Civilization: Meaning and History ( Short Essay)


civilization definition

The journey of man since times immemorial has been a tough one. Being a social animal, man has always strived to continue his existence through a collective effort among his fellow human beings. This effort was to establish him in a strong place against forces of nature, competing for species and related species which were a threat to his existence for ex. the birth of evolved kin Homo Sapiens led to the extinction of Homo neanderthalensis.

Hence, slowly but the man came to know the power of society. The earliest settlement of human beings was the smaller version of Civilization in the form of Pre-Industrial society of Horticultural and Pastoral societies which were characterized by the ability of man to tame animals for his purpose and produce food with the help of rudimentary tools made out of metal or stone or wood. These were the societies came into existence after the Hunters and Gatherers who never made a settlement but were the first to exhibit signs of social instincts.

They existed for a whopping 5 million years which amounts to 99.7% of the total time human life has lived on the Earth. However, the changing conditions in the environment, lowering of the population of animal life, population expansion of humans, increase in Man’s ability to grow food on its own and the need to settle and live a danger-free life forced the man to come together and create societies. This also led to the development of social norms, ethics, culture, tradition, centralization, the emergence of the governing elite, specialization of labor leading to the formation of different classes in a society.

The next scene in the story was that of Agricultural Societies. These societies further focused more on agriculture and production of surplus which would nourish a growing population and use of advanced tools to increase production. This time also saw the increased use of land and conversion of uncultivable land to cultivable land with the aggrandized use of water for irrigation and the whole family on farm picture along with increased trade between rural producers and urban centers.

Then came the Feudal Societies, which was an extension of the previous. This society took the hierarchical distribution of work and status way too seriously. This led to the division of society into the Lords, Vassals and the fiefs or peasants. Vassals were the personal assistants to the Lords and the fiefs cultivated the farms owned by the lord. The mobility in the societal hierarchy was abolished. This new system failed terribly after revolutions of peasants and led to the formation of more stable capitalist societies.

However the civilization was evolving over time, many ought to change its course for ex. the authoritarians, but they failed severely as people broke out of the old and useless rules framed by the cultural elite.

Civilisation was the beginning of a full-fledged society which was a system on its own and stood apart from the earlier primitive societies. Civilisation was characterized by the high density of population, urban development, social stratification imposed by the cultural leader, monumental architecture, societal dependence upon farming and expansionism along with a rise of thinkers and philosophers who can be considered as the first study society as it is and people who make it up.

Civilisation also meant the formation of cities and villages and growth of trade among the subordinate urban and rural populations leading to class differences and difference in the status of living. There was also increased use of natural resources to feed the growing population and to increase the standard of living of people all around. There was also the development of symbolic systems of communication (example. Written language and spoken dialect).

The concept of a civilization can be stood in two aspects: one purely material and other material and ethical.

The material aspect focused on the mere development of the society in terms of expansion and standards of living but the latter focused on not only these but also the need for people to grow together and interact freely under the roof of civilized society which would later give rise to the ideas of democracy and secularism. This was the real start of the man heading towards an ideal and brighter future of modern society. An idea which can help us understand the changes in the society and people is that change is inevitable for change is the only thing which is permanent. The modern society is a result of many great events in the history of mankind. The French revolution, the industrial revolution, Marxist revolution and hundreds more which sculpted the idea of what we know as the modern society. The concept of civilization in modern terms is the substitution of the whole wide world into a global village because of the technological advances and increase in the likeliness of personal interactions in front of the monitor. However, it has turned down the whole definition of a civilization into a compact world inside the gadget in our hands. Today’s world has changed the thinking and living of the people in our times. People today can connect to their kin thousands of kilometers away in seconds which seemed to be a difficult job a few years ago. The concept of civilization has been modified and it again will change in the future inevitable.

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