2. Are we Civilized yet?

Instead of using the term “civilization” the textbook uses the word or term “society.” Specifically, the text uses the term “complex society” to refer to “a form of large-scale social organization that emerged in several parts of the ancient world.” According to the authors, complex societies depended on robust agricultural economies. In these economies more food was produced than was needed for subsistence. Because of the excess food, people were able to specialize on other tasks and people became political authorities, government official, military experts, etc.

The use of the term “complex society” has a different connotation or meaning than the term “civilization.” Historians today might be reluctant to use the term “civilization” or “civilized” because according to the Dictoniary.com, the term originated in the mid-18thcentury with one meaning being “the act or process of bringing out of a savage or uneducated state.” The term, therefore, implies that a group of people have reached or developed to a particular stage, while others need to reach a certain stage to be considered “civilized.” The term establishes a hierarchy for looking at different cultures or settlements. This hierarchal frame is unhelpful for the study of history because it may lead the student to dismiss or undervalue different social structures or cultures that don’t necessarily fit within our current understanding of the word “civilized.”

A course with a title like “World Civilizations” may imply that only particular groups of people or particular cultures will be studied. Societies that may not be considered complex in our text or “civilized”, such as early hunters and gathers, were societies with complex social structures and settlements that had important implications for world history.


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