Skip Nav


Other Sociology Terms

❶The first evidence of such long distance trade is in the ancient world.

Sign up, it's free!

Word Origin & History
Navigation menu

Civilization has been spread by colonization , invasion , religious conversion , the extension of bureaucratic control and trade , and by introducing agriculture and writing to non-literate peoples. Some non-civilized people may willingly adapt to civilized behaviour. But civilization is also spread by the technical, material and social dominance that civilization engenders. Assessments of what level of civilization a polity has reached are based on comparisons of the relative importance of agricultural as opposed to trade or manufacturing capacities, the territorial extensions of its power, the complexity of its division of labour , and the carrying capacity of its urban centres.

Secondary elements include a developed transportation system, writing, standardized measurement, currency, contractual and tort -based legal systems, art, architecture, mathematics, scientific understanding, metallurgy , political structures and organized religion.

Traditionally, polities that managed to achieve notable military, ideological and economic power defined themselves as "civilized" as opposed to other societies or human groupings outside their sphere of influence—calling the latter barbarians , savages , and primitives. In a modern-day context, "civilized people" have been contrasted with indigenous people or tribal societies. Every society, civilization or not, has a specific set of ideas and customs, and a certain set of manufactures and arts that make it unique.

Civilizations tend to develop intricate cultures, including a state -based decision making apparatus, a literature , professional art , architecture , organized religion and complex customs of education , coercion and control associated with maintaining the elite. The intricate culture associated with civilization has a tendency to spread to and influence other cultures, sometimes assimilating them into the civilization a classic example being Chinese civilization and its influence on nearby civilizations such as Korea , Japan and Vietnam.

Many civilizations are actually large cultural spheres containing many nations and regions. The civilization in which someone lives is that person's broadest cultural identity. Many historians have focused on these broad cultural spheres and have treated civilizations as discrete units.

Early twentieth-century philosopher Oswald Spengler , [32] uses the German word Kultur , "culture", for what many call a "civilization". Spengler believed a civilization's coherence is based on a single primary cultural symbol. Cultures experience cycles of birth, life, decline and death, often supplanted by a potent new culture, formed around a compelling new cultural symbol. Spengler states civilization is the beginning of the decline of a culture as "the most external and artificial states of which a species of developed humanity is capable".

This "unified culture" concept of civilization also influenced the theories of historian Arnold J. Toynbee in the mid-twentieth century. Toynbee explored civilization processes in his multi-volume A Study of History , which traced the rise and, in most cases, the decline of 21 civilizations and five "arrested civilizations". Civilizations generally declined and fell, according to Toynbee, because of the failure of a "creative minority", through moral or religious decline, to meet some important challenge, rather than mere economic or environmental causes.

Huntington defines civilization as "the highest cultural grouping of people and the broadest level of cultural identity people have short of that which distinguishes humans from other species". Huntington's theories about civilizations are discussed below. Another group of theorists, making use of systems theory , looks at a civilization as a complex system , i.

Civilizations can be seen as networks of cities that emerge from pre-urban cultures and are defined by the economic, political, military, diplomatic, social and cultural interactions among them.

Any organization is a complex social system and a civilization is a large organization. Systems theory helps guard against superficial but misleading analogies in the study and description of civilizations. These spheres often occur on different scales. For example, trade networks were, until the nineteenth century, much larger than either cultural spheres or political spheres. Extensive trade routes, including the Silk Road through Central Asia and Indian Ocean sea routes linking the Roman Empire , Persian Empire , India and China , were well established years ago, when these civilizations scarcely shared any political, diplomatic, military, or cultural relations.

The first evidence of such long distance trade is in the ancient world. Many theorists argue that the entire world has already become integrated into a single " world system ", a process known as globalization. Different civilizations and societies all over the globe are economically, politically, and even culturally interdependent in many ways. There is debate over when this integration began, and what sort of integration — cultural, technological, economic, political, or military-diplomatic — is the key indicator in determining the extent of a civilization.

David Wilkinson has proposed that economic and military-diplomatic integration of the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations resulted in the creation of what he calls the "Central Civilization" around BCE. According to Wilkinson, civilizations can be culturally heterogeneous, like the Central Civilization, or homogeneous, like the Japanese civilization.

What Huntington calls the "clash of civilizations" might be characterized by Wilkinson as a clash of cultural spheres within a single global civilization. Others point to the Crusades as the first step in globalization. The more conventional viewpoint is that networks of societies have expanded and shrunk since ancient times , and that the current globalized economy and culture is a product of recent European colonialism. The notion of world history as a succession of "civilizations" is an entirely modern one.

In the European Age of Discovery , emerging Modernity was put into stark contrast with the Neolithic and Mesolithic stage of the cultures of the New World , suggesting that the complex states had emerged at some time in prehistory.

Gordon Childe defined the emergence of civilization as the result of two successive revolutions: At first, the Neolithic was associated with shifting subsistence cultivation, where continuous farming led to the depletion of soil fertility resulting in the requirement to cultivate fields further and further removed from the settlement, eventually compelling the settlement itself to move.

In major semi-arid river valleys, annual flooding renewed soil fertility every year, with the result that population densities could rise significantly. This encouraged a secondary products revolution in which people used domesticated animals not just for meat, but also for milk, wool, manure and pulling ploughs and carts—a development that spread through the Eurasian Oecumene. Mesopotamia is the site of the earliest developments of the Neolithic Revolution from around 10, BCE, with civilizations developing from 6, years ago.

This area has been identified as having "inspired some of the most important developments in human history including the invention of the wheel , the development of cuneiform script, mathematics , astronomy and agriculture. This " urban revolution " marked the beginning of the accumulation of transferrable surpluses, which helped economies and cities develop.

It was associated with the state monopoly of violence, the appearance of a soldier class and endemic warfare, the rapid development of hierarchies, and the appearance of human sacrifice. The civilized urban revolution in turn was dependent upon the development of sedentism , the domestication of grains and animals and development of lifestyles that facilitated economies of scale and accumulation of surplus production by certain social sectors. The transition from complex cultures to civilizations , while still disputed, seems to be associated with the development of state structures, in which power was further monopolized by an elite ruling class [42] who practised human sacrifice.

A parallel development took place independently in the Pre-Columbian Americas , where the Mayans began to be urbanised around BCE, and the fully fledged Aztec and Inca emerged by the 15th century, briefly before European contact. The Bronze Age collapse was followed by the Iron Age around BCE, during which a number of new civilizations emerged, culminating in a period from the 8th to the 3rd century BCE which Karl Jaspers termed the Axial Age , presented as a critical transitional phase leading to classical civilization.

This view has recently been championed by Christopher Chase-Dunn and other world systems theorists. A major technological and cultural transition to modernity began approximately CE in Western Europe , and from this beginning new approaches to science and law spread rapidly around the world, incorporating earlier cultures into the industrial and technological civilization of the present. Civilizations have generally ended in one of two ways; either through being incorporated into another expanding civilization e.

As Ancient Egypt was incorporated into Hellenistic Greek, and subsequently Roman civilizations , or by collapse and reversion to a simpler form, as happens in what are called Dark Ages. There have been many explanations put forward for the collapse of civilization. Some focus on historical examples, and others on general theory.

Political scientist Samuel Huntington [54] has argued that the defining characteristic of the 21st century will be a clash of civilizations. According to Huntington, conflicts between civilizations will supplant the conflicts between nation-states and ideologies that characterized the 19th and 20th centuries.

Miller makes impressive sci-fi debut, plus more reviews," 24 Apr. Greenery is present in all these shots, though there is a progression from the woods to civilization as trucks, railroad tracks, highways and heavily industrialized inland ports start to appear.

Film Review Karlovy Vary ," 12 July His one concession to civilization was abandoning his frying pan to eat in San Francisco restaurants.

Philly's mansions don't need to be musty antiques," 25 Apr. Liberals informed us that a verbal defense of Western civilization is now socially unacceptable, but most conservatives liked it. The precision timekeepers that were subsequently developed resolved the critical problem of finding a ship's position at sea and went on to play key roles in the industrial revolution and the advance of Western civilization.

Origin and Etymology of civilization see civil. Antonyms barbarianism , barbarism , philistinism ;. Near Antonyms ignorance , illiteracy ; parochialism , provincialism , rusticity , unsophistication ; boorishness , churlishness , clownishness , coarseness , crudeness , vulgarity ;.

Related Words education , erudition , intellectualism , intellectuality , knowledge , learning , literacy , scholarship ; cosmopolitanism , sophistication , urbanity ; breeding , genteelness , gentility , manners ; class , elegance , grace , taste ; civility , courteousness , courtesy , politeness ;.

Other Sociology Terms bourgeois , ethos , eugenics , exurb , incommunicado , intelligentsia , megalopolis , metrosexual , mores , subculture.

Definition of civilization for English Language Learners. Learn More about civilization See words that rhyme with civilization Thesaurus: Seen and Heard What made you want to look up civilization? Need even more definitions? Get Word of the Day daily email! The ancient civilizations of Central and Latin America were founded upon corn. It seemed to him that western civilization was in grave economic and cultural danger.

More Synonyms of civilization. Word origin of 'civilization'. Example sentences containing 'civilization' These examples have been automatically selected and may contain sensitive content.

Discover the history and culture of civilizations ancient and modern. Times, Sunday Times Or was it a means by which classical civilization was rescued from extinction? The Times Literary Supplement The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.

Patterns of Change and Continuity Why did most early civilizations center in river valleys? Patterns of Change and Continuity Such human civilization as existed would have been very different. Orton, Christine Eczema Relief - the comprehensive self-help plan These three early civilization centers had some mutual contacts.

Patterns of Change and Continuity Human civilizations have undergone a sea change since then. Times, Sunday Times All three classical civilizations featured great structural inequalities between men and women and between upper and lower classes.

Example sentences containing 'civilization'

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Civilization definition is - a relatively high level of cultural and technological development; specifically: the stage of cultural development at which writing and the keeping of written records is attained. How to use civilization in a sentence.

Privacy FAQs

The meaning of the term civilization has changed several times during its history, and even today it is used in several ways. It is commonly used to describe human societies "with a high level of cultural and technological development", as opposed to what many consider to be less "advanced" societies.

About Our Ads

Civilization entered the English language in the midth century with the meaning “the act or process of bringing out of a savage or uneducated state.” In this preimperialistic age of exploration, it was popular to view people from less-developed lands as barbaric and in great need of cultural edification. civilization - a society in an advanced state of social development (e.g., with complex legal and political and religious organizations); "the people slowly progressed from barbarism to civilization" civilisation.

Cookie Info

Definition of civilization - the stage of human social development and organization which is considered most advanced. A civilization is a human society with its own social organization and culture. The ancient civilizations of Central and Latin America were founded upon corn. It seemed to him that western civilization was in grave economic and cultural danger.