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Civilization and Beyond Learning from History   By: (1883-1983)

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[Transcriber's note: The typographical errors of the original are preserved in this etext.]


Learning From History

By Scott Nearing

This book is not copyrighted. It may be reproduced by anybody and distributed in any quantity as a whole. It should not be summarized, abbreviated, garbled or chopped into out of context fragments.

Social Science Institute, Harborside, Maine

August 1975


Preface INTRODUCTION: Thoughts about History and Civilization

PART I The Pageant of Experiments with Civilization 1. Experiments in Egypt and Eurasia 2. Rome's Outstanding Experiment 3. The Origins of Western Civilization 4. The Life Cycle of Western Civilization 5. Features Common to Civilizations

PART II A Social Analysis of Civilization 6. The Politics of Civilization 7. The Economics of Civilization 8. The Sociology of Civilization 9. Ideologies of Civilization

PART III Civilization Is Becoming Obsolete 10. World wide Revolution Disrupts Civilization 11. Western Civilization Attempts Suicide 12. Talking Peace and Waging War

PART IV Steps Beyond Civilization 13. Ten Building Blocks for a New World 14. Moving Toward World Federation 15. Integrating a World Economy 16. Conserving our Natural Environment 17. Re vamping the Social Life of the Planet 18. Man Could Change Human Nature 19. Man Could Break Out of the Age Long Prison House of Civilization and Enter a New World



Human history may be viewed from various angles. The easiest history to write concerns the doings of a few well known people and their involvement in some memorable events. History may also concern itself with inventions and discoveries: the use of fire, of the wheel or smelting metals. It may center around sources of food, means of shelter, or the making of records. It may be concerned with the construction and decoration of cities, kingdoms and empires.

Social history enters the picture with travel, transportation, communication, trade. Human beings group themselves in families, clans and tribes, in voluntary associations; they compete, plunder, conquer, enslave, exploit; they co operate for construction and destruction. Political history is but one aspect of man's group contacts and group projects.

There have been histories of particular civilizations and of civilization as a field of historical research. With minor exceptions none of the authors that I have consulted has attempted an analytical treatment of civilization as a sociological phenemenon.

Scientists start from hunches, examine available data, advance tentative conclusions, test them in the light of wider observations, and round out their research by formulating general principles or "laws." This scientific approach has been used in many fields of observation and study. I am applying the formula to one aspect of social history: the appearance, development, maturity, decline and disappearance of the vast co ordinations of collective, experimental human effort called civilizations.

"Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, where are they?" asked Byron. He might have added: "What were they? How did they come into being? What was the nature of their experience? Why did they rise from small beginnings, develop into wide spread colossal complexes of wealth and power, and then, after longer or shorter periods of existence, break up and disappear from the stage of social history?"

Such questions are far removed from the lives of people who are busy with everyday affairs. In one sense they are remote; in the larger picture, however, they are of vital concern to anyone and everyone now living in civilized communities. If Assyrians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Carthaginians built extensive empires and massive civilizations that flourished for a time, then broke up and disappeared, are we to follow blindly and unthinkingly in their footsteps? Or do we study their experiences, benefit from their successes and learn from their mistakes? Can we not take lessons out of their voluminous notebooks, avoid their blunders and direct our own feet along paths that fulfil our lives at the same time that they meet the widespread demand for survival and well being?

Civilization has been extensively experimental... Continue reading book >>

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