The Nature of Civilizations
by Matthew Melko

A guide to the literature of the comparative history of civilizations. A primitive culture "changes so slowly that it is usually studied in static terms, a civilization changes rapidly enough to be considered chronologically: it has a history." (8)
"If a primitive culture is operating effectively, it is likely to maintain itself as it is for long periods. But when a civilization is operating effectively, it is likely to grow." (113)
The generally accepted civilizations are:
Egypt from 4000 B.C to 300 B.C
India from 2500 B.C. to the present
The Middle East from 4000 B.C to the present
The Mediterranean (Classical Civilization) from 3000 B.C. to 1500 A.D.
The Far East from 2000 B.C. to the present
Central America from 1 A.D. to 1600 A.D.
Western South America from 1 A.D. to 1600 A.D.
Western Europe from 700 A.D. to the present
"We find forms of sculpture in all civilizations except the Islamic; writing in all except the Mexican and Peruvian, empires in all except the Mesopotamian, international systems in all except the Egyptian." (39)
These civilizations have some things in common in their development: Melko has some good lines:
"Those who do suspend judgment have a way of never coming to any conclusions at all." (42)

"The acquisition of wealth, of course, makes a civilization a more desirable target for external attack and the softening effects of luxury make the citizens less capable of defending themselves." (67)

"Originally realism referred to the belief that ideas were "real" and things only reflected ideas. The man who believed that things were real and ideas only names was called a nominalist." (77)

Melko include a good critique of how political science is taught (175-176).

Year Read: 1999


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