The upcoming discussion will update you about the difference between culture and civilisation.
Civilisation has a definite standard of measurement, but not culture:
The apparatus of civilisation can be measured on the grounds of efficiency. Thus, we recognise the superiority of the tractor over the hand plough or of power loom over handloom. We have, however, no universal measuring rod by which to assess cultural achievements.
These are judged by purely subjective criteria. Judgments vary in different ages and among different groups. Hence it is not easy “to study the changes in the ideas that cluster round the everyday life, the popular philosophies, the notions of authority, the doubts and the certitudes, the fears and the hopes of men.”
The transmission of civilisation is easier than that of culture:
Since civilisation is something external to man, amenable to quantitative measurement, it is easily comprehended and communicated. We can use and enjoy without any special effort or even without any particular qualification on our part the greatest achievements of- civilisation, such as the automobile, the radio, the refrigerator, the television, etc.
But it requires a certain level of mental development, and sometimes appropriate temperament, to appreciate and assimilate the works of culture, such as the beauty of a painting or the moral fervour of philosophical discourse. “Culture is communicated only to the like-minded. No one without the quality of the artist can appreciate art, nor without the ear of the musician can one enjoy music.”
The achievements of civilisation are marked by progressive improvement, but culture is subject to retrogression as well as to advance. An achievement of civilisation becomes a permanent possession of mankind, and serves as a basis for further improvement. Thus, the aero planes of the thirties have been superseded and rendered obsolete by more efficient aero planes of today.
Further, the achievements of civilisation tend to accumulate and, as a result, the areas of civilisation get widened. To bullock carts and horse-drawn carriages, for instance, are added the automobiles and aero planes of today.
Hence, civilisation always marches in the same direction, “provided there is no catastrophic break of social continuity,” We cannot, for obvious reasons, say the same thing of cultural works, “of our dreanis and our sculptures, our conversation and our recreation”.
Can we say, for example, that the Bengali poetry of today is better or richer than that of the thirties or forties of this century simply because it has the benefit of the experience of about fifty years following the outstanding contributions of Tagore?
If we trace the course of any cultural pursuit, it will be clear beyond doubt that it has been subject to stagnation and retrogression during some period or periods of history. The past of a culture does not obviously assure its future.
The expansion of a civilisation follows different principles from those which determine cultural development. Being utilitarian in character, civilizational means spread quickly. If found to be efficient, an apparatus of civilisation is adopted by men wherever they have the means to acquire it. Thus, even a savage is ready to replace his bow and spear with the rifle.
It is a simple matter of choice to adopt or discard a particular achievement of civilisation. But the transference of cultural elements from one area or community to another is not so easy. Culture is so closely interwoven into the fabric of life of a community that the people cannot freely abandon its culture and adopt another. Culture determines the quality of life of a people and gives it strength.
Hence, even when one civilisation covers the globe, the cultural differences among different peoples will endure. In fact, people resist the advance of civilisation when such an advance affects, to their disadvantage, their cultural life.
Hence, diffusion of culture is more slow and gradual than that of civilisation. The differences in the processes of expansion of the two orders may be studied from another point of view. In the case of civilisation, transference or diffusion is limited to recent or contemporaneous contributions to the stock of civilisation.
But “cultural elements may be adopted as readily from the past as from the present, from any epoch of the past no less than from the present hour …. Its range of selection runs from the newest culture-fashion to the myths that linger from the dawn of history”.
These differences in the processes of advance of the two orders are important from the point of view of social change: It may so happen that the advance of civilisation “outstrips the formation of those cultural attitudes necessary for its maintenance”.
Consider, for example, the functioning of democratic institutions in the newly-independent countries of Asia and Africa. Many of these countries adopted parliamentary democracy on the western model. But the functioning of parliamentary democracy in a large number of these countries has not been satisfactory because “the proper cultural preparation is lacking”.
Similarly, full benefits of industrialisation cannot be obtained unless appropriate work culture conducive to industrialisation is developed.’
Culture and civilisation cannot, however, be treated in isolation. Cultural pattern is responsive to changes in civilisation, and, at the same time, acts back on the latter so as to influence its character and direction. A seed needs proper soil and climate for its growth and fruition.
Likewise, cultural interests of men thrive better in appropriate environment. To go back to the simile of Maclver and Page, the more efficient the ship, the greater is the number of ports that lie within the range of- our choice.
The use or application of civilizational apparatus is, on the other hand, governed by cultural considerations. The industrial plant, for example, can turn out necessaries or luxuries, the comforts of life or the munitions of war. The use to which we put our industrial plant is largely a result of our cultural choice. That is, the set of priorities we keep before ourselves determines our choice.
Even the invention or development of technological device or similar other apparatus of civilisation is also governed by cultural choice. Basically, culture implies valuation. Every change in valuations of a group of people registers itself in institutional change. Thus, slavery was once considered to be natural. Gradually, however, these ideas changed in the course of centuries.
These changes are reflected “in our regard for the individual, for the non-abstract, living human being”. This change in attitude towards human personality provided undoubtedly a spur (strengthened, of course, by other motivations) to invention and extensive application of labour-saving devices and automation.
The changes in the sphere of state-activities, similarly, owe their origin to the changes in our concept of ‘good life’ which we expect the state to uphold and provide for its citizens.