Inventing Western Civilization
In this wonderful book, Thomas Patterson effectively dethrones the concept of ‘civilization’ as an abstract good transcending human society. Combining the latest scholarship with his own sensitive thinking, Patterson shows the clear and specific class, ‘race,’ and gender connotations of the term as it has been used and manipulated both historically and in the present age. —MARTIN BERNAL
What is civilization? The term, commonly identified with “uplift” and “order”, has come to take on another meaning: the “civilized” versus the “primitive.” This book is about the idea of civilization and how, at different times, the concept has been used by the powerful in order to defend their status.
Drawing on his extensive knowledge of early societies, anthropologist Thomas C. Patterson shows how class, sexism, and racism have been integral to the appearance of “civilized” societies in Western Europe. He sets out clearly and simply how civilization, with its designs of “civilizing” and “being civilized,” has been closely tied to the rise of capitalism in Western Europe and the development of social classes.
The origins of the “others”, groups distinguished by their supposedly natural differences in appearance, behavior, or essence, are traced to the power relations of the societies from which they emerged. He also shows how, in asserting their humanity, the “uncivilized” turn our understanding of civilization inside out.