Element-Based Method of Civilization Study

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* Article: The Element-Based Method of Civilization Study. Andrew Targowski. Comparative Civilizations Review, Volume 81 Number 81, Fall 2019 Article 6

URL = https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2114&context=ccr


  • The purpose: to define the element-based method of studying civilization with a meaningful contribution to contemporary life. The methodology: the transdisciplinary, big-picture view of human development on Earth based on graphic modeling of civilizational elements, their relations, and dynamics.
  • The findings: about 200+ civilizational elements have been recognized within about 500 possible elements of society, culture, and infrastructure.
  • Practical implications: today, civilization infrastructure challenges society and culture, which can lead to the fall of the Homo sapiens race and the rise of a human-machine race. Moreover, one of the options will be the rise of designer babies and the dichotomy of our race into traditional people and super healthy people; another option may lead to the labor-free economy and killer robots.
  • Social implications: to practice sustainable civilization it is necessary to regulate technological progress which conquers our well-being.
  • Originality: this approach offers an element-based understanding of civilization which is essential for developing wise aims and strategies of wise civilization."


"We know that our bio-system is composed of about 19,000-20,000 protein-coding genes1 and 23 chromosome pairs in cell nuclei and each gene has a particular function determining our well-being. The reverse process should take place in the study of civilization. Namely, one must decompose this enormous societal organism, perceived by the majority of researchers as a solid cloud into many elements and sub-elements, and then investigate their functions, dynamics, and consequences. This investigation will address the process of recognizing categories of civilization’s elements and their functions, leading to research on their dynamics and consequences, for example at the level of the civilization indexes (Targowski 2004 and 2009a:62-74). In this way, one can better understand what the set of critical problems of contemporary civilizations is and what can we expect and how to prevent bad solutions. "



"The Targowski model recognizes three significant civilization elements:

 Human Entity - organized humans in the pursuit of civilization; it is an existence-driven community,

 Culture - a value-driven continuous process of developing patterned human behaviors, feelings, and reactions, based on symbols, learning from it and being a product of it,

 Infrastructure - a technology-driven additive process of acquiring and applying material means.

In the new Tri-Element Model (TEM), the German concept of “zivilization” has been replaced by a concept of an “infrastructure,” and the German concept of “kultur” has been kept intact only in reference to the infrastructure, since the English-FrenchAmerican concept of civilization prevails as the developed, holistic, structure of human existence. The third component— the entity—has been included in the concept of civilization. This model is somehow similar to the Greek model called Paideia that unified civilization, culture, tradition, literature, and education, and has been characterized by Jaeger (1945). This approach reflects to a certain degree a civilization concept as a set of wealth, power, and meaning, defined by Arnason (2003). The 49 empirical components of civilization are categorized and shown in Figure 3. This list is a static model and is, of course, a product of knowledge that we can apply now. In the past, this list would be much shorter. A list-hierarchy of entities requires some explanation. The world civilization began when human individuals organized themselves in a family, tribe, or ethnos. These entities created prehistoric, primitive civilization, since every human group civilizes itself as it has a purpose, responds to challenges, and applies tools. Toynbee associates the beginning of a civilization with the emergence of a society. We could add that the emerged society triggers the outburst of autonomous civilization and, sui generis, the world civilization. These civilizational components are self-explanatory. A dynamic model of relationships among these components is a subject of the farther study for those who are interested in this subject. Most of these components have been developed or added along the 6,000 years of civilization history. The most recent components are those which belong to the Integrational Infrastructure and those which are emerging as postnation entities like the European Union. From the model or ideal type point of view, the presented model’s infrastructure dimension allows for a more profound evaluation of the role of technology in civilization."


"After more than 150 years of developing the concept of civilization, it is perhaps time, as has been seen in other sciences, to recognize and agree upon the set of elements of civilization and research their individual and grouped relations, impacts and dynamics in different scopes and timelines. The purpose of the proposed undertaking is to regulate not only local communities, regions, and states but also to understand the nature of civilizations more clearly. This ruling should minimize conflicts, maximize the sustainability of Mankind and aim at a satisfactory quality of life, grounded in law and justice.

This investigation recognized 220 civilizational elements. However, the classification of the infrastructural elements has been just sketched. It will be easy to add another 80 to 200+ elements of this type. One can possibly predict that civilization’s cloud has at least about 500 essential elements. It is necessary to recognize these elements, characterize, and know their dynamics and impact upon us. Why? Because as we see today, we need to begin to rule our civilization if we want to survive on the planet Earth."

More information

Blaha, S. (2001). The Cycle of Civilizations. Auburn, NH: Pingree-Hill Publishing.

Blaha, S. (2002). The Rhythms of History. Auburn, NH: Pingree-Hill Publishing.

Coulborn, R. (1959). The Origin of Civilized Societies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Melko. M. and L. R. Scott. (1987). The Boundaries of Civilizations in Space and Time. Lanham, MD, New York, London: University Press of America.

Melko, M. (1969). The Nature of Civilizations. Boston, Mass: Porter Sargent Publisher.

Miyaki, M. (2004). Civilization and Time. Poznań, Poland: The Historical Institute of the Adam Mickiewicz University.