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Barbarism and Civilization

Friedrich Engels: Barbarism And Civilization, Herodotus And The Barbarians, Toynbee's Rhythm Of History

Barbarism and civilization are salt and pepper concepts that are inextricably interlinked. In the Western world, "barbarism" is derived from the classical Greek word barbaros (barbarian) that referred originally to foreigners who did not speak Greek. In the modern world, barbarism carries a negative connotation of unrefined and savage. "Civilization" is derived from the Latin word civis (citizen) that referred originally to those living in a Roman city. In the modern world, civilization carries a positive connotation of education and sophistication.

Although "barbarians" and "barbarism" come from the ancient world, "civilization" does not. Fernand Braudel maintains that "civilization" first appeared in 1732 in regard to French jurisprudence that "denoted an act of justice or a judgement which turned a criminal trial into civil proceedings" (p. 3). In 1752 the statesman Anne Robert Jacques Turgot used "civilization" to describe a process of being civilized. "Civilization" stood firmly against its opposite of "barbarism." By 1772 "civilization" and its mate "culture" replaced "civility" in England and fostered Zivilization (civilization) alongside the older Bildung (culture) in Germany (see Braudel, p. 4).

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