By Bruce Mazlish

“Civilization” is a consistently invoked time period. it truly is utilized by either politicians and students. How necessary, actually, is that this time period? Civilization and Its Contents strains the origins of the idea that within the eighteenth century. It indicates 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 used to be appropriated via Japan, China, and Islamic nations. This latter improvement lays the basis for the modern demand a “dialogue of civilizations.” the writer proposes as a substitute that at the present time using the time period “civilization” has an international that means, with neighborhood variations famous as cultures. it can be extra acceptable, notwithstanding, to desert the identify “civilization” and to target a brand new knowing of the civilizing method.

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One theme running through Cook’s account is trade. Navigation itself, and the charting of new lands, was in the service of Britain’s desire to expand its trading empire. As it turned out, rude and uncultured peoples in the South Seas were poor suppliers and customers. ”15 Under such circumstances, it was difficult to obtain by appeals to self-interest the produce, water, or wood needed by the mariners. Instead, benevolence was more likely to produce a pig (although perhaps, Cook speculated, it might have been given as a peace offering).

Civilization entailed a two-way traffic. ” There is, therefore, a tension in this idea of civilization. Other nations without the new concept, even those that were “civilized,” lacked the self-awareness and reflectivity, as well as the ambivalence, that Civilization as Colonial Ideology 33 are made manifest in accounts such as those of Cook’s voyages in the later eighteenth century. ”14 The Voyages is one long disquisition on this topic, working by empirical rather than abstract reasoning. In the end, the question really concerns civilization, which is, in fact, a highly reified version of custom, to which is added man’s working on nature, that is, his material achievements.

From the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on, hermeneutics is an essential feature of civilization in its European form. In turn, an essential part of hermeneutics is empathy, the desire to see the other’s point of view—for how else Civilization as Colonial Ideology 35 to understand him? Thus, in a surprisingly modern vein, Cook empathizes with the native’s suspicion: “I consider the light in which they must view us. It was impossible for them to know our real design; we enter their ports without their daring to oppose .

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