Global Civilization and Local Cultures

First published September 2001 in International Sociology, vol. 16 (3): 301-319
Reprinted 2004 in Rethinking Civilizational Analysis, ed. by Said Arjomand and Edward Tiryakian. London: SAGE, 71-86.

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Abstract

This article distinguishes between civilization and culture in the tradition of Alfred Weber and Robert Merton. Civilization denotes the human control of nature and is used in the singular; culture indicates the social construction of meaning and is used in the plural. Civilization is also the term for the social-natural whole, and culture for the local parts of the whole. The renewed distinction between civilization and culture aims to correct the underattention in the social sciences and humanities to technoscientific developments. Furthermore, it is unsatisfactory to view contemporary history from the points of view of local cultures only. I argue that a revised understanding of civilization is necessary to deal with the globalization of technoscience.

Keywords

civilization  ¤  conceptual history  ¤  culture  ¤  globalization  ¤  technoscience