Six Elements of Civilization
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Civilization is the highest form of social organization in today's world. Certainly, it includes some specific elements without which it does not exist. Such elements determine the most important features of society and in such a way, through their combination, civilization appears. This essay is an attempt to analyze at least six of them. One of those elements is communication between people, which allows them to realize their activity together, with a higher degree of productiveness. Other five are the producing of means of production, common territory, positive (customs) and negative (common problems) unifying factors and literacy.
The means of production are those devices that help a human to change the natural world according to his or her will and purposes to live more comfortably. Some animals also use some natural devices to improve the environment around them (for example, a monkey can get a fruit with the help of a stick). However, animals never produce those devices; therefore, one of the main distinctive features of people is the ability to produce the means of production. Such practice can exist only in a society with high organization where everyone has his or her position and duties. For example, Oswald Spengler claims that the producing relations entirely determine the way of civilization's development (376). Another great thinker, Lewis Mumford, builds his interpretation of human history on the development of the technical devices as the most influential distinctive feature of civilization (7). This development can take many forms, for example, both ancient Egyptians and Americans made musical instruments; the music itself is not a crucial condition of civilization, but the fact of instrument production can serve as one.
Another elementis a common territory where the society can live and work freely. For example, the civilization of Jews did not exist until the Exodus (because the Jews lived in Egypt and did not have their own country). In the same way, those Jews who lived in exile after the Second Temple's destruction also did not belong to the Jewish civilization because of the territorial separation. That is why unity of the nation is a crucial condition of civilization.
Every society has its traditions and customs. As for the civilized society, those have to determine the social reality to organize people effectively. For example, civilization needs some idea of its unity that helps its members to identify themselves as those who belong to some community. According to Campbell and Moyers, such function is performed by the myths that tell about some hero or the roots of the social order (6). These myths exist either in ancient civilizations (Greece with its heroes) or today (in the USA the veterans of the wars, the Founding Fathers of the state and other significant people can be considered mythological heroes). These myths can vary significantly; for example, according to Ruth Benedict, the Japanese culture is very different from the American one, and people from Japan and the USA may understand the same object totally differently (9-10). Besides, both nations have their own traditions and in this respect, their civilizations are equal.
Literacy is another condition of a civilization. The myths can preserve the stability of the social order, but only literal culture can provide development of the society. The art of writing helps to save all facts about the past in detail without any danger of perversion (as distinct from the myths that people save as tales without any precision of data. Morgan claimed that barbbarians can create their civilization only through the invention of literacy (21). This idea is still relevant and indubitable.
As for the last component of civilization, it is a danger or problem which can unify the people. It is very close to the national myth because both play the same role in social life. Besides, the main difference between them is that the national myth is a positive factor of civilization existence, while the problem brings the need of solidarity and is a negative factor. To results in the appearance of civilization in a certain society, the problem that unifies people has to be reasonably dangerous. Good examples are the people of the Northern Siberia whose culture is still barbarian because of too difficult conditions of their life, and the Africans who have no need to develop their cultures because of the warm climate and fertile lands of their countries. Huntington states: “We know who we are only when we know who we are not and often when we know whom we are against” (15). The enemy can also be such danger, and the struggles as well as the need for response to the aggression help to organize the feuding societies.
One component can not create a civilization: the tribe of people from the TV show Survivor had some of those, but the territory they possessed belonged to them only temporarily, the danger they faced was artificial and, lastly, those people already belonged to the American civilization with its integrative mechanisms. In such a way, civilization is a very complicated phenomenon with many specific features, and one has to research its specifics through the systematic approach. Certainly, an abstract civilization includes much more conditions than this essay has discussed to appear as an organic form of people's community.