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Related to civilization: Indus Valley Civilization, Ancient civilization


culture with a relatively high degree of elaboration and technical development. The term civilization also designates that complex of cultural elements that first appeared in human history between 8,000 and 6,000 years ago. At that time, on the basis of agriculture, stock-raising, and metallurgy, intensive occupational specialization began to appear in the river valleys of SW Asia. Writing appeared, as well as urban centers that accommodated administrators, traders, and other specialists. The specific characteristics of civilization are: food production (plant and animal domestication), metallurgy, a high degree of occupational specialization, writing, and the growth of cities. Such characteristics originally emerged in several different parts of the prehistoric world: Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India, the central Andes, and Mesoamerica. However, some civilizations did not have all of these characteristics (e.g., the Classic Maya had no metallurgy, and true writing apparently never emerged in central Mexico or the central Andes). Many anthropologists now focus on a political factor—the development of hierarchical administrative bureaucracies—as the critical characteristic of all civilizations.


See P. Sorokin, Social and Cultural Dynamics (1981); R. Wothnaw, Meaning and Moral Order (1987); F. Fernández-Armesto, Civilizations: Culture, Ambition, and the Transformation of Nature (2001).


  1. the advanced cultural forms (e.g. central government, development of the arts and learning, articulated concern with morals and manners) associated with cities and the wider societies in which these are located. The term derives from the Latin civis, citizen.
  2. a particular society or culture area possessing the above characteristics (e.g. ‘Chinese civilization’ or ‘Western civilization’).
Historically, use of the term was often strongly, and somewhat crudely, evaluative, e.g. the contrast with pre-existing stages such as SAVAGERY or BARBARISM. See also CIVILIZING PROCESS.



(1) A synonym for culture. In Marxist literature the word is also used to designate material culture.

(2) A level or stage of social development or material and nonmaterial culture, for example, ancient civilization and modern civilization.

(3) The stage of social development that follows barbarism (L. Morgan, F. Engels).

The concept of civilization originated in the 18th century along with the concept of culture. The French Enlightenment philosophers applied the term to a society based on the principles of reason and justice. In the 19th century the concept of civilization was used to a limited extent to characterize capitalism as a whole. Thus, N. Ia. Danilevskii formulated the theory of the general typology of cultures, or civilizations, in accordance with which universal history does not exist, but only the history of given civilizations having an individual, closed character. In the conception of O. Spengler, civilization is the distinct, final stage of development of any culture. Its primary signs are the development of industry and technology, the degradation of art and literature, the concentration of people in big cities, and the transformation of the people into faceless “masses.” In this interpretation, civilization as an age of decline is contrasted to the integrity and organicism of culture. These and other idealist concepts explain neither the nature of civilization nor the true essence of its development. The classics of Marxism analyzed the driving forces and contradictions of the development of civilization, substantiating the necessity of the revolutionary transition to its new phase—the communist society.


Marx, K. “Konspekt knigi L’iuisa G. Morgana ’Drevnee obshchestvo.’” In Arkhiv K. Marksai F. Engel’sa, vol. 9. Moscow, 1941.
Engels, F. Proiskhozhdenie sem’i chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 21.
Morgan, L. Drevnee obshchestvo, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1935. (Translated from English.)
Markarian, E. S. O kontsepisiilokal’nykh tsivilizatsii. Yerevan, 1962.
Artanovskii, S. N. Istoricheskoe edinstvo chelovechestva i vzaimnoe vliianie kul’tur: Filosofsko-metodologicheskii analiz sovremennykh zarubezhnykh kontseptsii. Leningrad, 1967.
Emge, K. A. Die Frage nach einem neuen Kulturbegriff. Mainz, 1963.
References in classic literature ?
The Mayas had a peculiar civilization of their own, thousands of years ago, and their calendar system was so involved "
I don't think so very much of civilization, do you?
Each of his steps is marked by a new civilization superior to the preceding, by a greater power of development.
Unsuspected by this dark land, I had the civilization of the nine- teenth century booming under its very nose
A vagrant cur- rent or a slight rise in the river had carried off their raft, but this only gratified them, since its going was something like burning the bridge between them and civilization.
There, Civilization, acting through the subtle medium of the Saucepan, recovered its hold on them; and the admiral's two prodigal sons, when they saw the covers removed, watered at the mouth as copiously as ever.
I know that my aunt distressed Dora's aunts very much, by utterly setting at naught the dignity of fly-conveyance, and walking out to Putney at extraordinary times, as shortly after breakfast or just before tea; likewise by wearing her bonnet in any manner that happened to be comfortable to her head, without at all deferring to the prejudices of civilization on that subject.
Civilization is not by any means an easy thing to attain to.
And day by day the tone of the baby instrument grew clearer--a new note in the orchestra of civilization.
This beautiful capitol, like every capitol since the dawn of civilization, is often a place of intrigue and calculation.
The Romans themselves, at the pinnacle of civilization, were actuated by the same impressions, and celebrated, in anniversary festivals, every great event which had signalized the annals of their forefathers.
In the same way I fancied that those nations which, starting from a semi-barbarous state and advancing to civilization by slow degrees, have had their laws successively determined, and, as it were, forced upon them simply by experience of the hurtfulness of particular crimes and disputes, would by this process come to be possessed of less perfect institutions than those which, from the commencement of their association as communities, have followed the appointments of some wise legislator.