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Epochs of Civilization (fonte)
is a question as to which experiences and events ought
to be included in world history. History consists of
a set of stories, and stories describe a passage from
one situation to another. The issue of world history
might be resolved by considering which stories best
describe the transition of human societies from small
tribal communities to the large pluralistic communities
that we have today.
It may be that this process does
not lead straight from one situation to another but
is divided into parts, whose stories would each tend
to go in a different direction. The problem of world
history then becomes one of determining the parts
- deciding where the historical turning points are
- and so splitting the mass of human experience into
epochs with consistent themes. These we associate
with the five civilizations.
as we know it began with the rise of primitive city-states
in Egypt and Mesopotamia during the 4th millennium,
B.C. For the first three thousand years, the dominant
theme of history was the accumulation of power in the
hands of political rulers. These rulers gained authority
over particular territories through exercise of military
might. From city-states they built kingdoms; and empires
from kingdoms. The culmination of this first civilization
was the formation of four world empires which dominated
the Old World in the 2nd century, A.D.: the Roman, Parthian,
Kushan, and Han Chinese empires. Then barbarians overran
the civilized world and this epoch came to an end.
second historical epoch began in the middle of the 1st
millennium, B.C., when an extraordinary group of philosophers,
prophets, and religious thinkers lived. From them came
schools of philosophy and systems of creedal religions.
The story of this epoch centers in three world religions
- Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam - and other religious
or political entities that interacted creatively with
them. In the end, the world religions fought one another,
mimicking political empires. This epoch came to an end
in the middle of the 2nd millennium, A.D., when the
human spirit turned away from religious violence and
coercion to embrace other interests.
third epoch began with the territorial and cultural
outburst of European peoples known as the Renaissance.
It was then that modern commercial institutions were
established, humanist scholarship remade education,
and sailing vessels connected once-isolated societies
around the earth. The early voyages of transoceanic
discovery led to political and commercial rivalries
between the Atlantic nations and to colonization and
enslavement of non-European peoples. The scientific,
industrial, and democratic revolutions of this epoch
led to wars with technologically advanced weaponry.
In the end, the whole world was twice caught up in this
violent European experience, producing a backlash.
relief from serious purposes, humanity in the fourth
epoch of civilization turned to popular entertainment.
Workers caught in the cogs of industrial society wanted
lighthearted diversions to help them relax and have
fun. With the invention of various electronic devices,
the "mass media" took over this culture. Live performances
in opera houses or vaudeville theaters gave way to phonograph
recordings, motion pictures, and radio and television
broadcasts. Rock 'n roll music created an international
youth culture. Entertainer celebrities became powerful
in the fourth epoch, humanity stands on the brink of
a fifth civilization sparked by computer technology.
Its history, being mostly in the future, is speculative.
second thread runs through this book: the assertion
that each civilization began with the introduction
of a new dominant cultural technology. The first civilization
began with systems of primitive or ideographic writing;
the second, with alphabetic writing; the third, with
printing; the fourth, with electronic technologies
of communication; and, the fifth, with computer technology.
These civilizations appear to be worldwide.
addition to histories of the four civilizations that
have to date appeared in a fully developed form, this
book includes a history of cultural technologies. It
discusses the relationship between cultural technologies
and social values, describes the process of society's
development into a system of pluralistic institutions,
identifies changing beliefs and models of personality
in the different civilizations, and speculates on the
future course of historical events in the fifth civilization,