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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).

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  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.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
My inclusion of fairy tales in World Civilizations I was inspired by Robert Darnton's article "Peasants Tell Tales: The Meaning of Mother Goose." Darnton uses fairy tales and folk tales as cultural artifacts, illuminating the mentality of peasants and the realities of peasant life in France before the Revolution.
By swapping one set of sources for another, I sought to minimize the amount of prep work necessary; the fairy tales section of World Civilizations followed the same topical progression as my other section of the class, but the lectures were revised to focus on cultural history and incorporate more primary sources into the lecture sessions.
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Phase one will be a survey of freshmen students who have completed the World Civilizations course.
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This article addresses how I shifted my World Civilizations 1500 course to a learner-centered, process-focused class.
Despite the good choice the foundation made in awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature to French author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Cl[R] zio who opened up to world civilizations at a time when fanaticism and narrowness is the reigning sentiment in the Western literary scene, the choice for the Nobel Peace award was somewhat baffling.
She highlighted Bahrain's contribution to world civilizations, stressing its highly-strategic location at the crossroads linking Asia to other continents in the world.
Greenfield compared the eighth edition of Ralph's World Civilizations (1991), the third edition of McKay's A History of World Societies (1992), the fourth edition of McNeill's History of the Human Community (1993), Upshur's World History (1991), and Stearns's World Civilizations: The Global Experience (1992).
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He designed the school's World Civilizations course and has been one of two deans of a Kentucky summer enrichment program for high school students.
Material is designed to introduce students to world civilization from the earliest civilizations through the seventeenth century.

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