Civilization and Its Contents by Bruce Mazlish

By Bruce Mazlish

“Civilization” is a continuously invoked time period. it truly is utilized by either politicians and students. How helpful, in truth, is that this time period? Civilization and Its Contents strains the origins of the concept that within the eighteenth century. It exhibits its use as a colonial ideology, after which as a aid for racism. The time period used to be prolonged to a useless society, Egyptian civilization, and was once appropriated by way of Japan, China, and Islamic nations. This latter improvement lays the foundation for the modern demand a “dialogue of civilizations.” the writer proposes as an alternative that this present day using the time period “civilization” has an international that means, with neighborhood versions well-known as cultures. it can be extra applicable, although, to desert the identify “civilization” and to target a brand new realizing of the civilizing technique.

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4 A distinguishing feature of European civilization in its early manifestations was its expansionism and exploratory zeal. In the 28 Civilization as Colonial Ideology sixteenth century, this took the form mainly of maritime expeditions. The “discovery” of the New World was one consequence. Another was the first circumnavigation of the globe ever by humans: Magellan’s voyage of 1519–21. This momentous event marked European society off from all others, although eventually bringing the others into a global network of connected nations.

By the eighteenth century, these efforts were turned to the South Seas, and the second great wave of overseas exploration was undertaken by the Western powers. This becomes the second episode in my exploration of the coming of civilization. To be sure, long before Magellan had entered the area in 1520, Polynesian navigators in their open-sea canoes had explored the South Seas and settled many of its numerous islands. Never, however, did they seek to “invade” other parts of the globe, nor could they have done so with their existing technology.

It is one mode, of which understanding is another. Both come up against the language barrier. Earlier, in the New World exchanges, this had been a problem, vividly represented in the difficulties of Cortés, for example, in finding translators. Cook had the same problem across the South Seas, where an interpreter might be competent in one set of languages but ignorant a few islands over. How to understand the “other” if one cannot understand the language? Sign language could go only so far. And as far as understanding the natives’ customs, command of the tongue was essential.

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