Academic journal article Comparative Civilizations Review

The Concept of a Boundary between the Latin and the Byzantine Civilizations in Europe

Academic journal article Comparative Civilizations Review

The Concept of a Boundary between the Latin and the Byzantine Civilizations in Europe

Article excerpt

Introduction

Debate over the emergence of particular civilizations, as seen in historical-geographical perspective, is very popular, both in scientific literature and in journalism. Broad investigations are being conducted, and quite elaborate classifications as well as typologies are being developed. Knowledge of the spatial reaches of different civilizations and of their mutual relations is supposed to constitute the starting point for the analysis of the actual or potential threats, which might - and in the opinion of some scholars inevitably do - lead to the inter-civilizational conflicts.

This kind of reasoning is based on the assumption that cultural or ideological differences between civilizations must bring about enmity and wars. Such confrontations are usually held to be determined by the essential differences of religious systems, worldviews or philosophy.

There has been a recent surge of interest in this topic associated with the book by Samuel P. Huntington, published in 1996 in the United States, entitled The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, a worldwide bestseller. This book, translated into numerous languages, has stirred a vivid scholarly and journalistic discussion.

It is generally thought that this book not only tries to explain a lot of historical events but also proposes a rational basis for political evolution. According to many, it may also constitute the foundation for the development of geopolitical projections into the future. Initial opinions of its correctness and universality turned soon afterwards into attacks concerning its scientific value. The intellectual stir caused by this book has proven to be creative, since numerous studies and reports have appeared; these relate to the philosophy of history, geography, political science and sociology.

Civilizations as a subject of historical studies

Huntington's book, despite its popularity and influence, was by no means a pioneering work. The work concerned the types, spatial reaches, and influence of various civilizations on the political history of the world. Huntington himself clearly stated that he was continuing the work of his great predecessors, scholars whose writings formed the basis of his views on the civilizational diversity of the world's population.

He mentioned and praised the works of Arnold Toynbee (1946), Philip Bagby (1958), Carroll Quigley (1961), Fernand Braudel (1980), and Johan Galtung (1992). On the other hand, though, Huntington referred only slightly to the concepts and work of the German scholars Oswald Spengler (1926-1928), Alfred Weber (1951), and his brother, Max Weber (1968).

On the top of this, he did not mention at all two significant pioneers in the study of the origins of different civilizations and their development.

* The first of these two was the Russian geographer Nikolay Danilevskiy1, who proposed back in 1871 a list of essential civilizations of the world.

* The second great scholar unmentioned by Huntington was the Polish historian Feliks Koneczny; he developed the idea of the superior role of civilizations in the advance and social transformations of societies, states and empires (Koneczny, 1935).

Danilevskiy was undoubtedly the true pioneer in the study of the multiplicity of civilizations and their influence on the course of world history. Although his views do not form a coherent theoretical structure, he was the first to indicate that world history is associated with a succession of emerging and disappearing civilizations.

According to Danilevskiy, these civilizations differed significantly as to their spiritual and material cultures, as well as the ways in which reality was perceived within them. He classified civilizations on the basis of well defined criteria and pointed out that differences among civilizations may lead to conflicts. Differences lead to rivalry, which may turn into a struggle for superiority and domination. …

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