The Empire of CivilizationThe Evolution of an Imperial Idea

The Empire of CivilizationThe Evolution of an Imperial Idea

Brett Bowden

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226068145

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


The term “civilization” comes with considerable baggage, dichotomizing people, cultures, and histories as “civilized”—or not. While the idea of civilization has been deployed throughout history to justify all manner of interventions and sociopolitical engineering, few scholars have stopped to consider what the concept actually means. Here, the author examines how the idea of civilization has informed our thinking about international relations over the course of ten centuries. From the Crusades to the colonial era to the global war on terror, this book exposes “civilization” as a stage-managed account of history that legitimizes imperialism, uniformity, and conformity to Western standards, culminating in a liberal-democratic global order. Along the way, the author explores the variety of confrontations and conquests—as well as those peoples and places excluded or swept aside—undertaken in the name of civilization. Concluding that the “West and the rest” have more commonalities than differences, the book ultimately points the way toward an authentic intercivilizational dialogue that emphasizes cooperation over clashes.