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Debates on Civilization in the Muslim WorldCritical Perspectives on Islam and Modernity$
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Lutfi Sunar

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199466887

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199466887.001.0001

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The Idea of Civilization in Eighteenth-Century Social Theory

The Idea of Civilization in Eighteenth-Century Social Theory

(p.29) 1 The Idea of Civilization in Eighteenth-Century Social Theory
Debates on Civilization in the Muslim World

Anthony Pagden

Oxford University Press

Today we all live in cultures. Some of these are highly local, most are discrete. We speak of ‘political cultures’ and ‘popular cultures’ in very much the same contexts as we speak of the ‘culture of Bali’ or the ‘culture of the Hopi’. We do not, on the whole, speak of civilizations except in the past tense. For civilization, unlike culture, suggests both a process (that of civilizing) and a comparative evaluation. It describes a state, social, political, cultural, aesthetic—even moral and physical—which is held to be the optimum condition for all mankind, and this involves the implicit claim that only the civilized can know what it is to be ‘civilized’. This chapter traces the concept of civilization from Condorcet and Montesquieu through Lamarck. It also discusses the link between civilization and ‘civitas’ or urban living, and later the idea of ‘refinement’ or manners, applied to humans as well as animals. It concludes that civilization is different from and perhaps the opposite of ‘culture’.

Keywords:   civilization, civitas, culture, Condorcet, Montesquieu, Lamarck

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