One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

How a culture becomes a civilization?

The main themes of this article are,

A culture with universal ideals becomes a civilization,


Cultures that rely heavily on identity rise with rise of nation and fall with fall of nation and if the nation didn’t rise again may disappear in sand of time (go extinct),

And to support the main themes, I will answer

Why Japanese and Chinese Civilizations didn’t become synonym with modernization and global civilization despite being consistent and most ancient civilizations,


Why Western Civilization didn’t disappear with modernization and globalization but instead become synonyms with them…. though some distinguish between modernization and westernization but most of the people see modernization as westernization…… it is witnessed by opposition to modernization as agent of westernization in a lot of societies…. Particularly in Islamic world……..

And also why the concept of clash of civilizations is more relevant among civilizations that have universal ideals than those having more of the identity foundations?


Why the nations that are zealous for their cultural revival (in face of an extinction threat by globalization) should go beyond making their societies as a museum of their cultures in order to preserve their cultures?


There might be different theories on stages of evolution but all agree that civilizations are dynamic, they rise, fall and even disappear…. The fall of civilization is what creates panic… The news that globalization has speed up the extinctions rates of languages and cultures have revitalized the efforts to preserve the indigenous languages and cultures…. A case study could be the efforts that are going on in Hazara nation on a small scale…. Though it is not yet become a full scale movement but the seed of movement is germinating…Though this movement is really encouraging however I am afraid that… a purely cultural movement will not last long and it can’t walk very far… The reason is that culture is not phenomenon of a ….Particular time ……or a ….particular place….. It is a creative expression of a nation… A culture grows and expands when it becomes synonym with a knowledge movement (The philosophic movement of ancient Greeks provided the seed of Western Civilization…. The translation movements in Islamic world provided the seed for Islamic Civilization…. The Scientific movements in West made westernization synonym with modernization and now with globalization/Universal civilization…. The Confucius movements provided the seed for Chinese Civilization…. etc…) …. When a culture becomes purely an agent of identity… it rise by rise of nation and fall by fall of nation…the most cited example is that of Mongolian empire… the Mongolian culture weren’t based on a knowledge movements but used for glorification, identity and pride… so Mongolian empires only enriched Indian, Chinese and Iranian cultures without evolving into a civilization…. and fell after fall of Mongolian empires…..

You might have noted one point in above paragraph and that is… I have used culture and civilization as a synonym… I did this purposefully… Let me give you a break with an excerpt from “Clash of Civilizations and the remaking of the world order”…. By Simuel P. Huntington….page 44…

“… Civilizations are cultural not political entities, they do not, as such, maintain order, establish justice, collect taxes, fight wars, negotiate treaties, or do any of other things which governments do……”

What I want to focus is the cultural aspect of civilization…. A wikipedic definition of Civilization also agrees with cultural aspect of civilization,

“…..Primarily, the term has been used to refer to human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor…….The word civilization comes from the Latin civilis, meaning civil, related to the Latin civis, meaning citizen, and civitas, meaning city or city-state……”…………….

…..In simple words, the civilization is the knowledge-based human cultures (Technology, Science and division of labors are counted as key characteristics) that are developed enough that support well developed city life……..

Now that we have established that ……it is cultures that evolve to create civilizations…… the question comes what are the characteristics of a culture that make it able to evolve … form a civilization?

Before answering this question I like to define culture……

Before famous Primatologists Jane Goodall, the culture was thought as exclusively human product but observations of the Jane Goodall revealed that Chimpanzees make tools, use tools, have social order, teach and learn skills and communicate with each other… the key components of a culture… So culture is not exclusively human product but other organisms share with human….

Actually, education is a key component in organisms with long parental care… Education improves the survival of organisms by increasing their fitness… Human is distinct from other organism in having well developed education system…. The education system is core of culture…..

………………..Cultures with well developed education systems evolve to form a civilization………….

Though there is not a consensus on the definition of the culture and the expression…. “culture”…. have shifted in meaning and usage over time but one thing is common in all definitions and concepts of the culture,

“……..Culture is a mean of refinement of the individuals by the society that they live in…..” How a society refines its individuals is what you may call informal education or culture… but in modern times formal and informal educations are complementing each other in refining individuals…….

It is not just societies that tries to refine its individuals but individuals also tries to refine their abilities, talents, creativities and capacities (so many synonyms)… and when a society doesn’t have the education system to fulfill the needs of its individuals then individuals look to other societies… and that is why the cultures with well-developed education system expands and cultures that do not meet with challenges die out…….

This doesn’t need an anthropologic research… the dying out of traditional education system to that of modern education system is what we all are witnessing………….. and here lies a big fat fact for those who are interested in revitalizing their cultures….. Want to preserve your culture?… focus on developing an education system that could compete with challenges of globalization and could compete with other education system…. Otherwise all efforts would end up in few museums and that is all…………….

Now that it became clear that it is the education system of a culture that either leads it to form a civilization or blend into other cultures and die out….. we can turn to next question which civilization become universal and why?

I want to compare the Japanese Civilization (as a civilization that has failed to become a universal civilization despite of being most ancient and consistent) and Western Civilization (that became almost a Universal civilization ????????)……..

Japanese Civilization; A Civilization arrested in a nation…..

The first time I read the Japanese Civilization among nine (9) major civilizations of the post-Cold war world…. I got really puzzled… Though it is among very ancient civilizations (The Japanese nation was founded on 660 BC) and hasn’t been collapsed since her formation still Japan is an island nation…. Its total population as of 2011 estimation is, 127,960,000… As compared with other 8 civilizations Japanese civilization is minimal in both population size and geographical dispersal….. In fact, Japan is a civilization that is a state….

Having said all these Japan is very distinctive by having a very rich culture…… Just a quick glance at Wikipedia is enough to learn about the uniqueness and richness of Japanese culture…,

………….“……Traditional Japanese arts include crafts such as ceramics, textiles, lacquerware, swords and dolls; performances of bunraku, kabuki, noh, dance, and rakugo; and other practices, the tea ceremony, ikebana, martial arts, calligraphy, origami, onsen, Geisha and games.”………………………..

There is not any need of telling the achievement of Japanese in Science, Technology, Economics, Political stability and national pride…. As it is what all know more than enough……….

Now, the question comes that despite having almost all characteristics of becoming a universal civilization, why Japanese civilization failed to become a universal civilization?

…….The primary answers that come to our mind is,

-It has a very smaller population to become a universal civilization,

- It is an island nation, having very small land area to become a universal civilization….

Both of these arguments fail to explain as ancient Greek civilization that become the seed of Western Civilization had much smaller population and had much smaller land area (were also island nation)……

---------------The key thing that limited Japanese Civilization was lack of a universal ideal------- The Japanese culture were rich enough to become a civilization but it was based on national identity which limited it to Japanese civilization (It didn’t become a universal civilization)------------------------------------

Western Civilization; A civilization become synonym with modernization and globalization,

Though we can argue that it was the large population, vast dispersals, ethnic and cultural diversity that made Western (and also Islamic) civilization a universal civilization but in fact it was the philosophic movement in Greek Period and Scientific movements in Renaissance period that made western civilization a universal civilization… Both Philosophy and Science have Universal visions and appeals……

-------The last question,

Why Civilizations that have universal ideals are in real clash and have more compassionate relation with those which don’t have universal ideals?

Among nine civilizations of Huntington….the real clash is between Western Civilization and Islamic Civilization… Both Islamic Civilization and Western Civilizations have relatively good relations with 7 other civilization….. What is the reason?

Do Islamic and Western Civilizations are aggressive inherently?.... I doubt about this perspective but I think the problem lie in their Universal Ideals? Both Islamic and Western civilizations have universal ideals and as there is only one world so they compete with each other…. Both civilization look to other 7 civilization as sub-civilizations that lack universal ideals so they feel less threat from them……………….

Lessons for those who are zealous about their cultural revival

Every culture that becomes a civilization had a well organized intellectual class that helped evolve their cultures to become a civilization…………

Benjamin Schwartz and Shmuel Eisenstadt classify what today we recognize as civilization as Axial age civilization…. having a key characteristics…. They had a distinct intellectual class that propagated their teachings (myths)…….

“The Jewish Prophets and Priests, The Greek Philosophers and Sophists, The Chinese Literati, The Hindu Brahmins, The Buddhist Sangha and Islamic Ulema”…. I think we can add Scientists (Both natural and social scientists) for spread of Western Civilization…

Without having an organized intellectual class it is impossible for a culture to become a civilization and without having a universal ideal it is impossible to become a Universal Civilization……….

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