Discussion Paper Highlights: » Selected Early Definitions of Civilizations
» Selected Contemporary Definitions of Civilizations
» Selected Classifications of Civilizations
Recommended Readings on Civilization
in attached Discussion Paper: » I. Dr. Walter Benesch
» II. Prof. David Wilkinson
» III. Professor Matt Melko
» IV. Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman
» V. Dr. Midori Yamanouchi
» VI. Joseph Drew
Brief Early Definitions of Civilizations
Civilizations have distinctly different settlement patterns from ordinary societies. The word civilization is sometimes defined as "a word that simply means 'living in cities'" (Standage 2005:25). Non-farmers gather in cities to work and to trade. Compared with other societies, civilizations have a more complex political structure, namely the state. State societies are more stratified than other societies; there is a greater difference among social classes. The ruling class, normally concentrated in cities, has control over much of the surplus that constitutes wealth and exercises its will through the actions of a government, bureaucracy, technocracy, plutocracy, meritocracy, ad-hoc-cracy, and military.
The term civilization has been defined and understood in a number of ways in a situation when there is no widely accepted standard definition. Sometimes it is used synonymously with a term culture. Civilization can also refer to society as a whole. To nineteenth-century English anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor, for example, civilization was "the total social heredity of mankind;” in other words, civilization was the totality of human knowledge and culture as represented by the most "advanced" society at a given time.
Some most popular definitions of civilizations will be reviewed and compared to find the most important components, which should be a part of a standard/composite definition.