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What is the difference between a culture and a civilization?


This is my first question on this site. So, I just hope I would be helped here.

As used by historians, what is the difference between a 'civilization' and a 'culture'?

I used Google to find some logical answers but couldn't find anything satisfactory.


A civilization is a culture of a certain scale and complexity. All civilizations are cultures, but only a small subset of cultures are civilizations.

As the Wikipedia article on civilization puts it:

Historically, a civilization was a so-called "advanced" culture in contrast to more supposedly primitive cultures… In this broad sense, a civilization contrasts with non-centralized tribal societies, including the cultures of nomadic pastoralists, egalitarian horticultural subsistence neolithic societies or hunter-gatherers… Civilizations are organized in densely populated settlements divided into hierarchical social classes with a ruling elite and subordinate urban and rural populations, which engage in intensive agriculture, mining, small-scale manufacture and trade.

All human populations participate in one or more cultural groups regardless of whether they are part of a civilization.


Culture is a more general notion. "Civilization is characterized by urban development, social stratification, symbolic communication etc. (see Wikipedia). So we can speak of a Paleolitic culture, for example but not a civilization.


Difference between Culture and Civilization (9 points)

In our day-to-day talks and discussions, we often use the terms ‘culture’ and ‘civilization’ interchangeably. Even in the Anglo-French tradition, the concept of culture was often used synonymously with civilization. But sociologists differentiate culture and civilization as two different levels of phenomena.

The concept of civilization was almost equated with highly valued things, such as respect of people for one another, the sanctity of life and high regard for the good, the ethical and the beautiful. In this sense, those who were lacking in these attributes were regarded as barbaric or uncivilized.

Preliterate or primitive people who lived in a state of nature—quite naked, used to eat unbaked animal flesh—were usually termed as barbarians. However, many anthropological studies showed that many preliterate societies had their own values, beliefs, rules, religions and tools, etc.

They made certain changes in the natural order of things which are characteristics of culture, in the modern sense of the term. The use of the term ‘civilization’ as exhibited above is different from its use in sociological or anthropological sense. Defining civili­zation MacIver and Page (1962) said, ‘by civilization we mean the whole mechanism and organization which man has designed in his endeavour to control the conditions of life’.

Similarly, S.M. Fairchild (1908) argued that it is the higher stage of cultural development characterized by intellectual, aesthetic, technological and spiritual attainment. On the basis of this meaning, he made reference of ‘civilized peoples’ in contrast to ‘uncivilized or non-civilized peoples’.

A few scholars have equated civilization with technology and progress e.g., Robert Bierstedt (1974) emphasized on sophistication, self-criticism and other awareness as the chief characteristics of civilization. Sociologists do not use the term ‘civilization’ in the sense stated above because all above views are value-loaded.

Thus, making a distinction between culture and civilization, the following points may be noted:

1. Culture is an end (values and goals) in itself while civilization is a means (tools and techniques) to an end. Cultural facts like belief, art and liter­ature—prose, poetry or novel, etc., gives direct satisfaction to the reader while equipment’s of civilization such as cars, computers, refrigerators, etc., do not give direct satisfaction, until and unless they do not satisfy our wants. Thus, civilization is utilitarian. It just helps in achieving the end.

2. Culture has no value in itself but it is a measurement by which we can value other articles of civilization. We cannot determine the value of culture, i.e., beliefs, norms, ideas, etc., but the value of anything can be determined by its measurement standard. Culture is a measuring rod or weighing balance.

3. Civilization is always advancing but not culture. Cultural facts like dramatic plays or poems may not be necessarily better today than the plays or poems of Shakespeare?

4. Civilization is easily passed without much effort to the next generation but not culture. Cultural facts, e.g., any art or a piece of literature, cannot be learned without some intelligence. It requires a few pains to understand it. Contrary to it, the equipment’s of civilization (building, TV, etc.) can easily be inherited without much or any use of energy and intelligence.

5. Civilization may be borrowed without making any change but not culture. Borrowing any cultural fact like any political, economic or social belief requires some necessary alteration to adjust in the new cultural environment while this is not necessary to make any material change in the civilizational equipment’s such as TV, computer, etc.

6. Culture relates to the inner qualities of society like religion, customs, conventions, etc., while civilization relates to the outer form of society such as TV, radio, fans, etc.

7. Culture is more stable than civilization—cultural change takes place in years or in centuries but civilization changes very rapidly.

8. Variability of cultures may not be accompanied by variability of civilization at different places. Civilization may be similar in variable cultural areas. For instance, there is a great difference between American and Indian cultures but there are many similarities in their civilizational equipment’s.

9. Culture is a social fact, i.e., creation of the whole society while civili­zation, i.e., the invention of any equipment may be by a single individual. Any ordinary person can affect any change in the civilizational equipment but for any modification or alteration in any cultural fact requires the power and imagination of whole society.

There are scholars who have designated culture and civilization as the two sides of the same coin. William F. Ogburn (1964), in his theory of social change, pointed out two aspects of culture, viz., material and non-material. For him, material aspect represents civilization and the non-material aspect is the culture proper. Gillin and Gillin (1948) designated the material or tangible part of culture as civilization or culture equipment which man in his endeavor has modified from environment.


What is Culture

Culture refers to the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. Thus, it encompasses every aspect in the way of life in people. It includes human values, beliefs, customs, languages, and traditions. Culture is reflected in the manner how people express ideas and creativity, their history as well as in the heritage.

Moreover, a pioneering anthropologies Edward B Tylor defines culture “culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”

Cultural Universals

Cultural universals are the cultural traits that are common to any culture. The distinctions in these traits determine the unique identity of a particular culture. Examples of these universal traits can be categories as:

  • Language (Spoken, Written, Non-verbal, Gestures )
  • Cognition/Education
  • Gender roles (position was given to genders, such as woman and man )
  • Marriage and family relationships
  • Aesthetics (Music, Literature, art, crafts, dance, )
  • Technology and Architecture
  • Religion
  • Ethics (hierarchies, behaviour as good and bad )
  • Celebrations, Rituals, Myths, Customs
  • Culinary styles
  • Clothing and fashion
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Notions of time

Accordingly, there are vast cultural diversities in the world one can make distinctions mainly as an Eastern culture, Western culture, African culture, Arabic culture, etc. Hence, the differences in these integral components in a culture determine the distinctions among varied cultures as well.

Figure 1: Traditional Dance in Zulu Culture

Moreover, within one culture there are several subcultures, which become distinct based on practices and traditions. For example, the ethnic subcultures in the American culture. As a result, the practices on several customs differ between different communities in one society.

Figure 2: Pop Culture

However, culture is a very tangible and fragile aspect as it is subjected to change with time and people. Similarly, just as how culture influences individual ideologies, and social conscience of people, the diffusion of different other cultures can also influence culture. The main aspect that contributes to this cultural diffusion is technological advancements and globalization. As a result, there are numerous arguments on the loss of cultural identity due to the emergence of new pop culture through the assimilation of other cultures.


Some Differences in Life between the Ancient and Modern Worlds

In a time without cell phones, computers, telephones, automobiles, refrigerators, and all of the beeps, buzzes and noises of modern life, silence was common. In a time when the world’s population was less than 50 million, solitude was common. In a time when populations lived or died according to the size of their local annual harvest, austerity was the norm. This paper will mention only a few.

By design, man has always received information from the world outside of himself through his senses. However, in ancient times the senses of man were limited in what they could experience by the local environment. Today such limitations are far less.

Ancient – Without photographs and with drawings and paintings rare, man’s visual input was limited to the sights of his immediate surroundings. Few people had seen snow and jungles and mountains and forests and oceans because they rarely traveled more than a few dozen miles from home and those features are rarely co-located. Travelers could describe features to friends back home, but direct experience of varied sights was uncommon. With few written documents and little literacy, reading and analyzing documents was unusual.

People in Canaan had an advantage over many other ancient peoples in their visual experiences for two reasons. First, Canaan has snow and mountains (Mt. Hermon and vicinity), forests (Lebanon, Galilee, Jordan River basin), deserts (in the south around Beersheba, Negev), and the Mediterranean Sea. As nations go, Canaan is small (comparable in land mass to modern Slovenia or El Salvador), and residents of the land had only a few weeks travel from the deserts in the mountains in the north (Beersheba to Mount Hermon is just over 200 miles by ancient routes). The distance from the Jordan River to the east, and Mediterranean Sea to the west is only 60 miles. Second, Canaan was a crossroads of trade between Mesopotamia, Arabia, Africa, Asia, and Europe. People could see traders from India bringing peacocks and elephants, those from Yemen bringing gold and spices, and those from Europe trading furs. Assyria and Egypt were mighty empires compared to puny Israel, but while average Assyrians may never have seen an ocean and average Egyptians may never have seen snow or mountains, ordinary Israelites could easily have experienced both. Few places in the world can boast of such diversity in so small an area.

Modern – Technology allows almost anyone to have almost any type of visual input, regardless of their environment. With millions of documents on every conceivable subject available to most people in an instant, people can spend large percentages of their time on them.

Ancient – The sounds of nature, the human voice, and the noises of a few manmade things such as the creak and groan of the oxcart and the clash of swords comprised the sounds available to be heard. The overall noise level, except near inherently noisy places such as waterfalls, was low. Conversation occurs at about 60 decibels (db) and the sound of a large waterfall such as Niagara might tip 100 decibels. A human shout, such as what people might have heard in war, tops out about 90 db. Our ancestors would rarely have heard anything louder.

Modern – The only limit of sounds to which one can be exposed is the ability of the human ear. One can listen to sounds from the deep sea or high atmosphere, sounds never experienced in person by anyone.

The overall noise level is relatively high in the cities, with traffic hovering around 80 db and a jet takeoff hitting 140 db. Since over 50% of humanity lives in cities, most people experience more sounds than their ancestors did.

Ancient – The smells accessible to man were those of the natural world immediately around them. Abraham, for example, probably never experienced the smells of cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves. Due to an increase in trade, the apostles may have.

Modern – Smells are more limited than sights or sounds because it is more difficult to transmit chemicals over the internet than electrons. Nonetheless, foods, flowers and other fragrant items can be transported across the globe in a matter of hours.

Ancient – As with smells, food could not travel far, so people experienced only what was local. Because Canaan was a land bridge for trade between the continents, Israelites would have had the chance to experience much more.

Modern – As with smells, the only limit to tastes one can experience today is the limitations of the human body.

Ancient – Tactile stimuli are the same throughout the world.

Modern – Ancient man was far less protected from hot, cold, rough, smooth, and other such stimuli than we are today. Many of us spend our days in climate-controlled houses, buildings and vehicles.

It is important to note that while the ancients had a smaller variety of stimuli to observe, they may have observed more deeply than we do today.

In antiquity, man was governed by the realities of nature in a way that few people living today can even imagine. Sundials, water clocks and other devices were used to tell time in the ancient world, but mechanical clocks were not invented until the early Renaissance. The rhythms of the seasons dictated schedules.

Time Period

Ancient – Artificial light, usually candles or lamps lit with olive oil, was expensive. Most people had little. When the sun went down, they went to bed. Combat larger than small unit actions could not occur at night because commanders could not control bodies of troops. Land navigation depended upon the stars and landmarks because roads, until the famous Assyrian roads, with their regular waypoints, were generally narrow and could be easily missed.

Commoners and slaves usually did hard physical labor farming, hunting, gathering, or construction, and were exhausted when evening came. David spent hours alone in the countryside with his sheep and Lincoln spent hours alone in the forest splitting wood.

Modern – Today artificial light is cheap and work is less often hard physical labor. Instead of being awake 12-14 hours per day like the ancients were, we are awake 16-18 hours per day, most of it filled with activity and sensation.

Ancient – The phases of the moon and the movement of the stars were important for religious observances and for long distance navigation, especially nautical.

Modern – Navigation is done with timepieces, maps, charts, and radio and satellite navigation aids. Celestial navigation is a vanishing art.

Ancient – As largely agricultural people, the seasons dictated man’s activities. Wars could not occur during the harvest until there were enough people to do both at the same time.

Modern – Few in developed countries are one poor harvest away from starvation, so the seasons have far less impact on the lives of people.

The greatest force available to man in the ancient world was the pulling force of an ox or horse and the pushing force of the wind or water. Thus man’s ability to lift and move was limited (although as the builders of the pyramids demonstrated, impressive).

Man can walk about three to four miles per hour over moderate terrain, and camel and donkey caravans averaged about the same speed. The typical day’s journey was 25 to 30 miles although it was possible to go faster if the roads were good. Roads were made of dirt until the Roman era and trouble from highwaymen was common. Camels needed to spend up to two months in between long journeys to recuperate. Caravan routes followed established trails or roads between water points. Fodder had to be brought along, with roughly 30 loads of fodder for every 100 loads of merchandise. Each camel would carry loads of up to 300 lbs. Typical cargos were wool, cotton, tea, spices, precious stones, and manufactured goods. A caravan might include 150 camels, roughly eight files of 18 camels per file, for a total of 22.5 tons (45,000 lbs).

Water transportation was by rowing or sailing ships. Depending upon the winds and the current, triremes (ancient Greek ships with rows and sails) typically traveled six to seven miles per hour and travel up to 60 miles per day. Most ships would stay close to the shore and anchor at night to avoid running aground unless they were in very familiar seas. By 240 BC, the Greeks were using cargo ships which were each capable of carrying 500 tons (1,000,000 lbs). It is little wonder that sea trade was far cheaper than land trade.

By contrast, modern trucks can travel 400 miles in one day while carrying 24 tons (48,000 lbs). Modern ultra large container vessels (ULCV) can carry up to 15,000 twenty foot equivalent units (TEU). Each TEU represents approximately 24 tons (48,000 lbs). Thus one modern ULCV can carry roughly 360,000 of load.

Health was one of the greatest differences between ancient and modern times. As late as England in the 18 th century, 25 women died for every 1000 babies born. According to estimates using data from the Roman Empire, about 300 of every 1000 newborns died before completing their first year. Abortion and infanticide, common practices, artificially elevate that number, but modern non-industrial societies sometimes have infant mortality rates of up to 200/1000. Average life expectancy was 25 years, but people who lived into adulthood probably made it to their 60s or 70s.

By contrast, modern life expectancy at birth is 75 to 80 years in the Western world and infant mortality is roughly three to five deaths per 1,000 births. Maternal mortality is roughly 10 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Libraries have been written on this topic, but students of history and historical documents such as the Bible should be aware of these important facts. A clearer understanding of the lives of our ancestors will help us better understand their thoughts, actions, and lives. It will also help us better identify the lessons of history and apply them to our world today.


Similarities and Differences in Near East Ancient Civilizations

The rise of civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotamia occurred about the same time and both civilizations grew along mighty rivers. There were many similarities but many differences as well. In each case, it was the river valley and geography that dictated outcomes affecting agricultural prosperity, religious formation, and government structures.

The Role of Geography on Egypt and Mesopotamia

Both regions experienced an influx of previous nomadic peoples during the latter Neolithic period in what became the Agricultural Revolution. In Egypt, the Nile River overflowed its banks annually, depositing rich natural fertilizing elements that enabled Egyptians to grow wheat and barley, often providing a surplus. While the yearly rise of the Nile in Egypt was predictable, this was not the case in Mesopotamia.

Political Institutions In Ancient Egypt and the Ancient Near East

For most of its long history, Egyptian government was led by the Pharaoh, a semi-divine king who was assisted by a vizier and an army of bureaucrats. Powerful dynasties ensured the continuance of prosperity, interrupted only during brief periods of civil strife and the beginning of outside invasions at the end of the Middle Kingdom.

Mesopotamia, however, began as a series of antonymous city-states, self governing and competing for power. Not until 2370 B.C.E. was the Middle East united for the first time under Sargon the Great as he established the first Semitic dynasty that could be called an empire. With the fall of Akkad, one powerful group after another conquered the region, beginning with the Amorites, and continuing with the Hittites, Kassites, and Assyrians. Not until Cyrus the Great established the Persian Empire was long term political unity achieved.

Religious Differences between Egypt and Mesopotamia

Earliest religious awareness was closely associated with nature and environment. Because Egypt was the “gift of the Nile” and generally prosperous and harmonious, Egyptian gods tended to reflect a positive religion with an emphasis on a positive afterlife. This would only change late in the New Kingdom as the fortunes of Egypt changed. The most popular god, Osiris, was also the law giver as well as the custodian of the world of the dead.

In contrast, Mesopotamian religion was bleak and gloomy. Ancient Mesopotamian prayers demonstrate the lack of relationships with gods and goddesses who viewed humans with suspicion and frequently sent calamities to remind everyone of their humanity. Such was the message found in the Gilgamesh Epic.

A notable exception was the Hebrews, whose concept of early monotheism separated them from their neighbors. The Hebrew god could be vengeful and destructive, but he also established a series of “covenants” with his chosen people providing redemption and the promise of a coming Messiah who would establish a kingdom built on justice. Hebrew prophets expanded on these themes, conveying both the anger and the love of the Hebrew deity.

Similarities Tied to Civilization and Culture

Both Egypt and Mesopotamia developed systems of writing that began as pictograms and were primarily used for record-keeping. In both civilizations, a system of schools emerged, training young boys as scribes, an integral part of the ancient social class structure.

Both civilizations actively engaged in trade, building commercially prosperous societies dominated by the wealthy aristocracies and promoting a growing merchant and artisan class. All of these similarities, it can be argued, were the characteristics of cultural development, identified as a necessary element of civilization. Although both Egypt and Mesopotamia developed at the same time, environment and natural forces affected differences in political systems, religion, and social stability.


What Is Civilization?

Civilization is a term which originated in France in the 18th Century, being set as the opposite of barbarism by encyclopedists of said nationality. The reason? Well for them there were, on one hand, primitive or barbarous peoples, and, on the other hand, civilized and progressive peoples.

By the 19th Century, this term had already acquired a different meaning and was used to define the collection of characteristics which life in a culture at a certain period present. The word as such comes from the Latin “civitas” and this in its turn from “civis”, which is nothing more nor less than “city.”

Anthropologists today state that civilization would be the period in which human beings organize themselves in cities, in this way giving rise to urban life. But the most accurate concept is, without a doubt, that of Fernand Braudel. Braudel, a French historian, stated that “civilization is defined in relation to man’s sciences: Geography, Sociology, Economy, Politics, Collective Psychology, and History. It is also used referring to humanity’s achievements, that is to say, the cultural heritage.”

What is Ancient Civilization?

But a civilization is defined by certain elements without which it would not exist as such. We have, therefore:

  • The space it occupies
  • The society
  • The economy
  • Political organization
  • A Collective mentality

The concept of civilization refers to a collection of economic, social, and cultural transformations product of the actions of men in societies in a certain place and time.


Cultural Genocide

This content is also available in French. View the French version of the Stolen Lives book.

More than two decades ago, residential schools’ scholars such as James R. Miller and indigenous leaders began to describe the efforts of the Canadian government to assimilate the Indigenous Peoples through the residential schools and other related policies as cultural genocide—arguing that assimilation was intended to destroy the Indigenous Peoples of Canada as a culturally distinct group. 1 Other scholars, mostly outside Canada, have noted that the cultural destruction of a group is not defined in the UN Genocide Convention as genocide (cultural genocide was excluded from the final document because of the objections of colonial states such as Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and France). 2

Scholar Steven Katz wrote about genocide in the specific context of the Holocaust and defined it narrowly as the intent to carry out “unmediated, intended, complete physical eradication of every Jewish man, woman and child.” Separating the Holocaust as a unique atrocity, Katz went on to argue that it “is this unconstrained, ideologically driven imperative that every Jew be murdered that distinguished the Holocaust from all prior anti-Semitism and, to this date, all subsequent, however inhumane, acts of collective violence.” 3 Scholar David MacDonald explains that Katz and others therefore “exclude all other instances of genocide in world history, including the genocide of North America’s indigenous peoples.” 4

Yet, for Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the term genocide in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, the cultural destruction of a group was as important as the physical annihilation of its members. According to Lemkin,

The world represents only so much culture and intellectual vigor as are created by its component national groups. Essentially the idea of a nation signifies constructive cooperation and original contributions, based upon genuine traditions, genuine culture, and well-developed national psychology. The destruction of a nation, therefore, results in the loss of its future contribution to the world. . . . Among the basic features which have marked progress in civilization are the respect for and appreciation of the national characteristics and qualities contributed to world culture by different nations—characteristics and qualities which . . . are not to be measured in terms of national power or wealth. 5

In 1946, when the newly founded United Nations began debating the creation of an international agreement for the prevention and punishment of genocide, it accepted Lemkin’s view. 6 The United Nations General Assembly, where these ideas were debated, then instructed one of its bodies to draw up a draft of this international agreement for its next session. A subsequent draft, written by the United Nations Secretariat, defined cultural genocide as “any deliberate act committed with the intention of destroying the language, religion or culture of a . . . group, such as, for example, prohibiting the use of the group’s language or its schools or places of worship.” 7 But, as international law expert William A. Schabas observes, the final version of Article 2 ended up being “a much-reduced version of the text prepared by the Secretariat experts.” To this day it does not mention cultural genocide. However, Schabas explains, the final version we have today includes “an exception to this general rule, allowing ‘forcible transfer of children from one group to another’ as a punishable act.” 8 In that sense, the Genocide Convention “categorized forcible child transfers as cultural genocide.” 9 David MacDonald argues that Article 2 (e) indeed brings the residential schools under the Genocide Convention without any need to alter its language. 10

Legality aside, why do so many activists and scholars now want to define forcible assimilation (as was carried out in the residential schools) as genocide? Political correspondent Mary Agnes Welch writes:

The idea of cultural genocide is particularly important for Canadian First Nations because few mass killings or instances of direct physical destruction occurred in Canadian history. But, there are many cases of policies whose indirect intent was to destroy culture at the very least, and First Nations would argue the upshot was the same—the end of them as a people. Tacking on the word “culture” somehow signals something was less than real genocide. Instead, scholars are arguing that destroying a group’s culture amounts to genocide plain and simple, with no need for a qualifier that softens the blow. 11

Sociologist Andrew Woolford of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg explains in an interview:

If genocide should be understood as the “destruction of group life rather than lives within a group,” then in the case of Canada’s indigenous peoples, that means understanding what makes them a group, what defines their cultural cohesion, such as a profound attachment to the land and nature. So, in Canada’s colonial past, systematically depriving First Nations of access to their land so European pioneers could settle and railways could be built, is genocidal. 12

Andrew Woolford, Adam Muller, and others therefore argue that if genocide is the targeting of a group’s existence as a group—that is, its “groupness”—then all acts designed to affect the group’s destruction—physical, cultural, political, economical, or otherwise—should be counted as genocidal. 13


Contents

Huntington divided the world into the "major civilizations" in his thesis as such:

    , comprising the United States and Canada, Western and Central Europe, Australia, Oceania and most of the Philippines. Whether Latin America and the former member states of the Soviet Union are included, or are instead their own separate civilizations, will be an important future consideration for those regions, according to Huntington. The traditional Western viewpoint identified Western Civilization with the Western Christian (Catholic-Protestant) countries and culture. [11] civilization, including South America (excluding Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana), Central America, Mexico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. May be considered a part of Western civilization. Many people in South America and Mexico regard themselves as full members of Western civilization. civilization, comprising Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Romania, great parts of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.
    • Countries with a non-Orthodox majority are usually excluded e.g. Muslim Azerbaijan and Muslim Albania and most of Central Asia, as well as majority Muslim regions in the Balkans, Caucasus and central Russian regions such as Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, Roman Catholic Slovenia and Croatia, Protestant and Catholic Baltic states). However, Armenia is included, despite its dominant faith, the Armenian Apostolic Church, being a part of Oriental Orthodoxy rather than the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Kazakhstan is also included, despite its dominant faith being Sunni Islam.
    • The Buddhist areas of Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand are identified as separate from other civilizations, but Huntington believes that they do not constitute a major civilization in the sense of international affairs.
    • The Sinic civilization of China, the Koreas, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam. This group also includes the Chinese diaspora, especially in relation to Southeast Asia.
    • Hindu civilization, located chiefly in India, Bhutan and Nepal, and culturally adhered to by the global Indian diaspora. , considered a hybrid of Chinese civilization and older Altaic patterns.

    Huntington argues that the trends of global conflict after the end of the Cold War are increasingly appearing at these civilizational divisions. Wars such as those following the break up of Yugoslavia, in Chechnya, and between India and Pakistan were cited as evidence of inter-civilizational conflict. He also argues that the widespread Western belief in the universality of the West's values and political systems is naïve and that continued insistence on democratization and such "universal" norms will only further antagonize other civilizations. Huntington sees the West as reluctant to accept this because it built the international system, wrote its laws, and gave it substance in the form of the United Nations.

    Huntington identifies a major shift of economic, military, and political power from the West to the other civilizations of the world, most significantly to what he identifies as the two "challenger civilizations", Sinic and Islam.

    In Huntington's view, East Asian Sinic civilization is culturally asserting itself and its values relative to the West due to its rapid economic growth. Specifically, he believes that China's goals are to reassert itself as the regional hegemon, and that other countries in the region will 'bandwagon' with China due to the history of hierarchical command structures implicit in the Confucian Sinic civilization, as opposed to the individualism and pluralism valued in the West. Regional powers such as the two Koreas and Vietnam will acquiesce to Chinese demands and become more supportive of China rather than attempting to oppose it. Huntington therefore believes that the rise of China poses one of the most significant problems and the most powerful long-term threat to the West, as Chinese cultural assertion clashes with the American desire for the lack of a regional hegemony in East Asia. [ citation needed ]

    Huntington argues that the Islamic civilization has experienced a massive population explosion which is fueling instability both on the borders of Islam and in its interior, where fundamentalist movements are becoming increasingly popular. Manifestations of what he terms the "Islamic Resurgence" include the 1979 Iranian revolution and the first Gulf War. Perhaps the most controversial statement Huntington made in the Foreign Affairs article was that "Islam has bloody borders". Huntington believes this to be a real consequence of several factors, including the previously mentioned Muslim youth bulge and population growth and Islamic proximity to many civilizations including Sinic, Orthodox, Western, and African.

    Huntington sees Islamic civilization as a potential ally to China, both having more revisionist goals and sharing common conflicts with other civilizations, especially the West. Specifically, he identifies common Chinese and Islamic interests in the areas of weapons proliferation, human rights, and democracy that conflict with those of the West, and feels that these are areas in which the two civilizations will cooperate.

    Russia, Japan, and India are what Huntington terms 'swing civilizations' and may favor either side. Russia, for example, clashes with the many Muslim ethnic groups on its southern border (such as Chechnya) but—according to Huntington—cooperates with Iran to avoid further Muslim-Orthodox violence in Southern Russia, and to help continue the flow of oil. Huntington argues that a "Sino-Islamic connection" is emerging in which China will cooperate more closely with Iran, Pakistan, and other states to augment its international position.

    Huntington also argues that civilizational conflicts are "particularly prevalent between Muslims and non-Muslims", identifying the "bloody borders" between Islamic and non-Islamic civilizations. This conflict dates back as far as the initial thrust of Islam into Europe, its eventual expulsion in the Iberian reconquest, the attacks of the Ottoman Turks on Eastern Europe and Vienna, and the European imperial division of the Islamic nations in the 1800s and 1900s.

    Huntington also believes that some of the factors contributing to this conflict are that both Christianity (upon which Western civilization is based) and Islam are:

    • Missionary religions, seeking conversion of others
    • Universal, "all-or-nothing" religions, in the sense that it is believed by both sides that only their faith is the correct one religions, that is, that their values and beliefs represent the goals of existence and purpose in human existence.

    More recent factors contributing to a Western–Islamic clash, Huntington wrote, are the Islamic Resurgence and demographic explosion in Islam, coupled with the values of Western universalism—that is, the view that all civilizations should adopt Western values—that infuriate Islamic fundamentalists. All these historical and modern factors combined, Huntington wrote briefly in his Foreign Affairs article and in much more detail in his 1996 book, would lead to a bloody clash between the Islamic and Western civilizations.

    Why civilizations will clash Edit

    Huntington offers six explanations for why civilizations will clash:

    1. Differences among civilizations are too basic in that civilizations are differentiated from each other by history, language, culture, tradition, and, most importantly, religion. These fundamental differences are the product of centuries and the foundations of different civilizations, meaning they will not be gone soon.
    2. The world is becoming a smaller place. As a result, interactions across the world are increasing, which intensify "civilization consciousness" and the awareness of differences between civilizations and commonalities within civilizations.
    3. Due to economic modernization and social change, people are separated from longstanding local identities. Instead, religion has replaced this gap, which provides a basis for identity and commitment that transcends national boundaries and unites civilizations.
    4. The growth of civilization-consciousness is enhanced by the dual role of the West. On the one hand, the West is at a peak of power. At the same time, a return-to-the-roots phenomenon is occurring among non-Western civilizations. A West at the peak of its power confronts non-Western countries that increasingly have the desire, the will and the resources to shape the world in non-Western ways.
    5. Cultural characteristics and differences are less mutable and hence less easily compromised and resolved than political and economic ones.
    6. Economic regionalism is increasing. Successful economic regionalism will reinforce civilization-consciousness. Economic regionalism may succeed only when it is rooted in a common civilization.

    The West versus the Rest Edit

    Huntington suggests that in the future the central axis of world politics tends to be the conflict between Western and non-Western civilizations, in [Stuart Hall]'s phrase, the conflict between "the West and the Rest". He offers three forms of general and fundamental actions that non-Western civilization can take in response to Western countries. [12]

    1. Non-Western countries can attempt to achieve isolation in order to preserve their own values and protect themselves from Western invasion. However, Huntington argues that the costs of this action are high and only a few states can pursue it.
    2. According to the theory of "band-wagoning" non-Western countries can join and accept Western values.
    3. Non-Western countries can make an effort to balance Western power through modernization. They can develop economic, military power and cooperate with other non-Western countries against the West while still preserving their own values and institutions. Huntington believes that the increasing power of non-Western civilizations in international society will make the West begin to develop a better understanding of the cultural fundamentals underlying other civilizations. Therefore, Western civilization will cease to be regarded as "universal" but different civilizations will learn to coexist and join to shape the future world.

    Core state and fault line conflicts Edit

    In Huntington's view, intercivilizational conflict manifests itself in two forms: fault line conflicts and core state conflicts.

    Fault line conflicts are on a local level and occur between adjacent states belonging to different civilizations or within states that are home to populations from different civilizations.

    Core state conflicts are on a global level between the major states of different civilizations. Core state conflicts can arise out of fault line conflicts when core states become involved. [13]

    These conflicts may result from a number of causes, such as: relative influence or power (military or economic), discrimination against people from a different civilization, intervention to protect kinsmen in a different civilization, or different values and culture, particularly when one civilization attempts to impose its values on people of a different civilization. [13]

    Japan, China and the Four Asian Tigers have modernized in many respects while maintaining traditional or authoritarian societies which distinguish them from the West. Some of these countries have clashed with the West and some have not.

    Perhaps the ultimate example of non-Western modernization is Russia, the core state of the Orthodox civilization. Huntington argues that Russia is primarily a non-Western state although he seems to agree that it shares a considerable amount of cultural ancestry with the modern West. According to Huntington, the West is distinguished from Orthodox Christian countries by its experience of the Renaissance, Reformation, the Enlightenment by overseas colonialism rather than contiguous expansion and colonialism and by the infusion of Classical culture through ancient Greece rather than through the continuous trajectory of the Byzantine Empire.

    Huntington refers to countries that are seeking to affiliate with another civilization as "torn countries". Turkey, whose political leadership has systematically tried to Westernize the country since the 1920s, is his chief example. Turkey's history, culture, and traditions are derived from Islamic civilization, but Turkey's elite, beginning with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who took power as first President in 1923, imposed Western institutions and dress, embraced the Latin alphabet, joined NATO, and has sought to join the European Union.

    Mexico and Russia are also considered to be torn by Huntington. He also gives the example of Australia as a country torn between its Western civilizational heritage and its growing economic engagement with Asia.

    According to Huntington, a torn country must meet three requirements to redefine its civilizational identity. Its political and economic elite must support the move. Second, the public must be willing to accept the redefinition. Third, the elites of the civilization that the torn country is trying to join must accept the country.

    The book claims that to date no torn country has successfully redefined its civilizational identity, this mostly due to the elites of the 'host' civilization refusing to accept the torn country, though if Turkey gained membership in the European Union, it has been noted that many of its people would support Westernization, as in the following quote by EU Minister Egemen Bağış: "This is what Europe needs to do: they need to say that when Turkey fulfills all requirements, Turkey will become a member of the EU on date X. Then, we will regain the Turkish public opinion support in one day." [14] If this were to happen, it would, according to Huntington, be the first to redefine its civilizational identity.

    The book has been criticized by various academic writers, who have empirically, historically, logically, or ideologically challenged its claims (Fox, 2005 Mungiu Pippidi & Mindruta, 2002 Henderson & Tucker, 2001 Russett, Oneal, & Cox, 2000 Harvey, 2000). [15] [16] [17] [18] Political scientist Paul Musgrave writes that Clash of Civilization "enjoys great cachet among the sort of policymaker who enjoys name-dropping Sun Tzu, but few specialists in international relations rely on it or even cite it approvingly. Bluntly, Clash has not proven to be a useful or accurate guide to understanding the world." [19]

    In an article explicitly referring to Huntington, scholar Amartya Sen (1999) argues that "diversity is a feature of most cultures in the world. Western civilization is no exception. The practice of democracy that has won out in the modern West is largely a result of a consensus that has emerged since the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, and particularly in the last century or so. To read in this a historical commitment of the West—over the millennia—to democracy, and then to contrast it with non-Western traditions (treating each as monolithic) would be a great mistake." [20] : 16

    In his 2003 book Terror and Liberalism, Paul Berman argues that distinct cultural boundaries do not exist in the present day. He argues there is no "Islamic civilization" nor a "Western civilization", and that the evidence for a civilization clash is not convincing, especially when considering relationships such as that between the United States and Saudi Arabia. In addition, he cites the fact that many Islamic extremists spent a significant amount of time living or studying in the Western world. According to Berman, conflict arises because of philosophical beliefs various groups share (or do not share), regardless of cultural or religious identity. [21]

    Timothy Garton Ash objects to the 'extreme cultural determinism… crude to the point of parody' of Huntington's idea that Catholic and Protestant Europe is headed for democracy, but that Orthodox Christian and Islamic Europe must accept dictatorship. [22]

    Edward Said issued a response to Huntington's thesis in his 2001 article, "The Clash of Ignorance". [23] Said argues that Huntington's categorization of the world's fixed "civilizations" omits the dynamic interdependency and interaction of culture. A longtime critic of the Huntingtonian paradigm, and an outspoken proponent of Arab issues, Said (2004) also argues that the clash of civilizations thesis is an example of "the purest invidious racism, a sort of parody of Hitlerian science directed today against Arabs and Muslims" (p. 293). [24]

    Noam Chomsky has criticized the concept of the clash of civilizations as just being a new justification for the United States "for any atrocities that they wanted to carry out", which was required after the Cold War as the Soviet Union was no longer a viable threat. [25]

    In 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari called the clash of civilizations a misleading thesis. He wrote that Islamic fundamentalism is more of a threat to a global civilization, rather than a confrontation with the West. He also argued that talking about civilizations using analogies from evolutionary biology is wrong. [26]

    Intermediate Region Edit

    Huntington's geopolitical model, especially the structures for North Africa and Eurasia, is largely derived from the "Intermediate Region" geopolitical model first formulated by Dimitri Kitsikis and published in 1978. [27] The Intermediate Region, which spans the Adriatic Sea and the Indus River, is neither Western nor Eastern (at least, with respect to the Far East) but is considered distinct. Concerning this region, Huntington departs from Kitsikis contending that a civilizational fault line exists between the two dominant yet differing religions (Eastern Orthodoxy and Sunni Islam), hence a dynamic of external conflict. However, Kitsikis establishes an integrated civilization comprising these two peoples along with those belonging to the less dominant religions of Shia Islam, Alevism, and Judaism. They have a set of mutual cultural, social, economic and political views and norms which radically differ from those in the West and the Far East. In the Intermediate Region, therefore, one cannot speak of a civilizational clash or external conflict, but rather an internal conflict, not for cultural domination, but for political succession. This has been successfully demonstrated by documenting the rise of Christianity from the Hellenized Roman Empire, the rise of the Islamic caliphates from the Christianized Roman Empire and the rise of Ottoman rule from the Islamic caliphates and the Christianized Roman Empire.

    Opposing concepts Edit

    In recent years, the theory of Dialogue Among Civilizations, a response to Huntington's Clash of Civilizations, has become the center of some international attention. The concept was originally coined by Austrian philosopher Hans Köchler in an essay on cultural identity (1972). [28] In a letter to UNESCO, Köchler had earlier proposed that the cultural organization of the United Nations should take up the issue of a "dialogue between different civilizations" (dialogue entre les différentes civilisations). [29] In 2001, Iranian president Mohammad Khatami introduced the concept at the global level. At his initiative, the United Nations proclaimed the year 2001 as the "United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations". [30] [31] [32]

    The Alliance of Civilizations (AOC) initiative was proposed at the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations in 2005 by the Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and co-sponsored by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The initiative is intended to galvanize collective action across diverse societies to combat extremism, to overcome cultural and social barriers between mainly the Western and predominantly Muslim worlds, and to reduce the tensions and polarization between societies which differ in religious and cultural values.


    9. Time Sensitivity

    Crossing cultures for business can be frustrating when it interferes with getting the job done. Most Americans are very time sensitive when it comes to meetings and deadlines. If the meeting was to commence at 2:00, then all parties are to be present at that time. The Chinese do not view time as an absolute but more as a suggestion. Concern is not expressed for a meeting starting late or ending at a different time. The same can be applied to deadlines. If a report is due on Friday, an American would be waiting for that report to be received before the end of the business day. The Chinese would not worry if it showed up several days later.


    What is Culture? Raymond Williams and the Cultural Theory of “Customary Difference”

    What is culture? This is a persistent historical problem. All historians, especially cultural historians, hold a theory about culture, stated or not. This is also an intellectual historical problem in that, whereas culture is constantly theorized, perhaps over-theorized—every modern mode of thought involves a cultural theory—rarely are the origins and trajectory of the word “culture” studied historically.

    In the most recent edition of New Left Review (Jan-Feb 2009), Francis Mulhern considers these problems by way of a retrospective glance at Raymond Williams’ famous work, Culture and Society (1961).

    Mulhern argues that Williams’ theory of culture, Marxist in its emphasis on class formation, has stood the test of time. “For all that has changed,” Mulhern writes, “the capitalist ordering of social life has not changed.” That said, the concept of class is not what makes the theory persistently compelling. Rather, that Williams (somewhat surprisingly) uses Edmund Burke’s notion of national “continuity” as his initial departure is what allows his work to transcend some of the more influential theories of culture that have proliferated in twentieth-century western thought.

    The first important such theory, according to Mulhern, is literary criticism, which has worn a number of political masks, from the conservatism of New Humanism to the Marxism of the Frankfurt School. This mode of analysis understands culture as “high,” as standing above the barbarous, unrefined masses, as a true expression of the best a society has to offer, usually thought to be rooted in the universal. The second is that of “Cultural Studies” proper, centered on the Birmingham School in England, which valorized popular culture as the most important social expression. Birmingham theorists such as Stuart Hall imbued popular culture with political meaning, sometimes repressive, but often, counter-intuitively, subversive or transgressive.

    In contrast to these two important theories of culture, Williams conceived of culture, taking his cue from Burke, as “customary difference”: Our culture is that which we are accustomed to and that which others are not. Mulhern explains that “both parameters [‘custom’ and ‘difference’] are essential: custom, or anything understood as custom, takes precedence over other modes of social validation, and its currency is difference. Thus, culture is what differentiates a collectivity in the mode of self-validating direct inheritance—whose value, in return, is precisely that it binds the collectivity in difference.” Mulhern goes on to argue that, rather than acting as a dialectic synthesis of the literary criticism and Cultural Studies iterations of culture, both formulations extend from “customary difference.” Mulhern writes:

    “Culture as customary difference is not, in any final respect, a third variety, to be listed along with the high, minoritarian reserves defended by cultural criticism, and the popular forms and practices valorized by Cultural Studies. It exhibits essential features of both. It is a form of assertion of the cultural principle that is normative, at least for the particular collective it identifies—how ‘we’ really, properly are—and in some cases makes universal claims, as in the spotlit instance of purist Islam. At the same time, it is popular, more or less, in its human resources and appeal, understood as a necessary defence against the encroachments of the encircling, overweening other, which takes many forms: racism and bigotry, but also liberalism, modernity, Godlessness, materialism, selfishness, immorality, Americanization and so on. And if the discourse of culture as customary difference thus combines features of the two, this is not because it embodies a kind of dialectical resolution. On the contrary, it is because culture in this sense is the first form, the matrix from which the familiar varieties of cultural criticism (and, indirectly, cultural studies) emerged.”

    So much for locating Williams in the intellectual history of cultural theory: How does this concept of customary difference help to explain contemporary history? Mulhern explains it relative to twin responses to modern life: multiculturalism and traditionalism. With regard to the former, although Mulhern reiterates the standard Marxist critique of multiculturalism—that it only opens up freedom and opportunity within the narrow, prescriptive framework of liberal capitalism—he uses the notion of customary difference to critique multiculturalism on more standard liberal grounds. That is, because the state has made multiculturalism official policy (here he is referencing Britain, but this also works in the context of the United States), it has focused attention on customary difference like never before, thus hardening cultural stereotypes. This has especially been true of the large Muslim immigrant population in Britain.

    Something similar has happened in the invention of tradition—“a process in which collectivities adapt their inheritance for changed conditions.” Mulhern writes: “Customary difference is most strongly confirmed in the plane of religion, whether as doctrine, as worship, as spiritual observance or as sanctioned behaviour. The culminating effect of this discursive logic, where the contingencies of inheritance and situation favour it, is to strengthen traditionalism, the systematic advocacy of customary relations and practices, and to confirm its beneficiaries as natural leaders of populations invariably called community.”

    In short, I think Mulhern (by way of Williams’ theory of customary difference) offers a compelling historical theory of the American “culture wars,” so-called, of the past thirty years or so. The very accentuation of custom, either to affirm or denounce difference—responses that act as two sides of the same coin—increases tribal hostility and displaces other forms of antagonism that might be more productive, such as class hostility. I welcome comments.