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Race for civilization

24 1 3
14.01.2018

Ibrahim Kalin

The last big debate over civilization was triggered over two decades ago by Samuel Huntington’s book, “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.” Regardless of Huntington’s intentions, that debate was used to justify new imperialist designs in the wake of the end of the post-Cold War era. It also undermined the possibility of any meaningful discussion of the concepts of civility and civilization. We all need to be extra cautious given the rather suspect history of the concept, but this does not mean that we have to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Nineteenth century European imperialism unashamedly used the word civilization to establish a hierarchy of cultures and societies and justify its policies of occupation and exploitation. The civilizing mission was presented as a process forced upon non-Europeans in their own interest with a humanistic and moralistic hint of self-aggrandizement. Yet the reality is that European imperialist adventures did not bring culture, law, order or civilization to Asia or Africa. Rather, they created deep rifts between European and non-European peoples. From Karl Marx and Rudyard Kipling to John Stuart Mill and Thomas Macaulay, scores of European intellectuals preached the blessings of Western interventions in the so-called despotic Asiatic societies. The simple truth, however, is that there is nothing civilized, humane or virtuous about colonialism and imperialism.

Have cultural parameters changed much since the 19th century to warrant a proper use of the term civilization? It depends on how one looks at it. There are significant changes in our desires to overcome cultural and........

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