What is a Civilization?
What is a civilization? The word civilization is derived from the Latin adjective civitas, meaning “citizen.” This term typically refers to urbanized societies. It excludes nomadic people and settlements that do not have a state-level organization. Civilization is a collective way of thinking about the world and its place in it. This collective thought is expressed through art, literature, and drama. Civilizations also include a variety of regional traditions and a variety of other cultural happenings.
The cyclic nature of civilizations has been discussed by philosophers such as Aristotle, Thomas Hobbes, and Arnold J. Toynbee. Toynbee, however, didn’t abandon the concept of civilization. He noted that while some civilizations have died off, others have lasted. In his study, he argued that a civilization can never be civilized in two ways – as the inferior civilization is given equal rights within a more advanced one.
Early civilizations evolved in Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Andes, and Central and South America. Writing became widely used and states developed to mobilize vast resources. Their civilizations included complex social structures and a variety of crafts. They also developed writing, domesticated animals, and established complex class systems. By the fourth millennium BCE, the human race had spread from a few core centers to almost all areas of the globe.
In addition to defining civilizations by their differences, Sen argues that “civilizations” are merely categories of identity. There are many more facets that make a person. It would be wrong to isolate civilizations based on those differences. This would only result in unnecessary division. Therefore, civilizations must be viewed in their cultural context. In the West, they are self-aware. Those who believe in the burden of civilization often gravitate towards a proselytising crusade.
As populations grew, so did the importance of institutions. Cities are settlements with distinct features. These settlements are only possible in places where agriculture is no longer necessary. A surplus of agricultural products would allow the craftsmen, artists, and merchants to flourish. These institutions would allow for the creation of art and architecture. However, this is not the only feature of civilization. To be able to sustain a civilization, there must be a surplus of agricultural products.
The term civilization has a long history of use. The first recorded use was in jurisprudence, when the word “civilizer” was used to describe the transformation of a criminal matter. The Trevoux Dictionnaire universel defined civilization as “the process of justice and judgment.” It is also a process by which information is transformed into enquetes, which Starobinski describes in his 1993 book. The process of civilization begins by defining the definition of a society, and it can be traced throughout history.
Writing became an important tool for communication and record-keeping. The earliest civilizations used picture-writing to represent objects and sounds. One of the oldest writing systems is hieroglyphics, which means “sacred carvings” in Egyptian. Most early writings were inscribed on stone. That is why the Egyptians used them so extensively. There are a variety of types of writing from the early world, and some writings are more ancient than others.