The Concept of Civilization
The Egyptians ruled from a place of supreme religious belief and a powerful priest class, supervised rituals and worship to please their gods. Their rulers were thought to be divine. Their society grew increasingly stratified based on economic power and religion. A ruling class made up of government officials and priests ruled over a lower class of free people. Farmers and craftspeople were part of this class, and slaves populated the remaining ranks.
Each human society is shaped by a unique set of circumstances, so the concept of civilization does not always make perfect sense. Keeping these limitations in mind, civilization becomes a powerful conceptual tool. Whether a culture developed in Africa, Asia, or any other part of the world, it possessed language and accumulated wisdom. The development of writing, metals, and cities is often considered a step toward civilization. Civilizations evolved into advanced societies through the application of these technologies.
The concept of civilization was originally defined by John Lewis Gillin to describe a complex, multifaceted form of culture. This was an attempt to define a “civilized” state as one that is capable of self-defense, the rule of law, and other material and social institutions. However, the definition of civilization has changed since then, and today, the term is primarily used to refer to a civilization’s social organization and its material instruments.
The concept of civilization has become increasingly prominent in international relations, but not entirely in response to Huntington’s clash thesis. A recent revival of this field, however, has focused on civilization and its relationship to modernity and progress. Interestingly, the term has a dark side. As a result, civilizations often exacerbate conflicts and cause the extinguition of millions of lives. There are numerous examples of this. You can read about the history of civilization in the following links:
The term “civilization” has an inherent tendency to connote superiority. Its use in defining society is a form of superiority. Western societies are particularly proud of their technological advancements, manners, and scientific knowledge. As such, they may gravitate towards a crusade and other such proclamations of superiority. And, it is not unusual to find harbingers of civilization in these groups, driven by their belief that their civilizations carry a heavy burden.
Writing also became a vital part of new civilizations. Rulers, priests, merchants, and artisans used writing to keep accurate records. The Inca civilization in Peru used memory experts to keep accurate records. Writing also enabled the earliest civilizations to develop a merchant class. Writing also allowed the development of a culture of science, art, and literature. This newfound culture of writing gave the world its first works of literature. And it has been a fascinating story.
Throughout the history of humankind, civilization has spread from a small group to encompass seven billion people. With the growth of the state, writing, cities, specialized labor, and a governmental system, civilizations have spawned a variety of complex institutions. With these institutions, we can no longer simply live in isolation from one another. But this doesn’t mean that our civilizations have no meaning. If we study the history of civilization, we can see how they transformed the way people lived and how our society evolved.