By the turn of the twentieth century national schools of sociology were being formed, as shown by journals being established specifically for sociology: in Germany, the Archiv für Socialwissenschaft und Socialpolitik was founded in 1904; in the United States of America, the American Journal of Sociology, published from Chicago, had been in existence since 1895; and in Britain the Sociological Review was founded in 1908. In France, two main journals emerged from its two main sociological schools - the Durkheimian with its Annie Sociologique founded in 1896/7, and the Revue Internationale de Sociologie, founded by Rene Worms in 1895, which became the vehicle for anti-Durkheimian sociology. The Durkheimian School included, among others, Marcel Mauss, Maurice Halbwachs, Henri Hubert and Robert Hertz, and extended beyond sociology to inform the work of the sinologist Marcel Granet, and the historians Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre.

Against this broad background of the professionalization of sociology, the concept of civilization continued to be tied to the identity of the West and its political transformations, whilst being simultaneously developed as a category that identified civilizations with states and empires, and organized religions and cultures. Emile Durkheim critically engaged with both sides of the concept of civilization. As his The Evolution of Educational Thought makes clear, the notion of civilization refers to the relation between a cultural heritage in the form of educational models, and a civilizing process through which a national ideal is at once forged and re-made. His 'Note on the Notion of Civilization', written with Marcel Mauss, further emphasizes civilizations as extensive patterns of cultural identity. As the emphasis for civilization is a cultural one, as also seen in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, rather than one that gives precedence to states and empires, it can also refer to the social formations of the Pacific, indigenous Americans and Australians, and not only to the Middle East and its European and Indian hinterlands.