DOI link for Civilizing Knowledge
Civilizing Knowledge book
Civilization is a word more usually invoked with a rhetorical flourish than put to work in a philosophical argument. Comte was not reluctant to use sociology to praise his times in the terms of advanced civilization, but methodological strictures forbade later sociologists the use of so value-laden a concept. Norbert Elias did more than anyone to reintroduce the idea of civilization into sociology. Civilization is a process, not an achieved state, and allows for regression, or what Elias calls de-civilizing. Civilization is not one thing. It is the synergy of two intertwining processes, practices, and preferences: urbanization, or the economy of cities, and urbanity, or the ethos, the ethical culture, of enduring cities worldwide. This chapter discusses some philosophical ideas about civilization. The major modern statements continue a theme already sounded: to deny the distinction of civilization from culture, to underrate urbanism, to overlook the difference cities make. The chapter discusses the relation of cities and civilization to knowledge.