1st Edition

Brett Bowden

Published June 25, 2009
ISBN 9780415469654 - CAT# Y003098
Series: Critical Concepts in Political Science


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Especially since the end of the Cold War, the concept of ‘civilization’ has been frequently deployed by those who seek to describe and explain the world in which we live. The events of 11 September 2001, and the subsequent ‘war on terror’, have further elevated the concept's use in the discourse of politics and international relations. There has, for instance, been feverish speculation and increasingly heated rhetoric about struggles ‘for civilization’ or a possible ‘clash of civilizations’, particularly between the West and the Islamic world. The term is used both to describe—and to cast value-laden judgements about—people, places, and events. It is often misinterpreted and misapplied, with sometimes dangerous consequences.

In response to the revival and misuse of ‘civilization’, this new four-volume collection from Routledge Major Works meets the need for an authoritative reference work to make sense of a vast and growing scholarly literature. It brings together canonical and the best cutting-edge research to provide a comprehensive overview of the origins, contested meanings, contextual applications, and general history of this critical concept.

Volume I (‘The Origins and Meaning of Civilization’) is made up of the best work from a distinguished line-up of political scientists, philosophers, historians, sociologists, and linguists. It outlines the origins of the concept and its many and disputed meanings. This first volume establishes the foundations on which much of the analysis included in the three subsequent volumes is based. Volume II (‘Civilization, Civilizations, Progress, and History’) includes a range of materials that intimately outline the relationship between the ideal of civilization and the idea of progress, including progress in the social, cultural, moral, scientific, and political realms. Research gathered here further examines how the concepts of civilization and progress in turn relate to the more general passage of history, particularly the idea of history with a purpose. Volume III (‘Civilization and its Others’) brings together the best scholarship to explore what civilization is not. The scholarship collected here comes from some of history’s most distinguished political scientists, leading international lawyers, anthropologists, and controversial ethnologists. Can one, for example, usefully draw a distinction between civilized, savage, and barbarian peoples? The final volume (‘Civilizational Relations: Past, Present, and Future’) enables researchers and students to navigate through the equally sensitive field of historical and contemporary relations between the world’s major civilizations or religio-cultural groups. It includes the catalysts of debates such as ‘the clash-of-civilizations thesis’ and the responses it has provoked.

With a full index, together with a comprehensive introduction, newly written by the editor, which places the collected material in its historical and intellectual context, Civilization is an essential work of reference. It is destined to be valued by scholars, students, and researchers of politics, political philosophy, and international relations—as well as those working in allied disciplines such as security studies and international law—as a vital research resource.

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