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Civilization, Explanations, and Alternative Terminologies
by Luke Rondinaro
06 May 2002 18:53 UTC
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Great discussion so far on the “civilizations” matter.  Thought I’d try to tie some of it together and then suggest an alternative set of terms and concept to describe the phenomena of “civilizations” and “culture.”

<Civilization has more to do with rules, and culture with values. (The city has often being a site of discussion about rules ...>

I’ve always understood the scenario this way. Culture is an abstraction of society, and civilization is an abstraction of culture. Culture is almost like the behavioral “programming” of a society which animates people’s ideas of themselves and each other (plus their interactions among themselves). Civilization, communicatively, is a step above culture in that it covers larger territorial expanses under the sway of its idea forms; it also covers a much broader expanse of ideas which allows for the formation of universal concepts within particular civilizations [e.g.,the “One”, the “True”, the “Good”, Justice, & so on in Western Civilization].

But having said this, I do believe there’s probably some merit to the above point regarding “rules” (civilization) Vs. “values” (culture). Still, I can’t help thinking the concept of [city] civilization is a different one from the notion of high-end [communicative] civilization. [City] civilization, while it certainly began much of the historical civilizational process, wasn’t itself the ideational-communicative system which developed only from the inter-connection of cities and societies into systemic wholes. 

<Why are civilizations equated with Huntington's civilizations?  Don't

Braudel, McNeill, Hodgson use the term in fruitful ways?> ; <Isn't the term world-system (hyphenated or not) often a reified abstraction?  Why is the tendency to reify particular characteristics attributed to the civilization concept alone?> ; <Aren't the two concepts genetically related (as per Wallerstein's explicitly stated organic metaphor in Volume I of _The Modern World-System_?)>

They probably aren’t the same as Huntington’s civilizations. The term from what I can tell has assumed more a communicative quality for itself than it had in more traditional civilizational scholarship. And, I do think this communicative civilizations model is a ideational-cultural counterpart to the socioeconomic framework of world-systems in human experience.

<definitions of civilization--or culture assume a coherence that doesn't typically exist, historically.>  <the networks of each 'civilization' crisscross each other>

Well, yes and no to the first statement. Civilizations do crisscross each others’ systems of meaning so that ideas, values, principles, etc. from one civilization do find themselves in others; and those of others find their way into the first. But about that “coherence” – I am not at all sure there is one.  If there is, it is only on the part of particular civilizational analysts and their concepts that it is so. Others’ definitions [in being tied to spiritual concerns] assume a non-material, almost amorphous base to the principles of culture and civilization.  (Civ./cult.) is a matter of spiritual goods in societies, such that it defies attempts at systematization and the construction of coherent definitions about incoherent realities. Hence, the definitions often espoused by these scholars are less coherent than those of others.  Another reason for such supposed “coherence” à it’s easier to get a handle on such cultural or civilizational phenomena and analyze their details with a more functional, user-friendly definition than it is with one that’s less so. A definition which assumes less coherency is less applicable as an analytical tool for studying civilizational-sociocultural matters.

< " Civilization". Lalande Dictionary has defined civilization as a complex of transferable social phenomena that comprehend divers aspects. <Civilization in sociology means the spiritual, intellectual and material development of human societies. Our friends indicated only material dimension of civilization and neglected others, essential ones. If you take material as an solely indice of civilization you have … you have wiped the human character out of history.> ; <In this way, You see only the material point of history without considering the ideas that had lain behind of these fabricated materialsless connection to material and mechanical elements.>

While I certainly applaud the broad, far-reaching character of this definition of civilization, and the point made about its Latin roots in the word for city, I don’t agree that either through the communicative sense or other senses of the word – (world-systemic, socioeconomic, or however one wishes to label these other senses of the term) only the material dimension of civilization has been indicated in this list’s discussions.  Certainly talk about an “organic metaphor” in the connection of civilization to world-system seems to indicate that while these discussions deal with the physicality of civilization, they aren’t dealing soley with the material dimension of the term.  Yes, there’s the connection of fabricated materials to civilizational developments. But the social and historical processes that derived them weren’t merely “material” processes. Physical processes, yes; but they were also largely organic processes of fluid dynamism and matter-energy exchange as they took place in and were directed into human experience.  Only insofar as these physical processes themselves were understood and then adapted technologically could they and did they become “material processes.”  Up to that point nature (evolution, biological and social) was the guiding hand, not man. Only in the modern period (and at the very least in the early modern period) did man become a conscious shaper and engineer of “civilization” and its material products/processes. 

So, what are some other good clarifications to consider here? 

1. We have to draw a better distinction I believe between (communicative) civilization and (“heritage-identity” (based notions))(of) civilization.

2.     We should also better-consider our understanding of: Civilization (the human process of social and historical “advancement” – this is really a theory of “modernization” & the philosophy of liberal modernism of the 19th century à supposedly leads up to the modernized, Europeanized social form conveniently termed Western Civilization), a society or people becoming “civilized” (adopting the cultural and material bases of so-called more “developed” societies while shrugging off those of less “developed” ones), and the differentiation between “civilized” and “uncivilized” (what makes a civil society versus what makes an un-civil society). Now are these three notions of civilization are ideological and belong more in social affairs/commentary journals than they do in history or social science texts. But, though they are clearly related to each other, I think it’s really important to distinguish the concepts one from another; mainly because if we don’t, we miss a good opportunity to explain their individual ideologic thrusts and the errors that end up emerging from them.

Finally, alternative terminology for “civilization” and “culture” should be considered.

A.  Terms/Definitions.  “Culture” è  primary eidix à alternate term for the word “culture” – a systematic matrix of ideas for a human population or social group – not a fixed phenomena since its ideas filter in and out of one and into other eidicies ;; “Civilization” è “secondary eidix” à An interlocking framework of eidices (along with their most essential ideas) that roughly corresponds to the intersection of neighboring regionally-spread societies into systemic, socioeconomic wholes

                Eidix (Shortened form, meaning ‘idea matrix’)(from Greek “eidos” for idea) – a shared set of ideas, values, and principles which a human population associates with its “identity” as a group.  Emerges from shared experiences and behaviors of a group.  Psychological bases in ‘memetics’ and psychohistorical “group fantasies”; starts in the mind and behavioral state of the individual and proceeds by way of M. and G.F. phenomena upward to the social group; Psychologically, biochemical base ; sociodynamically, energy relationship in crystallizing behaviors and statuses over generations

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