A civilization is a more advanced society required to meet certain standards. Right now the high school textbooks define those standards as having advanced cities, specialized workers, complex institutions, record keeping, and advanced technology. Civilizations appear all throughout history but so do societies so it is important to know how to distinguish between the two.
The high school textbook criterion for civilizations is acceptable but connection to a world system needs to be added to the criteria. Additionally civilization is a valid concept as a whole. Thus, to a larger extent, civilization as it is defined today is adequate because the criteria is good, it does need a new addition, but it is a valid concept.
The criteria for a civilization from the high school textbook are reasonable. Ancient Egypt built large cities such as Thebes and Memphis, had a variety of jobs from farmers to merchants, had a complex government with ruling pharaohs, had a written language called hieroglyphics, and finally had advancements of technology such as metallurgy with bronze.
This example of a civilization shows that civilizations aren’t only in the modern world because when the criteria talks about advanced cities and technology it is referring to advanced in terms of their time and ancient civilizations aren’t expected to have modern technologies. This helps portrays that the criteria are shaped for all sorts of civilizations no matter how old or new they are which reveals the idea that the criteria are acceptable.
The example further portrays how it is not hard for advanced societies to reach these criteria and most societies who use agriculture eventually become civilizations showing that the criteria is good and fits on known civilizations. The people of New Guinea as seen in the Guns, Germs, and Steel video lack most if not all of the criteria because they don’t have advanced cities but instead live in tribes, don’t have specialization of labor because they all work for food, don’t have institutions, don’t have a system for keeping records, and even lack modern technologies.
The evidence shows us why the New Guineans aren’t considered in a civilization and helps to tell why the criteria is the way it is because the differences of how the people of New Guinea live compared to the people of civilizations are visible. This further supports the fact that the criteria currently used is okay by showing how the criteria is able to sift out societies not considered civilizations.
The Sioux Native Americans were hunter-gatherer peoples who lacked advanced cities, specialized labor, and record keeping, but did have forms of government being chief leaders and advanced technologies based on their resources. This shows that the criteria are able to distinguish between societies that may be debatable by fitting into certain criteria but lacking others.
It shows that unless a society has all the criteria it isn’t a civilization and therefore sets out clear rules, which can determine the placing of any society. While the current criterion is good it needs one new addition.
They should add connection to a world system to the criteria for a civilization. The early Andean societies in South America weren’t able to have constant communication with other Mesoamerican societies due to the natural barrier being the Andes Mountains. This evidence supports the fact that connection to a world system should be added because it shows that lack of contact with other societies makes places such as the Andean societies to not be civilizations.
It shows that by causing them to not have influences from other civilizations they are not able to keep up with the advances of all the other societies therefore causing them to not meet the other criteria of advanced technology. Thus this means that without connection to a world system civilizations are not possible. The Austronesian societies had a large boundary separating them from civilizations being the Pacific Ocean, which disabled contact between them and the civilizations of Southeast Asia preventing them from becoming agricultural.
This shows that the lack of connection to other peoples can also prevent the start of civilizations by not allowing them to get the crops and animals they need which results in them forever being hunter-gatherers. This makes it nearly impossible to start a civilization because you are always in search of food so remaining in one spot in not doable. Both of these societies together show a common trend among societies that never became civilizations, which is that the majority of them are isolated and therefore showing why civilizations need contact with world systems.
Ancient India had lots of contact with other civilizations being through trade throughout the Indian Ocean. This shows that societies that are considered civilizations today all have contact with other societies, which allowed the spread of knowledge throughout these civilizations. The knowledge that these civilizations gained through contact with others was crucial for them becoming civilizations in the first place meaning that without the trade and contact India had it likely would have never become a civilization.
This further supports the addition of this criterion because if the contact is necessary in starting a civilization than that means it fits in the definition of criteria for civilizations. While this does require change the concept is still rational.
The concept of a civilization is still a very viable and working idea. Ancient Greece had some of the greatest philosophers in the world and even created a new system of government never seen before. This evidence portrays the fact that civilization is valid by showing that people of civilizations are sophisticated and knowledgeable more than those in societies even so much that early civilizations like Greece created ideas that are still around today and studied.
In the Guns, Germs, and Steel video one sees the lifestyles of the New Guinea people and sees that they live in woods and hunt with bows and arrows. This shows the difference that societies have to civilizations for the New Guinea people aren’t knowledgeable people who created long lasting ideas, but instead are very primitive people who still live in the way animals do.
The fact that they still use bow and arrows shows that they haven’t been able to make the technological advances like the people in civilized societies have been able to with their knowledge. It shows that a civilization is a valid idea because a civilization helps distinguish between these two types of people and ways of life. When the Americas were found the English and Spanish colonizing it, did not get along with the Native Americans already there.
This historical situation helps show that the differences of people from civilizations, the Europeans, and people who aren’t from civilizations, the Native Americans, is so different that it caused wars between them. The Europeans couldn’t understand the ways of the people who didn’t live in civilizations showing that civilizations have very different types of people than regular societies have.
Due to the current criteria being necessary, the fact that they should add another requirement, and the idea of civilization being okay, to a larger extent, the modern definition of civilization is adequate. Civilization is important all throughout history and will continue to be important in the future. Future historians will look back on this time and be able to determine the different lifestyles of people around the world by seeing if they live in civilizations or not.
Civilization not only will help in the future but also help historians study past societies by simplifying the types of societies into the two groups. It is important to keep up on the criteria for civilizations because it might continue to change and people need to keep up with these changes.