonable matches to Spengler's Babylonian, Indian, and Chinese cases, I do not recognize the separateness of his Classical/Apollinian, Arabian/Magian, Western/Faustian or (suppressed) Russian civilizations; these are, rather, conflicting cultures within a single civilization, namely Central civilization.

9 Vis-a-vis Danilevsky: while my list contains Egyptian, Mexican, and Peruvian entities, and reasonable matches to Danilevsky's Ancient Semitic, Chinese, and Hindu-Indian, I do not recognize the separateness of Iranian, Hebrew, Greek, Roman, Arabian, European, or Slavic civilizations, all of which are (to me) conflicting cultures within the polycultural compost of a single larger society: Central civilization.

10 My differences with the four lists cited reflect my application of a social criterion, while Danilevsky and Spengler employed cultural criteria and Toynbee and Quigley used mixed sociocultural criteria. The similarities between lists reflect this coincidence: where e.g. Spengler or Danilevsky found cultural coherence in Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, Mexico, Peru, and India, I found a period of geosocial isolation and historical autonomy.



Civilization According To Eric Voegelin

Bill McClain and Jack Elliot:


"1. We can distinguish three type of civilizations:

A. cosmological

B. anthropological (or classical)

C. soteriological

2. They are roughly identical with Toynbee's three generations of civilizations. The main civilizations by generations are:

A. Egyptian, Babylonian

B. Sinic, Indic, Israelitic, Hellenic

C. Far Eastern (with offshoot in Japan), Hindu, Byzantine, (with offshoot in Russia), Islamic, Western

3. The decisive event in the anthropological civilizations is the discovery of the psyche as the sensorium of transcendence


"1. To the three main types of civilization correspond roughly three main types of legal cultures--roughly, because of the numerous intermediate forms.

A. Cosmological civilizations symbolize order by analogy with cosmic order. The political community is a microcosmos. (Prototype discussed in class: early Chinese symbolism.)

B. Anthropological civilizations symbolize order by analogy with the order of the human soul. And the order of the human soul is achieved through attunement to the unseen transcendent measure. Society is a macroanthropos. (Prototype discussed in class: Plato's conception of society as man written large.)

C. Soteriological civilizations develop more clearly the experience of transcendent revelation and grace that reaches out to all mankind. Spiritual order is differentiated from temporal order. (Prototypes discussed in class: Israelite and Christian revelation, division into spiritual and temporal powers)." [Voegelin, "Supplementary Notes for Students in Jurisprudence Course" in CW 27:76-78] "



Keith Chandler:

"There are at least eight principal attributes that clearly characterize all civilized societies:

1. A hierarchical social organization dominated by a power elite which is not accountable to the powerless majority and for whose actions there is little or no redress.

2. Concentration of power and wealth in fortified urban centers.

3. Written language, the understanding and use of which are monopolized by the elite and its functionaries.

4. An economic system which vests title to the wealth produced by the society in the elite and controls that wealth by a strictly measured allocation of all industrial, agricultural, forestry, and mining resources within the control of the central power.

5. Skills, training, and labor specialization designed to serve the goals of the power elite.

6. Extensive slavery or serfdom.

7. A grand mythology portraying society as originating from and continuing to be influenced by suprahuman powers with the elite as the conduit of that influence.

8. A military establishment which is utilized not only for external defense and aggression but also for internal control and repression of the dispossessed majority."


David Wilkinson

"he various civilizations are not necessarily based upon any major premise, nor do they necessarily articulate, develop, and realize such, nor are they necessarily logically or aesthetically consistent or complementary. Each civilization is a causal system; it may or may not be a "meaningful" one, or evolve toward or away from "meaningfulness." Since civilizations are not assumed to be "meaningful" unities, they need not possess any major premise, prime symbol, ultimate principle, or fundamental value that is articulated by their cultural phenomena. But they might in fact do so.

12 Do they in fact do so? I would guess that they do not, but, rather, that each will be found to articulate a different evolution of a different dialectic, i.e. a different struggle among a different set of conflicting premises, symbols, etc. Artists, philosophers, charismatics, and prophets within civilizations frequently seek or seem to create or discover meanings, premises, prime symbols, ultimate values, and Utopian reorderings in and for their civilizations. Instead they ordinarily create dialectical controversies.

13 Since we need not assume that the cultural field of any civilization is completely unified, nor that it is meaningfully consistent, the question of whether, when, and how cultural unity, consistency, or interaction exist becomes hypothetical, to be explored empirically rather than by definition or axiom.

14 In such exploration, I would begin with the guess that over many generations the culture of any civilization will tend toward greater second-order integration - mutual agreement on what its areas of discord are -with continuing first-order inconsistency (continued discord). Its causal 'unification will likely be dialectical, organized as a continuing struggle of changing opposit(though withoutany final synthesis ever terminating the dialectic).

15 Indeed, the likelihood that we will find all civilizations actually highly and evolvingly contradictory, conflicted, dialectical, is so strong that we might reasonably study civilizations on the assumption that each, far from being an organic cultural unity, is in fact "a cultural field where a multitude of vast and small cultural systems and congeries - partly mutually harmonious, partly neutral, partly contradictory - coexist" (Sorokin 1950: 213).

16 On this assumption, one would research a civilization's cultural individuality precisely by identifying, not a prime symbol, major premise, fundamental value or ultimate principle, but the collection of such symbols, premises etc., that coexisted, conflicted, and coevolved within it, their mutual relations of dominance and displacement, challenge and response, fusion and fission.

17 Systematic cross-civilizational cultural research would explore such questions as: is there usually or always a dominant core culture in a civilization? How long does such dominance persist? How is it displaced and by what? When civilizations collide, how is the evolution of cultural dominance affected? Does second-order integration emerge, and at what time scales?

18 I would not want to assume that civilizations necessarily contain a dominant cultural system - the question of dominance is once again properly empirical - but would regard it as an empirical fact that most civilizations, most of the time, indeed contain dominant cultural cores, which have geographic locations and are frequently "dominant" in more ways than one: i.e. militarily, technologically, economically, and demographic-ally, as well as culturally.

19 The most striking effect of the new definition on accustomed lists of civilizations, as has been shown above, is that such familiar entities as classical/Hellenic/Graeco-Roman civilization, Hittite civilization, Arabian/ Magian/ Syriac/ Iranic/ Islamic civilization(s), Orthodox Christian civilization, Russian civilization, and even our own familiar Western civilization, must be reclassified either as episodes/of or as regions within a previously unrecognized social-network entity, by my definition both a civilized society and a world system, hence a single civilization. This civilization I have labeled Central civilization.2

20 Thus today there exists on the earth only one civilization, a single global civilization. As recently as the nineteenth century several independent civilizations still existed (i.e. those centered on China, Japan, and the West); now there remains but one. Central civilization.

21 The single global civilization is the lineal descendant of, or rather I should say the current manifestation of, a civilization that emerged about 1500 bc in the Near East when Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations collided and fused. This new fusional entity has since then expanded over the entire planet and absorbed, on unequal terms, all other previously) independent civilizations.

22 Central civilization was created in the Middle East during the second millennium bc by an atypical encounter between two pre-existing civilizations. Civilizations may coexist, collide, break apart or fuse; when they have fused, they have typically done so by an asymmetric, inegalitarian engulfment of one by the other. But the linking of the previously separate Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations through Syria was an atypical, relatively symmetric, and egalitarian "coupling" which created a new joint ***** network-entity rather than annexing one network as a part of the other entrained to its process time.

23 The Central city-network, in unbroken existence and process since its inception, has been atypical in another way: it has expanded, slowly by the reckoning of national and state turnover times, but quite rapidly by comparison to other civilizations, and in that expansion has engulfed all the other civilizational networks with which it once coexisted and later


24 "Central" is a historical and positional nomenclature which deliberately avoids any specific geographic or cultural references, thereby indicating that this society is not to be characterized by references to a single river basin, and that its development has not been determined by that of a single culture, nation or people. It would be too parochial to label that civilization by the nomenclatures of any of the nations that have successively populated, of the states that have successively dominated, or of the regions that have successively centered it. At this moment, in this place, and in this culture, it seems not mistaken, and not too parochial, to call it Central civilization.

25 Central civilization is of course positionally "central" only in retrospect, by reason of its omnidirectional expansion: this network, originally Afro-Asiatic in being located where Asia and Africa meet, spread over time in all directions, encompassing the civilized networks of Europe, west Africa, and the Americas by moving west and those of south and east Asia by moving east, and thereby rendering itself historically "Central" as well.

26 The subsumption of a variety of putative civilizations under the single rubric of Central civilization is illustrated by Figure 7.1, which shows two such candidates, "Graeco-Roman" and "Western," as epochs of regional dominance within Central civilization; these dominant regions in fact constituted long-lived, but impermanent, cores of Central civilization. The Near Eastern, medieval, and global phases of Central civilization also possessed cores; but they were larger and less culturally homogeneous than the Graeco-Roman and Western cores. Another way of comprehending the subsumption is that what has in the past appeared to be the end of one civilization/world system and the beginning of another is easier to comprehend as a core shift within a single continuing civilization - a shift of military, political, economic and cultural domination from one region to another.

27 The taxonomic principles that yield Central civilization as a recognizable entity are three in number. First: any two "civilizations" that were always adjacent and vigorously politico-militarily interacting were ipso facto parts of a single civilization. In the medieval period of the northwest Old World (i.e. Europe, south-west Asia, north Africa) there were Western cities. Orthodox cities, Muslim cities; there was no Western civilization, no Orthodox, no Islamic civilization. There were civilized peoples and territories in the north-west Old World; they were members of a single civilization.

28 Second: any two historically autonomous civilizations which become adjacent and vigorously, continuously politicomilitarily interactive (through expansions or shifts) thereby become a single civilization. Either a new entity emerges (if they unite on relatively equal terms); or one of the old civilizations absorbs the other.

29 Third: any two alleged "civilizations" adjacent in time are but periods in one single civilization unless the earlier civilization's cities are entirely depopulated and abandoned (like those of Mississippian civilization). Unless a civilization's urban centers vanish, it does not fall. It may terminate by fission into two separate and more or less equal autonomous entities which cease to interact dynamically; it may terminate in fusion with some other civilization. Without fission, fusion, or fall there is no end to the civilization's system and process. If there is no end, there can be no succession.

30 Inasmuch as Central civilization combines from 4 to 14 of the civilizations discerned by more pluralist civilizationists using cultural criteria, it is to be expected that, and it is in fact the case that, Central civilization is not a language group, or a religious group, or a state group. Yet it is bonded, bonded oppositionally: for continuing warfare is a social bond, and continuing hostility is a cultural bond. Central civilization is a strongly bonded entity, even though it be a cultural potpourri. Central civilization is a conglomeration ofsociocultural phenomena, adjacent inspace and time, that is integrated by causal ties - including collision, warfare, and coevolution - and by quasi-meaningful ties of mutual consciousness, awareness of differences, and hostility.

31 Our time is unique in that only one civilization now exists on earth, of global Scope, without a periphery into which to expand further. Central civilization seems never yet to have been a "meaningful" but always a "causal" unity; but now that it has reached the limits of its oikumene, after having absorbed the whole human species and all other civilizations, there is a good chance that it will in the future evolve toward a recognizable "meaningful" unity.

32 Central civilization does however have a presently dominant culture within its polycultural mix. The dominant culture is what Sorokin labeled "Sensate" - and also theoretic, secular, Promethean, scientific, technological. I would additionally label it cosmopolitan, bourgeois, capitalist, liberal, democratic, and above all "modern." Sensate modernity's culture continues to expand against resistance while simultaneously generating internal schisms and coopting and incorporating external resistances in a manner which maintains both its variety and its dynamism. Being only dominant but not yet all-pervasive, Sensate culture, whose dynamic expansion is called "modernization," has not yet reached its full attainable social limits, and (consequently?) continues to expand savagely against savage resistance, as it has done within Central civilization for the past seven or eight centuries, even while Central civilization itself has been expanding to global dimension.

33 Sensate culture may well be dominant in the now global cultural field, but it is a near thing: there are enormous masses yet being culture-colonized against active or passive resistance. Such masses are to be found, e.g., among Africans and the Indians of the Americas; among non-Protestant Christians, and nonmainstream Protestants; among Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists; among still Marxist-ruled but non-Marxist populations (Chinese especially); among tribal peoples, peasants, and genuine proletarians (Servian, not Marxian - i.e. the urban homeless).

34 That Sensate culture has not expanded to its conceivable demographic and social limit, and that it continues to recruit and expand toward those limits, does not mean that it will get there. There are also signs both of Sensate disintegration and of the beginnings of many coumertrends. But the latter are neither integrated nor expansive, and their resistance thus far seems more like diehard reaction than like the genesis of a new counterculture."




By Krishan Kumar:

"It was the French who, by general agreement, invented the word, as they often claim to have invented the thing itself. It was in mid-eighteenth-century France that the word “civilisation” seems to have been coined, the substantive evolving out of the earlier verb civiliser and the earlier participle civilisé (the latter, in their turn, replacing the even earlier policie/police and policé).10 Since French was the international language of culture, it was not long before civilisation became naturalized in the various European languages, though with interestingly different shades of meaning. James Boswell seems to have been one of the first to naturalize the term in English, in his account of a conversation in March 1772 with Samuel Johnson while the latter was working on the fourth edition of his great dictionary. “He [Johnson] would not admit civilization, but only civility. With great deference to him I thought civilization, from to civilize, better in the sense opposed to barbarity, than civility; as it is better to have a distinct word for each sense, than one word with two senses, which civility is, in his way of using it” (1967 [1791]: I, 414).

Boswell's use of the new term was wholly consistent with its dominant meaning at the time of its origin. For most agree that in its earliest uses, “civilization” was almost wholly moral and prescriptive. It was tied to ideas of “progress” and betterment, and its referent was humanity as a whole, seen as a single developing entity. Its standard antonym was “barbarity” or “barbarism.” Progress was the movement from barbarism, the rude, uncultivated, uncivilized state of mankind, to the higher condition of refinement in thought and manners—in a word, to civilization. Here civilization showed clearly its derivation from the verb “to civilize” and the participle “civilized,” themselves cognate with such terms as police, politesse, and polished or “polite” society.

While civilization was soon to acquire the predominant meaning of a developed state or condition, in its earliest uses—following the verbal origin—it often carried the sense not of a condition or a finished state but of a process of becoming, a “civilizing process” (Febvre 1973: 232; Starobinski 1993: 4). While the processual meaning of civilization gradually gave way to its meaning as a particular condition or state of being, the earlier meaning never entirely disappeared. It is this tradition of use and this pattern of achievement that is explored at length in Norbert Elias's great work, The Civilizing Process (1994 [1939]).

It is important to note that this understanding of civilization as a characteristic of humanity as a whole—even though some parts were seen as more advanced than others—was perfectly compatible with a dislike, distrust, or even outright rejection of it.11 For some, such as Rousseau, the cultivation of manners and the increase of material well being associated with civilization were purchased at great moral cost. Civilization corrupted the simplicity and spoiled the spontaneity of the simple life of those reviled as “primitive” and “savage.” While there was, at least for Rousseau, no going back to the woods, there was every reason to be unsparingly critical of the moral condition into which so-called civilization had brought modern society.

This critical tradition, deriving from Rousseau, was to have a long life, and indeed it is by no means over today. It was continued by the Romantics of the early nineteenth century, who were inspired by works such as Rousseau's Emile. For the French poet Baudelaire, civilization was “a great barbarity illuminated by gas” (in Starobinski 1993: 26). Nor were the Romantic poets and artists the only ones to draw on Rousseau. Here is the early socialist Charles Fourier, on the evils bred by “civilization”: “All you learned men behold your towns peopled by beggars, your citizens struggling against hunger, your battlefields and all your social infamies. Do you think, when you have seen that, that civilization is the destiny of the human race, or that J.-J. Rousseau was right when he said of civilized men, ‘They are not men’?” (in Febvre 1973: 239). Civilization might for some be a heroic achievement of humanity; for others it was at the least a double-edged process, where the gains might easily be outweighed by the losses.

The idea of civilization as a moral condition towards which humanity was progressing underlay much of the social philosophy and social science of the nineteenth century. Whatever their differences, it was shared by such thinkers as Hegel, Comte, J. S. Mill, H. T. Buckle, and Herbert Spencer. But relatively early in its development the concept acquired a second meaning that was to accompany it for the rest of its history, even to some extent threatening to displace the earlier meaning. This was civilization in its ethnographic or purely historical guise, as a form that could and did take many shapes and styles. Hence one could speak not simply of civilization, in the singular, but of civilizations, in the plural. This shift to a more neutral, value-free, “scientific” concept of civilization seems to have taken place somewhere between 1780 and 1830, again first in France (Febvre 1973: 234; Starobinski 1993: 6). A particular impetus was given by the reports of travelers and explorers such as Bougainville, Cook, and Alexander von Humboldt, which described with scientific accuracy and vivid detail societies which seemed to be flourishing on the basis of quite different principles from those of Europe (Mazlish 2004a: 27–38). The effect was to relativize European or Western civilization, in both place and time. European civilization was not necessarily the apex or the end point of mankind's evolution; it was just one of many civilizations.

An important bridging role, to some extent linking the older moral to the newer sociological or anthropological usage, was performed by François Guizot's highly influential The History of Civilization in Europe (1997 [1828]), based on lectures delivered at the Sorbonne in that year. There was, Guizot affirmed, a distinctively European civilization, which despite the variety of its parts and incompleteness in any particular country, exhibits “a certain unity,” deriving from common origins and based on common principles, which “tend to produce well nigh everywhere analogous results” (ibid.: 10). While sure that Europe, with France at its heart, was in the van of progress, called upon to give the lead to the world, Guizot was at pains to paint civilization not simply as a moral achievement but as “a fact, like any other—a fact susceptible of being studied, described, narrated.” He declares, “for my own part, I am convinced that there is, in reality, a general destiny of humanity, a transmission of the aggregate of civilization; and consequently a universal history of civilization to be written” (ibid.: 11–12).

Civilization is here used mainly in its unitary sense, and the notion of progress is reaffirmed. But Guizot is aware that another history and study of civilization is possible, one that considers civilizations in the plural, one that sees them as distinct and competing entities. “Civilization,” he says a little later, “is a sort of ocean, constituting the wealth of a people, and on whose bosom all the elements of the life of that people, all the powers supporting its existence, assemble and unite” (ibid.: 13). This is a remarkably good description of what later came to constitute the idea of civilization in its ethnographic and historical sense, abstracted from any idea of progress or philosophy of history. It does indeed describe what Guizot goes on to do, here in the History of Civilization in Europe, and in its immediate successor, the History of Civilization in France (1829), also based on lectures at the Sorbonne.

Europe for Guizot is an identifiable and distinct civilization, and he describes its course and vicissitudes from the time of the fall of the Roman Empire to his own day. He distinguishes between civilization in its external aspect—the “development of the social state”—and in its internal one—“the development of the individual man.” Progress in both is necessary for the development of civilization. He shows European civilization's progress in both these spheres, with varying degrees of emphasis and creativity, here in Italy, there in England, yet again in France. He is happy to be able to show that civilization by his day has progressed considerably in Europe, but warns against complacency: “Civilization is as yet very young … the world has by no means as yet measured the whole of its career” (1997: 24).

At the same time as charting the course of European civilization, however, Guizot refers to other civilizations—Egyptian, Indian, Syrian, Phoenician, Etruscan, even Greek and Roman as separate civilizations (ibid.: 27–32). These are seen as usually characterized by the overwhelming predominance of one principle and one power, compared to the diversity and competition of principles and powers that characterize European civilization. Hence the facts of tyranny and eventual stagnation in the former, and liberty and progress in the latter. But the important thing, from the viewpoint of the concept of civilization, is the acknowledgment of the plurality of civilizations, that Europe, for all its achievements, is just one among the civilizations of the world. As Febvre suggests, we see in Guizot, “a delicate question solved by means of a skilful synthesis. There are such things as civilizations. And they need to be studied, analyzed, and dissected, in themselves and on their own. But above these there is indeed such a thing as civilization with its continuous movement onwards, though perhaps not in a straight line” (1973: 241).

Guizot therefore represents a halfway house in the development of the concept of civilization. The eighteenth-century meaning, predominantly moral, struggles with the increasingly historical, sociological, and anthropological nineteenth-century views of civilization. Something similar is found in H. T. Buckle's unfinished History of Civilization in England (1903 [1857–1861]), a work which enjoyed huge popularity on the European continent, more even than in Britain itself (Heyck 2004). Far more comprehensive than its title suggests, Buckle's work is a genuine comparative history, with comparisons not simply between the different nations of Europe but also between European and Asian civilizations. (In 1862, at the age of only forty-one, he died while on an expedition to the Middle East to obtain first-hand knowledge of its civilizations.) While Buckle argued, like Guizot, that there was indeed progress in civilization, seen in Comtean perspective as the movement from the reign of superstition to that of science and reason, he was much more open to the varying factors that hindered or retarded this development, and more cautious in his estimation of progress. In his use of the statistical method (Quetelet as well as Comte were among the thinkers he most admired), in his stress on environmental and geographical factors in the shaping of civilization, and on the fluidity of the interchange between different civilizations, Buckle offered a much more exact and scientific method for the comparative study of civilization.

With Buckle and others, the way was opened to treating civilizations as distinct historical entities with their own principles and varying courses of development. While the evolutionary framework of much nineteenth-century thought still kept alive the idea of progress, with the West leading the way, it became increasingly possible to dispute that approach by asserting the variety of civilizations, each with its different contributions—if one chose to see it this way—to world civilization.

A key moment in this development came with the equation between “culture” and “civilization” in the anthropologist E. B. Tylor's seminal Primitive Culture (1891 [1871]). “Culture or Civilization,” declared Tylor on the first page of his work, “taken in its widest ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (ibid.: I, 1; see Hann 2011: 1). There it was: all civilizations were “cultures,” whole complexes which indeed were rarely completely autonomous or separated from each other, but which could and should be studied for their own sake's, and not simply as part of a broader story of the progress of humanity.12 Even as “civilization” fell into disfavor with many in the newly professionalized historical and anthropological disciplines, it was in essence kept alive by being transmuted into “culture.” When late in life the American anthropologist Alfred Kroeber began to compile a “Roster of Civilizations and Cultures,” he for all intents and purposes reverted directly to Tylor's conception, though Tylor's evolutionism was rigorously excluded:

The terms civilization and culture are used here not contrastively or exclusively, but inclusively as essential synonyms of sometimes varying accent. There is no difference of principle between the two words: they denote somewhat distinguishable grades of degree of the same thing. Civilization currently carries an overtone of high development of a society; culture has become the customary term of universal denotation in this range, applicable alike to high or low products and heritages of societies. Every human society has its culture, complex or simple. The word culture could therefore properly be used to include all the particular exemplars that will be listed; but for the larger and richer cultures the term civilization has current usage, and need not be quarreled with, on the understanding that no distinctions of kind between civilization and culture are implied (Kroeber 1962: 9; and see 1963 [1923]: 1–13, 69–73; 1975 [1957]).13

Kroeber did not live to complete his work, though he did leave some tantalizing fragments, together with a sideswipe at Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee, two practitioners of civilizational analysis from whom he had learned much but of whose “moralizing” approach he was highly suspicious (1962: 16). But while anthropologists were digesting civilization and regurgitating it as culture (Hann 2011), some sociologists were calling for a serious reengagement with it. Sociology's forerunners, including Montesquieu and the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment, had had much to contribute to the early development of the concept of civilization. Later Comte, Spencer, and Buckle added their considerable weight, though not all of them were concerned to theorize the concept itself, or its applications. Nor were the immediate founders of the discipline, Marx, Weber, and Durkheim, especially interested in taking civilization as their unit of analysis—“society” became the almost universally preferred term in sociology, its implicit referent being nearly always the nation-state (“methodological nationalism”). But Weber's comparative studies of the world religions—Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Confucianism, together with his work on “the Protestant Ethic”—have been rightly seen as a form of civilizational analysis, with the “axial age” religions as “surrogates for civilization.” What Weber was attempting in these studies, says Edward Tiryakian, was a delineation of the main features of a distinctive “civilization of modernity” as it evolved in the West (2004: 35).

Durkheim may have preferred “society”—national society—to “civilization.” But in a number of places he, together with his nephew and collaborator Marcel Mauss, made the case for the study of civilization as an entity encompassing more than the “national life” found in the supposedly bounded society of the nation-state. “Social phenomena that are not strictly attached to a determinate social organism do exist: they extend into areas that reach beyond the national territory or they develop over periods of time that exceed the history of a single society. They have a life which is in some ways supranational” (Durkheim and Mauss 1971 [1913]: 810). These supranational elements form “systems of facts that have their own unity and form of existence,” and which require “a special name … Civilization seems to be the most appropriate name” (ibid.: 810–11.) The unitary, universal, concept of civilization is decisively rejected. But “if there does not exist one human civilization, there have been and there still are diverse civilizations which dominate and develop the collective life of each people” (ibid.: 812). Durkheim and Mauss instance “Christian,” “Mediterranean,” and “Northwest American” civilizations, all of whose constituent parts—nations—share common features and none of which can be reduced to any one part. “Without doubt,” they say, “every civilization is susceptible to nationalization; it may assume particular characteristics with each people of each state; but its most essential elements are not the product of the state or of the people alone.… A civilization constitutes a kind of moral milieu encompassing a certain number of nations, each national culture being only a particular form of the whole” (ibid.: 811; see Mauss 2004 [1930]: 28).

Neither Durkheim nor Mauss went much further than these brief indications, and sociology has for the most part been loath to take up the civilizational concept, seeing it as too vague, loose, and imprecise (e.g., Mills 1967 [1959]: 135). “Society” remained the master term, and society the basis of analysis. There were sociologists who valiantly fought to keep civilizational analysis at the forefront. Chief among these was Pitirim Sorokin, whose Social and Cultural Dynamics (1937–1941), in four volumes, was a heroic exercise in civilizational analysis. Another was Benjamin Nelson, who from the 1940s through the 1970s produced a stream of studies in the spirit of Weber, with an explicit plea for the study of “civilizational complexes” (1981). More recently, Shmuel Eisenstadt (2003), Edward Tiryakian (2004), and Johann Arnason (2003) have been energetic and tireless advocates of civilizational analysis.14

Perhaps most influential, at least most recently, was Norbert Elias, whose The Civilizing Process, first published in German in 1939, was rediscovered with the English translation of the 1970s and went on to have a spectacular career.15 Nonetheless, despite the reputation and accomplishments of these sociologists, it seems fair to say that for most sociologists, as for most anthropologists and historians, the case for civilization as a unit of analysis remains to be made. Skepticism abounds in the profession, abetted by a professionalism that looks askance at such an ambitious venture, involving as it does vast tracts of history and an extraordinarily wide range of societies in time and space.

Before we consider a justification for this undertaking through an examination of the work of Arnold Toynbee, it is important to mention two further, highly influential contributions to the civilizational idea.16 In 1930, Sigmund Freud published his Civilization and Its Discontents (1963 [1930]). With Freud, we have a concept of civilization that maintains the eighteenth-century idea of it as unitary and universal, but without the hope and optimism once attached to it (Rousseau et al. excepted). He pitilessly strips the concept of all glamour, of the hubris that has traditionally accompanied it. What he sees instead is a precariously achieved level of order and civility that has constantly to be on its guard against the instinctual forces of the Id that threaten to overwhelm it. That is civilization, according to Freud: a policeman watching over and repressing our unlawful and barbarous impulses. “Civilization … obtains mastery over the individual's dangerous desire for aggression by weakening and disarming it and by setting up an agency within him to watch over it, like a garrison in a conquered city” (ibid.: 60–61). Eros, the “life instinct,” the civilizational principle, is engaged in a titanic struggle with Thanatos, the “death instinct,” which has as its unceasing aim the dissolution of all human community and civilization. “It is this battle of the giants that our nurse-maids try to appease with their lullaby about Heaven” (ibid.: 59). For Freud, civilization was and is always a hard won and painfully maintained cultural achievement, always threatened with being undermined by elemental biological forces.

Mohandas K. Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi, writing about the same time as Freud, has an even more jaundiced view of civilization, which he roughly equates with “modern civilization,” Western-style. While he maintains a concept of “true civilization,” which he identifies principally with traditional Indian culture and society, in his seminal work Hind Swaraj (2009 [1909]) he is mainly concerned to castigate what he sees as an almost universal acceptance—notably among educated Indians—of Western modernity as the only viable civilization for our times. The danger is that Indian nationalists, enamored of Western-style civilization, will in throwing off British rule simply continue and replicate the civilization through which the British have already ensnared and corrupted traditional India. In his “Introduction” to his translation of Tolstoy's Letter to a Hindu, Gandhi wrote: “It is for us to pause and consider whether, in our impatience of English rule, we do not want to replace one evil by another and a worse. India, which is the nursery of the great faiths of the world, will cease to be nationalist India, whatever else she may become, when she goes through the process of civilization in the shape of reproduction on that sacred soil of gun factories and the hateful industrialism which has reduced the people of Europe to a state of slavery, and all but stifled among them the best instincts which are the heritage of the human family” (Tolstoy 2009 [1909]: 3). This was also the message spelt out, bitingly and with much colorful detail, in Hind Swaraj (see especially Gandhi 2009: 33–37, 64–69, 105–9).

Freud and Gandhi both continue to some extent in the eighteenth-century tradition of treating civilization as a single thing. But the nature of their treatment reveals how difficult this exercise became, how hedged round with warnings and qualifications, once the concept was divorced from the idea of progress. Such a sobriety grew still more pronounced as Western society descended into the horror of the First World War, a triumph of barbarism over civilization if ever there was one. It was far safer to keep to the increasingly respectable plural use of civilization as propounded by the anthropologists and archaeologists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries."



Core-Periphery Issues

David Wilkinson:


35 An ideal-type civilization/world system/macrosociety, because its characteristics are unequally distributed over space; and because they are distributed centrically; and because their unequal distributions overlap; and because the inequalities are connected intrinsically to its past history of expansion (for civilizations tend strongly to expand. Central civilization being an extreme rather than an exceptional case), characteristically pos-

(a) a core (central, older, advanced, wealthy, powerful);

(b) a semlpenphery strongly connected to the core (younger, fringeward, remote, more recently attached, weaker, poorer, more backward); and

(c) a weakly connected periphery (nomads; peasant subsistence producers not yet attached to a city; and other civilizations that trade but do not habitually fight or ally with the subject civilization).3

36 Civilizations usually begin in a geographically restricted area composed of cities and the hinterlands their fighters can aspire to control; this is surrounded by an area to which the new cities are politically irrelevant. We may call these zones the (initial) urban core, controlled or disputed semiperiphery, and uncontrolled periphery of the civilization.

37 Civilizations usually expand over time by raiding, invading, and conquering adjacent areas, by sending out colony-cities and military settlements and trading forts, by fascinating and addicting previously indifferent peripheral people to their products (gods, drugs, laws, weapons, music, ornaments, etc.). The territories affected by this civic expansion -whether the expansion be colonialist, imperialist, cultic, developmental -may be considered to have been incorporated by the civilization when their occupants - settlers or settlees - undergo urbanization and begin to interact politically on a regular basis - as subjects, allies, tributaries, enemies - with the civilizational core. This area of later expansion and control is the (enlarged) semiperiphery of the civilization.

38 Once a semiperiphery exists, and it comes to exist quickly, it also persists. Thus one of the main continuing patterns that reveals itself in the history of civilizations and world systems is that they-tend - not by definition, but empirically - to be markedly geographically tripartite. In the core, military force, political power, economic wealth, technological progress, cultural prestige, and theogony are concentrated. The periphery is far from the core in all senses, containing peoples and territories known but scarcely noted. The semiperiphery, more or less recently penetrated or engulfed, is a zone characterized by military subjection, powerlessness, relative poverty, technological backwardness, low cultural prestige.

39 But while the tripartition of a civilization is very durable, no area has permanent tenure in any role, and tenure of coredom is rather precarious. Cores are not eternal; civilizations can outlast their original cores. A history of cores must therefore be kinematic, describing their rises, shifts, and falls; a theory of cores must ultimately be dynamic, accounting for their motion and change.

40 A civilization's core may have any of several political forms. It may be a single state, as in Mesopotamian civilization, perhaps, during the rise and fall of Assyria, or as in Central civilization during the rise of Media and Persia and Rome, and the era of Justinian. The core may be the metropolitan region of a universal state, as in Central civilization during the Assyrian, Persian-Macedonian, and Roman empires. Or the civilization core may be a functionally divided set of areas in a universal state, as in Far Eastern civilization during the Qin-Former Han and in Japanese civilization during the Kamakura period. The core may contain several states, successively hegemonic: in Mesopotamian civilization, the Sumerian core c. 2500-2360 bc (Ur, Lagash, Umma). It may constitute several states simultaneously balanced, as in Central civilization between its universal empires, and for most of the time since the Roman empire's fracturing. The most frequent core forms are: the single dominant or hegemonic state; several competing states; and the universal-empire metropole.

41 Cores pulsate. Core areas enlarge and contract. Central civilization's core shifts - westward in the Graeco-Roman phase, eastward in the medieval phase, westward again in the Western phase - involved expansion at one edge synchronic with contraction at the other; the global phase saw core expansion east and west. Contractions are naturally enough associated with hegemonic struggles and universal-state periods, expansions with all-core epochs; but not perfectly.

42 Cores shift. Cores may move in a single general direction, or oscillate. The Central core half moved west, then east, then drifted west and north and west again. No signficant patterns are evident.

43 Cores decline and rise. Does past experience as a core preclude or assure return to core status? Apparently neither. Setting aside all the apparent civilizational-startup first-time cores (e.g. Central civilization's Penile Crescent + Nile valley), there are many cases in which a semiperipheral area, never before a core, rose to core status. In Central civilization, such first-time core entrants included Assyria, Persia, Greece (previously an Aegean core), Macedonia, Rome, Byzantium, western Europe, America, Russia. But there are several other cases in which a fallen core area hasreturned from semiperipheral status, or has regaia solitude it had lost to upstart sharers. In Central civilization: Abbasid Mesopotamia, and the classic case of Renaissance Italy. In the transition from semiperiphery to core, history seems somewhat more favorable to renaissance than to renaissance, but renaissances do happen.

44 Different areas may serve as military-political, economic, and cultural-religious cores, and core shifts may occur in these features at different times. The most notable discrepancies between Central civilization's economic-technical and politicomilitary cores are attested by being corrected: the shift from Rome to Constantinople, the Renaissance-ending invasions of Italy, the revolt of the Netherlands, the involvement of British finance and fleets in Continental wars, and the American entry into the world wars of the twentieth century. There is thus some tendency for geographically separated functions to be pulled together: the politicomilitary core may conquer the others (the post-Renaissance invasions of Italy), migrate to them (by a movement of the capital, e.g. to Constantinople or Lo-yang), or usurp them (by taxation and subsidy, e.g. Tokugawa Edo);

or economic cores may invest in politicomilitary potency (Dutch, British, American).

45 Are semiperipheries necessary? Apparently not, since civilizations are often all-core, i.e. lack a semiperiphery. Central civilization has always had a significant semiperipheral area. Semiperipheries exist more often than not, particularly in universal-empire periods when the metropole is especially favored, but they do not seem necessary features of a civilization: power, wealth, creativity, can all be rather widely dispersed, though dispersal usually alternates with concentration.

46 Tenure in the semiperiphery is more secure than core tenure (cores decline) or peripheral tenure (peripheries are devoured). But there is some upward mobility. A semiperipheral area remains semiperipheral as long as it is politically annexed to, urbanologically subordinate to, militarily dominated by, culturally provincialized by, economically outaccumulated by, technologically outcompeted by, cultically devoted to, the old core. When and where the semiperiphery acquires states as influential, forces as dangerous, cities as populous and wealthy, culture as attractive, technique as progressive, gods as efficacious as those of the core, that part of the semiperiphery becomes core; the core area expands to encompass it. And if the old core should peak and decline, be overtaken and passed in its military and political, demographic and economic, cultural and technical and theological development by its semiperiphery (or a pan of it), so that the old core becomes a historic backwater, becomes marginal to the affairs of the civilization, while the former semiperiphery becomes the new core, we may properly say that the core of the civilization has shifted. And cores do shift: witness Karnak, witness Babylon.

47 There is some relationship between the transition of a state from semiperiphery to core and its later ability to impose hegemony and universal empire over the states system. Recent arrivals to core status have some advantages in competitions to destroy states systems, but they are not overwhelming, nor entirely self-evident.

48 A theory of peripheries must largely account for their secular decline. Civilization as such - the sum of the territories and peoples of the various civilizations - has expanded continually since its origins, despite some regional setbacks and a single holocivilizational collapse (that of Mississippian civilization), by conquering and colonizing and assimilating its non-civilized peripheral peoples and territories. This contradicts the idea that civilizations rise and fall, rise and fall: they almost never fall. It also contradicts the image of peaceful, sedentary civilized peoples always threatened and occasionally overwhelmed by neighboring barbarians: most of the "overwhelming" has been inflicted by the civilized societies on their peripheral neighbors. When noncivilized peripheral peoples - usually nomads - attack and conquer civilized territory, the result has ordinarily been that they settle down, take over, enjoy ruling the civilization, and continue expanding it; on the whole, peripheral peoples have not developed a sense of peripheral identity and pride sufficient to impel them to destroy the civilizations they have sporadically conquered. Civilizations, on the contrary, strongly tend to destroy their peripheries, through incorporation.

49 "Coreness" and "semipherality" are multidimensional phenomena, but certainly have politicomilitary, economic, technological, demographic, religious, and cultural components. Politicomilitary driving variables seem more obvious and accessible to analysis than others, but are unlikely to function alone. Forces need to be posited to explain both the motions and changes of cores - formations, expansions, pulsations, shuttles, drifts, evaporations - and core persistence and stability.

50 Interesting speculative questions about core and periphery include: can an all-core global society evolve? Would it require a states system? Does the end of the periphery increase the chances for an all-core society? - or a freezing of current core-semiperiphery boundaries? - or a speedup in core shift? - or a narrowing of the core to a single hegemonic state or imperial metropole?"


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