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Civilizations and World religions


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Title: Civilizations and World religions

Civilizations and World religions
  • 3rd Lecture. Classical and Contemporary Theories
    on Civilizations

Stages of development toward a civilization
  • We call civilization a highly developed,
    complex and stratified society, which presupposes
    a longer period of history of evolution. The four
    main stages of this development are
  • 1. Hunter-gatherer bands, which are generally
  • 2. Horticultural/pastoral societies in which
    there are generally two inherited social classes
    chief and commoner.
  • 3. Highly stratified structures, or chiefdoms,
    with several inherited social classes king,
    noble, freemen, serf and slave.
  • 4. Civilizations, with complex social hierarchies
    and organized, institutional governments.
  • Sources 1. DeVore, Irven, and Lee, Richard
    (1999) "Man the Hunter" (Aldine). 2. Beck, Roger
    B. Linda Black, Larry S. Krieger, Phillip C.
    Naylor, Dahia Ibo Shabaka, (1999). World History
    Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, IL McDougal

  • Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) was a historian,
    philosopher, who presented his classical, overall
    modell about the development of civilizations,
    though in a highly constructive, speculative way,
    in his two volumes main work The Decline of the
    West, (Untergang des Abendlandes), 1918, 1922.
  • According to his interpretation civilizations are
    just like living organisms, which are born, which
    grow up, get old and finally die.
  • He listed eight major civilizations Babylonian,
    Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Mexican (Mayan/Aztec),
    Classical (Greek/Roman), Arabian, Western or
    "European-American". In a metaphoric manner he
    spoke about the spring, summer and winter
    phases of a civilization.

Classical theories 1b. Oswald Spengler The
Decline of the West 2.
  • Cultures are organisms, and world-history is
    their collective biography, (Spengler, 1996
    104). In the destinies of the several Cultures
    that follow upon one another, grow up with one
    another, touch, overshadow, and suppress one
    another, is compressed the whole content of human
    history., (loc. cit.).
  • Culture is the prime-phenomenon of all past and
    future world-history, (op. cit. 105). Every
    Culture passes through the age-phases of the
    individual man Each has its childhood, youth,
    manhood and old age, (op. cit. 107).
  • Looked at in this way, the Decline of the West
    comprises nothing less than the problem of
    Civilisation. We have before us one of the
    fundamental questions of all higher history. What
    is Civilization, understood as the organiclogical
    sequel, fulfilment and finale of a culture?,
    (op. cit. 31).

Classical theories 1c. Oswald Spengler The
Decline of the West 3.
  • For every Culture has its own Civilization. In
    this work, for the first time the two words,
    hitherto used to express an indefinite, more or
    less ethical, distinction, are used in a periodic
    sense, to express a strict and necessary organic
    succession. The Civilization is the inevitable
    destiny of the Culture, and in this rinciple we
    obtain the viewpoint from which the deepest and
    gravest problems of historical morphology become
    capable of solution. Civilizations are the most
    external and artificial states of which a species
    of developed humanity is capable. They are a
    conclusion, the thing-become succeeding the
    thingbecoming, death following life, rigidity
    following expansion, intellectual age and the
    stone-built, petrifying world-city following
    mother-earth and the spiritual childhood of Doric
    and Gothic They are an end, irrevocable, yet by
    inward necessity reached again and again., (loc.

Classical theories 2a. Arnold J. Toynbee.The
challange-answer theory 1.
  • Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975) was a Brittish
    historian, on whom Spenglers ideas had a great
    influence, but who rejected Spenglers biologist
    view on civilizations, and his conception about
    the unavoidable destiny of them.
  • In 1934-1954, Toynbee's ten-volume A Study of
    History came out in three separate installments.
    He followed Oswald Spengler in taking a
    comparative topical approach to independent
    civilizations. Toynbee's said they displayed
    striking parallels in their origin, growth, and
    decay. Toynbee rejected Spengler's biological
    model of civilizations as organisms with a
    typical life span of 1,000 years.
  • Of the 21 civilizations Toynbee identified,
    sixteen were dead by 1940 and four of the
    remaining five were under severe pressure from
    the one named Western Christendom - or simply The
    West. He explained breakdowns of civilizations as
    a failure of creative power in the creative
    minority, which henceforth becomes a merely
    'dominant' minority that is followed by an
    answering withdrawal of allegiance and mimesis on
    the part of the majority finally there is a
    consequent loss of social unity in the society as
    a whole.
  • Toynbee explained decline as due to their moral
    failure. Many readers, especially in America,
    rejoiced in his implication (in vols. 1-6) that
    only a return to some form of Christianity could
    halt the breakdown of western civilization which
    began with the Reformation. Volumes 7-10,
    published in 1954 abandoned the religious message
    and his popular audience slipped away, while
    scholars gleefully picked apart his mistakes.,
    (Source Wikipedia).

Classical theories 2b. Arnold J. Toynbee.The
challange-answer theory 2.
  • Toynbee's ideas and approach to history may be
    said to fall into the discipline of Comparative
    history. While they may be compared to those used
    by Oswald Spengler in The Decline of the West, he
    rejected Spengler's deterministic view that
    civilizations rise and fall according to a
    natural and inevitable cycle. For Toynbee, a
    civilization might or might not continue to
    thrive, depending on the challenges it faced and
    its responses to them.
  • Toynbee presented history as the rise and fall of
    civilizations, rather than the history of
    nation-states or of ethnic groups. He identified
    his civilizations according to cultural or
    religious rather than national criteria. Thus,
    the Western Civilization, comprising all the
    nations that have existed in Western Europe since
    the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, was
    treated as a whole, and distinguished from both
    the Orthodox civilization of Russia and the
    Balkans, and from the Greco-Roman civilization
    that preceded it., (loc.cit.).

Classical theories 2c. Arnold J. Toynbee.The
challange-answer theory 3.
  • With the civilizations as units identified, he
    presented the history of each in terms of
    challenge-and-response. Civilizations arose in
    response to some set of challenges of extreme
    difficulty, when creative minorities devised
    solutions that reoriented their entire society.
  • Challenges and responses were physical, as when
    the Sumerians exploited the intractable swamps of
    southern Iraq by organizing the Neolithic
    inhabitants into a society capable of carrying
    out large-scale irrigation projects or social,
    as when the Catholic Church resolved the chaos of
    post-Roman Europe by enrolling the new Germanic
    kingdoms in a single religious community.
  • When a civilization responds to challenges, it
    grows. Civilizations declined when their leaders
    stopped responding creatively, and the
    civilizations then sank owing to nationalism,
    militarism, and the tyranny of a despotic
    minority. Toynbee argued that Civilizations die
    from suicide, not by murder. For Toynbee,
    civilizations were not intangible or unalterable
    machines but a network of social relationships
    within the border and therefore subject to both
    wise and unwise decisions they made., (loc.cit.).

Classical theories 3a. Norbert Elias, The
Civilizing Process 1.
  • Norbert Elias (1897-1990) was a German-born
    sociologist and historian, who had to flee in
    1933 because of his Jewish origin, and later
    became a British citizen. His main work is The
    Civilizing Process, 1939, (Über den Prozeß der
    Zivilization), in two volumes.
  • Norbert Elias described the process of
    civilization as a slow and very long change and
    development of the structures of personality,
    which he traced back to the changes of social
  • It is important to mention that he formulated his
    model of development first of all concerning the
    history of Western Europe between cca. 800 and
  • Factors of social changes, according to him, are
    on the one hand the continual technical,
    technological development and the differentiation
    and stratification of societies, and on the other
    hand the permanent competition and elimination
    contest among men and groups.

Classical theories 3b. Norbert Elias, The
Civilizing Process 2.
  • The first volume, The History of Manners, traces
    the historical developments of the European
    habitus, or second nature, the particular
    individual psychic structures molded by social
    attitudes. Elias traced how post-medieval
    European standards regarding violence, sexual
    behaviour, bodily functions, table manners and
    forms of speech were gradually transformed by
    increasing thresholds of shame and repugnance,
    working outward from a nucleus in court
    etiquette. The internalized self-restraint
    imposed by increasingly complex networks of
    social connections developed the psychological
    self-perceptions that Freud recognized as the
  • The second volume, State Formation and
    Civilization, looks into the causes of these
    processes and finds them in the increasingly
    centralized Early Modern state and the
    increasingly differentiated and interconnected
    web of society. , (Source Wikipedia).

Modern Theories 1. Fukuyama and the End of History
  • Francis Fukuyama (1952-) is an American political
    scientist, political economist and historian. He
    is best known for his book The End of History
    and the Last Man, 1992.
  • I argued that liberal democracy may constitute
    the end point of mankind's ideological
    evolution and the final form of human
    government, and as such constituted the end of
    history. That is, while earlier forms of
    government were characterized by grave defects
    and irrationalities that led to their eventual
    collapse, liberal democracy was arguably free
    from such fundamental internal contradictions.
  • Our future will not be characterized by inspiring
    and magnifique fights for ideas anymore, but by
    earth-bound technological and economic questions.
    Our future will be peaceful, but somehow boring.

Modern Theories 2a. Huntington and the Clash of
Civilizations 1.
  • Samuel P. Huntington (1927-2008) was a political
    scientist, historian, the Phd-supervisor of
    Fukuyama on Yale University. He wrote a polemic
    book with the title The Clash of Civilizations
    in 1993 as an answer to the work of his former
    student, Francis Fukuyama.
  • Huntington began his thinking by surveying the
    diverse theories about the nature of global
    politics in the post-Cold War period. Some
    theorists and writers argued that human rights,
    liberal democracy and capitalist free market
    economy had become the only remaining ideological
    alternative for nations in the post-Cold War
    world. Specifically, Francis Fukuyama argued that
    the world had reached the 'end of history' in a
    Hegelian sense., (Source Wikipedia).

Modern Theories 2b. Huntington and the Clash of
Civilizations 2.
  • Huntington believed that while the age of
    ideology had ended, the world had only reverted
    to a normal state of affairs characterized by
    cultural conflict. In his thesis, he argued that
    the primary axis of conflict in the future will
    be along cultural and religious lines.
  • As an extension, he posits that the concept of
    different civilizations, as the highest rank of
    cultural identity, will become increasingly
    useful in analyzing the potential for conflict.,

Modern Theories 2c. Huntington and the Clash of
Civilizations 3.
  • 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) butaccording to Huntingtoncooperate
    s 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.,
    (loc.cit) .

Modern Theories 2d. Huntington and the Clash of
Civilizations 4.
  • Huntington also believes that some of the factors
    contributing to this conflict are that both
    Christianity (which has influenced Western
    civilization) and Islam are
  • Missionary religions, seeking conversion of
  • Universal, "all-or-nothing" religions, in the
    sense that it is believed by both sides that only
    their faith is the correct one
  • Teleological religions, that is, that their
    values and beliefs represent the goals of
    existence and purpose in human existence.
  • Irreligious people who violate the base
    principles of those religions are perceived to be
    furthering their own pointless aims, which leads
    to violent interactions.

Modern Theories 2e. Huntington and the Clash of
Civilizations 5.
  • According to Huntington the deepest and most
    dangerous conflicts in the Post-Socialist world
    will not be between different social classes or
    between the riches and poors, but between
    different cultural entities.
  • The actual questions of daily politics could be
    traced back to cultural differences. The
    importance of Western Civilization will decrease
    in the future, and that of the non-Western
    Civilizations will increase. The global politics
    will be multicultural and mulilateral.

Modern Theories 3a. Niall Ferguson the Six
Killer Apps of the West 1.
  • Niall Ferguson (1964) is a British historian.
    According to his theory, six essential factors
    made Western cultures and societies. He called
    these six factors the killer apps of the West.
  • 1. Competition. Europe was politically fragmented
    into multiple monarchies and republics, which
    were in turn internally divided into competing
    corporate entities, among them the ancestors of
    modern business corporations.
  • 2.The Scientific Revolution. All the major
    17th-century breakthroughs in mathematics,
    astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology
    happened in Western Europe.
  • 3.The Rule of Law and Representative Government.
    An optimal system of social and political order
    emerged in the English-speaking world, based on
    private-property rights and the representation of
    property owners in elected legislatures.
  • 4.Modern Medicine. Nearly all the major 19th- and
    20th-century breakthroughs in health care were
    made by Western Europeans and North Americans.
  • 5.The Consumer Society. The Industrial Revolution
    took place where there was both a supply of
    productivity-enhancing technologies and a demand
    for more, better, and cheaper goods, beginning
    with cotton garments.
  • 6.The Work Ethic. Westerners were the first
    people in the world to combine more extensive and
    intensive labor with higher savings rates,
    permitting sustained capital accumulation.

Modern Theories 3b. Niall Ferguson the Six
Killer Apps of the West 2.
  • But Ferguson also shared his doubts with the
    public that the West could easily lose these
    advantages if it became lazy, and did not
    concentrate permanently on maintaining and even
    enhancing these achievements.
  • For hundreds of years, these killer apps were
    essentially monopolized by Europeans and their
    cousins who settled in North America and
    Australasia. They are the best explanation for
    what economic historians call "the great
    divergence" the astonishing gap that arose
    between Western standards of living and those in
    the rest of the world. In 1500 the average
    Chinese was richer than the average North
    American. By the late 1970s the American was more
    than 20 times richer than the Chinese.
  • I am not one of those people filled with angst
    at the thought of a world in which the average
    American is no longer vastly richer than the
    average Chinese. I welcome the escape of hundreds
    of millions of Asians from poverty, not to
    mention the improvements we are seeing in South
    America and parts of Africa. But there is a
    second, more insidious cause of the "great
    reconvergence," which I do deploreand that is
    the tendency of Western societies to delete their
    own killer apps.

Modern Theories 4a. Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs
and Steel 1.
  • Jared Mason Diamond (1937) is an American
    anthropologist, physiologist, biologist,
    geographer who is best known, for his books The
    Third Chimpanzee (1991/2004), Guns, Germs, and
    Steel (1997), and Collapse How Societies Choose
    to Fail or Succeed (2005).
  • He derived the major differences in economic and
    technological development between societies from
    geographic, environmental and agricultural
    peculiarities of the homeland of the peoples.

Modern Theories 4b. Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs
and Steel 2.
  • The prologue opens with an account of Diamond's
    conversation with Yali, a New Guinean politician.
    The conversation turned to the obvious
    differences in power and technology between
    Yali's people and the Europeans who dominated the
    land for 200 years, differences that neither of
    them considered due to any genetic superiority of
    Europeans. Yali asked, using the local term
    "cargo" for inventions and manufactured goods,
    "Why is it that you white people developed so
    much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we
    black people had little cargo of our own?"
    (p. 14).
  • Diamond realized the same question seemed to
    apply elsewhere "People of Eurasian origin...
    dominate the world in wealth and power." Other
    peoples, after having thrown off colonial
    domination, still lag in wealth and power. Still
    others, he says, "have been decimated,
    subjugated, and in some cases even exterminated
    by European colonialists." (p. 15)

Modern Theories 4c. Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs
and Steel 3.
  • The peoples of other continents (Sub-Saharan
    Africans, Native Americans, Aboriginal
    Australians and New Guineans, and the original
    inhabitants of tropical Southeast Asia) have been
    largely conquered, displaced and in some extreme
    cases referring to Native Americans, Aboriginal
    Australians and South Africa's indigenous Khoisan
    peoples largely exterminated by farm-based
    societies such as Eurasians and Bantu.
  • He believes this is due to the societies'
    military and political advantages, stemming from
    the early rise of agriculture after the last Ice
    Age. He proposes explanations to account for such
    disproportionate distributions of power and
    achievements., (Source Wikipedia)