Civilization (or civilisation) is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally hierarchical and urbanized. In a classical context, people were called "civilized" to set them apart from barbarians, savages, and primitive peoples while in a modern-day context, "civilized peoples" have been contrasted with indigenous peoples or tribal societies.
There is a tendency to use the term in a less strict way, to mean approximately the same thing as "culture" and therefore, the term can more broadly refer to any important and clearly defined human society. Still, even when used in this second sense, the word is often restricted to apply only to societies that have attained a particular level of advancement—especially the founding of cities.
The level of advancement of a civilization is often measured by its progress in agriculture, long-distance trade, occupational specialization, a special governing class, and urbanism. Aside from these core elements, a civilization is often marked by any combination of a number of secondary elements, including a developed transportation system, writing, standardized measurement, currency, contractual and tort-based legal systems, characteristic art and architecture, mathematics, enhanced scientific understanding, metallurgy, political structures, and organized religion.
Famous quotes containing the word civilization:
“Were civilization itself to be measured by some of its results, it would seem perhaps better for what we call the barbarous part of the world to remain unchanged.”
—Herman Melville (18191891)
“For if we take the ages into our account, may there not be a civilization going on among brutes as well as men?”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)
“Every civilization when it loses its inner vision and its cleaner energy, falls into a new sort of sordidness, more vast and more stupendous than the old savage sort. An Augean stable of metallic filth.”
—D.H. (David Herbert)