The term civilization has been used in different ways throughout history. In the current sense, civilization is the set of traits that characterize the state of a given society, from the technical, intellectual, political and moral point of view, without making any value judgment. We can then speak of civilizations in the plural and even of “primitive civilizations”, in the chronological sense, without pejorative connotation. Like those of culture, religion and society, the word civilization has become a key concept or “master word” for thinking about the world and history in the Enlightenment. The first to have used the word civilization in the present sense is Victor Riqueti de Mirabeau, the father of Mirabeau the revolutionary. In 1756, in ” The Friend of Men or Treaty of the Population, he writes: Similarly, in 1795, in Sketch of a Chart of Progress of the Human Mind ” of Condorcet, the idea of civilization refers to the progress made by humanity in a given nation when it was possible to move from the state of barbarism to that of civilized. To civilization, then considered as an ideal to be attained and as a process of transformation of society towards this ideal, was the main legitimation given to imperialist colonization. It was a question of “civilizing” the peoples of the world in a hierarchical and evolutionist vision of civilization. Today the conceptions of civilization are more egalitarian so that the term refers more to a historical and social state of affairs than a process of transformation of societies. The idea has ceased to function in opposition to those of barbarism or savagery, while the principle of “the right of peoples to self-determination” is affirmed. In order to be able to define civilizations that have no precise structure nor institutional representation, it is necessary to select the facts that are considered appropriate. Thus, we rely on linguistic, ethical, geographical, cultural, religious or political facts. But the concepts of religion or culture are themselves discussed. For Bertrand Binoche,.
After having been widely used since the end of the singular, by opposing it to “barbarism”, the term is then put in the plural, especially by the social sciences. This follows a debate organized in 1929, based on articles by Lucien Febvre and Marcel Mauss. In 2008, the Journal de synthèse returned to the reappearance of this word in the 1990s. In 2003, the journal Human Sciences also questioned the return to fashion of the term “civilization”. If ethnologists and anthropologists have preferred the term “culture”, historians, archaeologists, and sometimes sociologists have widely used the word “civilization”. Political scientists, particularly Samuel Huntington in The Shock of Civilizations (1996), made use of it. Some historians and geographers such as Pierre Gourou and Fernand Braudel have made it a central notion of their approaches. The Braudelian concept of civilization (“material civilization”) is defined in the following way: it is first of all a space, a cultural area to which are attached goods (material or not, which can include the shape of the houses, the culinary traditions, the way of life, etc., properties having a coherence between them If, in addition to this, a permanence is observed in time, then Braudel defines a civilization.This vision is very close to that of the archaeologists which define “cultures” evolving in space and time, through tools such as typo-chronological tables, presenting the evolution of types (such as the various types of vases) during a period of time. In the years 2000-2010, the term is no longer used by these scientists, but the term is still in common use, but its meaning is not specified. one of his lectures At the Collège de France in 2015, Anne Cheng alluded, without dwelling, to the “Chinese civilization” about Confucianism.
According to archaeologist Gordon Childe in Urban Civilization, published in 1950, the first known civilizations that left large archaeological sites are Sumer, ancient Egypt, the Indus Valley civilization and Chinese civilization. The functions of these monumental archaeological complexes differentiate them from previous Neolithic settlements. The discovery and mastery of agriculture within “agrarian civilizations” have led to a new organization of space and human activity within “urban civilizations”. To qualify as a civilization, it must include most of the following characteristics: Five primary criteria (organization):