The Thin Ice of Civilization

Brett Bowden

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    It is widely accepted that as time passes, the more we progress as both a species and as individual human beings; the more we progress, the more civilized we become individually and collectively; the more civilized we become, the further we are removed from the vestiges of savagery and barbarism. But is this really the case? It is also generally accepted that civilization is a good thing, both in terms of a process and as a destination. The markers and trappings of civilization-social organization, urbanization, competent government, the rule of law, the arts, material well-being, and so on-are seen as desirable and much preferred to the absence thereof. But what is the cost of this progress? And is civilization sustainable? Some years ago it was also suggested that there is a direct relationship between civilization (both the process and the state of being) and the proliferation of increasingly lethal armed conflict. This article takes a closer look at these troubling issues in light of the current state of affairs of our world and wonders whether it might not be time to rethink and reframe what is meant by civilization.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)118-135
    JournalAlternatives: Global, Local and Political
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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