Please update your browser

You're using a version of Internet Explorer that isn't supported by Questia.
To get a better experience, go to one of these sites and get the latest
version of your preferred browser:

Two Concepts of "Civilization"

By Wei, Ruan | Comparative Civilizations Review, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Two Concepts of "Civilization"


Wei, Ruan, Comparative Civilizations Review


Civilization Has Two Definitions.

The word "civilization" has two basic meanings rather than one. There has been much discussion recently about civilizational conflicts and fusion. But to talk about such fusions, we must keep in mind that the word "civilization" has two basic meanings: first, civilization cultural type or a way of life, and second, civilization as a historicocultural entity or a congeries of peoples sharing and practicing that particular set of values or way of life.

The differences between the two concepts are not self-evident. Yet this is so because they are often enmeshed. Their relationship is not "either/or" because there is no clear demarcation line between them. If we talk about different cultural types or ways of life, civilization in this sense means the basic values and related cultural practices, historical memories, and the geographic configurations people share with one another. Yet this kind of unity doesn't necessarily mean political unity or a shared political stance and commitment. For instance, although historically Muslims and Westerners had certain aspects of their religions and cultures in common, politically the Islamic world and the West have always been divided and generally hostile. And both civilizations have suffered from internal warfare, as well.

Today, the European countries that comprise the European Union are trying to constitute a unified entity, striving toward a super-sovereign state, a United States of Europe, very much like America or China. But this is a massive job and predictably will take generations to accomplish. In 2007 and 2008, the draft of a European constitution was vetoed in referenda in Holland and France, referenda attempting to affirm a common constitution. Even though the European Union is expected to emerge eventually as something like a super-sovereign state, there is still a long way to go before the European states can finally attain the goal of political unification and become a sort of "United States of Europe."

Civilization in the sense of cultural type is defined by a common mode of thinking or system of beliefs. Usually it includes not only a particular set of beliefs but also various cultural practices, despite populations speaking various languages or dialects. In most cases, civilization in this sense also shares a common geographic space, with Islam, perhaps, as an exception (as it is scattered over huge expanses of land on two continents). This lack of geographic continuity may be one factor in Islam's failure to modernize, along with the other cultural factors discussed in "Modernization or Westernization: the Muslim World vs. the Rest," authored by Laina Farhat-Holzman in this issue.

There are many East and West African countries that have adopted Islam in one way or another. There are North African countries that are mainly Islamic. There are some Islamic countries in Southeast Asia, too. There are many ethnic groups who believe in Islam in China. So it seems that Islam is a very much a scattered religious, social, and political phenomenon that does not have very clear boundaries.

It has to be noted, too, that civilization in the sense of cultural type is a long-term dynamic structure. It is a particular spatio-temporal continuum that has existed for thousands of years.

Diffusion of Cultures

Almost without exception, civilization in the sense of cultural type or way of life can be separated from that of a particular historico-cultural entity or aggregate of peoples who share a common way of life and a common geographic locus. Because these two aspects of it can be discussed separately, the values of a particular congeries of peoples called "a civilization" can diffuse among other peoples in the world. Chinese civilization, for example, was centered on "Zhong yuan" or Northern China. Soon it spread to other parts of China. After the Qin unified China, it even expanded to Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Two Concepts of "Civilization"
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.