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I.2.1.2 The concept and characteristics of civilization

civilization or civilisation is any complex society characterized by urban development, social stratification imposed by a cultural elite, symbolic systems of communication (for example, writing systems), and a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment.

the term civilization is used to indicate a high state of progress – a certain level of social, cultural, political, economic and technological evolution that differentiates us from early cultures as well as current primitive communities that stay more or less isolated from what we call the modern world.

Ogburn and Nimkoff- Civilization is the latter phase of super organic culture

Gillin and Gillin- Ideas and techniques to develop and object is culture, The object itself is civilization

McIver- As per McIver, Civilization is based on utilitarian things and Material instruments which have been devised by man to control the conditions of life

A.W. Green A culture becomes a civilization only when it possesses written language, science, philosophy, a specialized DOL and a complex technological and political system

L.H. Morgan- In evolutionary patter, he propounded following stages

      • Savagery – Barbarism – Civilization

The initial civilization saw  “Urban Revolution”, was characterized by several milestones:

  1. Population was divided into small rural villages and large settlements which eventually became cities.
  2. A centralized religious-political power grew in the cities, achieving control over vast areas and thus creating the first state structures. Administrative apparatus and legal doctrines were created as a support for these structures.
  3. The surplus of resources promoted growth and economic exchange, leading to the development of trade.
  4. Society was stratified in several levels; there was a progressive specialization of work, especially in the urban environment.
  5. Systems of writing appeared as a means of recording and managing information (a factor that eventually led to the creation of predominant historical cultures).
  6. There was significant progress in science and technique in general, particularly in terms of practical application. An important material culture was developed in various arts and industries.

Gordon Childe has given a list of criteria for civilization.

    1. Urban centres of between 7000 to 20000 people
    2. A class of full-time specialist working in the City
    3. Ruling class of religious, civil and military leaders
    4. A surplus of the food produced by the peasents for used by the government.
    5. Monumental public buildings, symbolizing the concentration of the surplus
    6. Use of numbers and writing.
    7. Arithmetic, geometry and astronomy
    8. Sophisticated art
    9. Long distance trade
    10. An institutionalized form of political organisation based on force is called the state.

Primary characteristics

  1. Urban settlements
  2. Full-time specialists not involved in agricultural activities
  3. Concentration of surplus production
  4. Class structure
  5. State-level organization (government)

Secondary characteristics

  1. Monumental public building
  2. Extensive trading networks
  3. Standardized monumental artwork
  4. Writing
  5. Development of exact sciences

Culture and civilization

The civilization represents a particular type of culture. The term “civilization” has been used almost synonymously with culture. This is because civilization and culture are different aspects of a single entity. Civilization can be viewed as the external  manifestation, and culture as the internal character of a society. Thus, civilization is expressed in physical attributes, such as tool making, agriculture, buildings, technology, urban planning, social structure, social institutions, and so forth. Culture, on the other hand, refers to the social standards and norms of behaviour, the traditions, values, ethics, morality, and religious beliefs and practices that are held in common by members of the society. Both culture and civilization have been developed by the same human processes. Both are complimentary to each other.

Culture needs a civilization for further growth. Civilization needs culture even for its vital force and survival. The two are therefore interdependent. Civilization cannot survive without strong stimulus and motive, however high may be its achievements in science.

Culture and civilization- differences

  1. Civilization has precise standard of measurement but not culture
  2. Civilization is always advancing but not culture
  3. Civilization is passed on without effort, but not culture
  4. Civilization is borrowed without change or loss, but not culture
  5. The work of civilization can be improved by anybody, but not in case of culture
  6. Civilization is external and mechanical while culture is internal and organic


  1. Civilization acts as a vehicle for culture
  2. Civilization determines the degree to which our cultural activity is realized
  3. The Products of civilization affect our culture
  4. Culture influences direction and change of Civilization
  5. Products of Civilization acquire cultural significance over a period of time

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