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RandomGirl's avatar

What constitutes civilization?

Asked by RandomGirl (3352 points ) January 16th, 2013

What does the word civilization really mean?
Does technology represent civilization? Would we be considered civilized without it? What if we take a loose definition of the word technology – if electricity and running water were considered technology – would we think technology was a crucial part of civilization?
Is it our social system?
Is it our relationships with people? When we are civil to one another, does that mean we are civilized?
Is it the social standard of what’s accepted and what’s not that makes a civilization?
Is it more basic than that? Is it the mere presence of several people coexisting? If that’s the case, how many people does it take to be considered a civilization?
Is it something else?

In your opinion, what constitutes civilization?

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9 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Consideration. When we become aware of others and respect their rights and needs. NYC is not civilized.

Seek's avatar

Let’s see if I remember high-school Humanities class:

Written legal code
Urban centers
Division of labor
Cultural unity
Central government

I think that’s the “five points” we needed to pass the test. ^_^

burntbonez's avatar

I think civilization means a lot of things, and the things on your list are included. It’s not like we should choose some from the list and leave out other things. For some, “civilization” means running water and toilets. For others, “civilization” has a social context: erudite conversation, for example. It can mean a sophisticated infrastructure: roads and bridges and buildings and the internet backbone. It can mean access to the highest quality things, like fancy food and movies and television and plays and art.

How much of it do you need to call something a civilization? I’d say it’s not that there is a minimum requirement. It’s more a continuum. All societies have civilization. The level of civilization compared to each other would have to be ranked by some scoring system. I would not care to tell you how to score civilization.

There are several aspects of civilization that are poorly understood. Social scientists are working on developing notions of social capital. But I don’t think there is much of a notion of spiritual development as a civilization. By spiritual, I do not mean religious or any measure of organized religion. I mean a notion of how much people feel like their fates are interdependent. By this measure, the US might not do well because many people do not believe that interdependence is a useful thing. Still, we do have a lot of organizations that enforce interdependence.

However there is also a fundamental compassion that leads to the awareness of the importance of interdependence. Perhaps this is something that people could be tested for. I think it is something that is part of civilization that I have never seen measured. So there’s a new idea for you. New to me, anyway. Probably not to others.

Pachy's avatar

Gun control.

Kropotkin's avatar

Nothing to do with civility in the sense of mutual politeness or respect.

Civilisation as we know it developed out of agriculture. The development of sedentary communities and urbanisation, social stratification, bureaucracy, division and specialisation of labour, centralisation of power and the development of the state—all the result of humans some thousands of years ago domesticating crops and animals.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think that technology has anything to do with civilization. It is simply one measure of where a civilization is in terms of development.

Moral Values
Laws
How a society treats other societies
How a society treats minorities

Those are measures of a civilization.

Akua's avatar

Compassion. If we don’t take care of the elderly, the disabled and we force people to die in wars, then we are not civilized.

mattbrowne's avatar

Having a police force instead of relying on self-defense.

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