fredag 4 december 2009

Civilization vs Culture

I believe we need to connect the terms to their original meanings in Latin.
"Civilization" is originally synonymous with "domestication". Those who are wild and unerliable and break the law on purpose etc are to be called "uncivilized". "Culture" on the other hand is what is opposed to "nature".
In other words: All human activities, especially if they make us distinctly different from other animals (such as language) are in principle cultural. But Civilization is the process which starts with the domestication of animals, plants, and eventually ourselves, in Mesopotamia some 6,000 years ago.
The original nomads were therefore cultural but not civilized. In other words, they were "primitive" (strictly meaning they were pre-historical, no valuations attached).
I try to move away from VALUATIONS tied to any of these terms, but I realise this is hard work. But if I have to choose between Civilization and Domestication, I prefer to speak of Civilization as an ideal. And I have no problem with Nature as a concept. Nature is great and good in itself. It's just that as humans we are Nature Plus, which to me is another way of saying that we are cultural rather than just natural creatures.


2009/12/4 tomispev


It is true. In my native language and other East and Central European languages I am familiar enough with, the word culture is used in a similar manner as behaviour or etiquette. Saying someone is cultural means he/she is well mannered, takes care of hygiene and speaks properly. The antonym of cultural would be boorish.

Unfortunately, being civilized is considered being Western-like in all aspects of life, from decorating one's home to manners. Opposed to civilized is being Native-like which is considered primitive by most members of our societies.


--- In, Special Kain wrote:
> Dear friends,
> As a sociologist I'm really fascinated with the fact that the distinction between «culture» and «civilization» didn't exist in Ango-Saxon countries, but was of high concern in European countries, especially France (see Marbeau in the 18th century) and Germany (see Immanuel Kant, Marx/Engels, Friedrich Nietzsche, Oswald Spengler, Horkheimer/Adorno and Norbert Elias who radically changed the meaning of the sociological term «civilization»). Civilization was often used pejoratively and opposed to the emotionally richer and warmer culture, since civilization stood for cold machines (science and technology) and lifeless and impersonal formalisms in speech and behavior.
> Since many of us agree that Zarathushtra was the first civilizationist thinker in human history, we have to clearly and distinctly define what «civilization» means to us. Let me please drop a few pieces of information on civilization as a topic of sociological and historical research:
> The history of «civilization» as a sociological concept allegedly goes back to the Roman Empire where the term «civitas» described the economically and politically privileged classes. In the Middle Ages «civilitas» became a set of principles and values - as most clearly expressed in educational humanism and the Enlightenment project a few centuries later. In 18th century France «civilité» meant the economically and intellectually powerful bourgeoisie as a means to oppose the courty «politesse». This gave way for Mirabeau's «civilisation» as opposed to «culture» and refers to scientific achievements and technological progress as well as to codes of behavior. What's also important is to see that it's also a word that was strongest in the historical context of colonization and imperialism, and that's also why it's often used pejoratively still today. Civilizationism is a progressive and imperialistic attitude that wants to share its
> scientific, technological and intellectual benefits and accomplishments with the rest of the world, thus imposing their values onto allegedly less civilized cultures.
> Norbert Elias was the first to focus on codes of behavior only and leave out the imperalistic and technological implications: an internalization of formerly external and psychologized constraints and civilized manners as a means to reduce social complexity (see Niklas Luhmann's systems theory for reduction of complexity in sociological theory). It seems that «civilization» and «culture» are still synonymously used in Anglo-Saxon countries.
> Ushta,
> Dino

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