Thai Civilization/Culture & Civilization

Chapter One Culture & Civilization


What's the difference between culture and civilization?Edit

Culture is the characteristics of people: the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings, transmitted from one generation to another. Culture is manifested in human artifacts (An artifact is any object made or modified by a human culture, and later recovered by an archaeological endeavor) and activities such as music, literature, lifestyle, food, painting and sculpture, theater and film.


A civilization is a society in an advanced state of social development (e.g., with complex legal and political and religious organizations). In short, civilization is and advance state of human society --- the sum of cultures, science, industry, and government. So, you can have several cultures in one civilization. For example, you may say:

Some people argue that the Mon and Karen cultures in Thailand has been promoted for the sake of tourism campaigns.

This statement reflects that fact that there are several culture functioning in the kingdom of Thailand.


When we have a look at these two words in a dictionary, we will see that “culture” refers to the customs, beliefs, art, music, and all the other products of human thought made by a particular group of people at a particular time; and “civilization” means an advanced stage of human development marked by a high level of art, religion, science, and social and political organization.


Phraya Anumanrajathon, a famous Thai scholar, has defined “culture” as the human thought, concept, and belief appearing in four ways:

  • Social behavior
  • Common characteristics in society
  • Social activities, and
  • The creation in society


“Culture” in general may be divided into two main groups : - Material Culture : All the concrete things that were created by man, such as houses, clothes, instruments etc. - Non-material Culture : the quality concerning human mind, concept, emotion, philosophy, religion etc.

The term “civilization” has still another meaning. Since each culture has peculiar features of its own, and since some cultures are more highly developed than others, we can say that a civilization is a superior culture. A culture deserves to be called a “civilization” when it has reached a stage of advancement in which writing has come to be used to a considerable extent. Some progress has been made in the arts and sciences, and political, social, and economic institutions have developed sufficiently to conquer some of the problems of order, security, and efficiency in complex society.


Oswald Spengler, the German philosopher of history, viewed “civilizations” as decadent phases of highly developed cultures. When a great people or empire was in its prime, he characterized its social pattern and intellectual pattern as a “culture”. When it passed its prime (time) and became ossified or fixed, he called it a “civilization”. Thida Saraya says that we can judge a civilization of any society from the following criteria: Technological development; The development should fulfil its social need and have some exchange with other communities as well. With technological skills, the people could produce their social individualized characters.

Variety of professionals; The society should be composed of people in various professions.

The people who are responsible in any field of work, for example, administration, politics, economics, and society can set up systems for their social and cultural development until those systems are recognized.

Social institutions; The society can set up its own institutions to manage social affairs in stead of the kinship system, and

Integration of its own cultural characteristics; This may reflect on the patterns of art and the advancement of literature.

Factors leading to the rise of civilizationsEdit

When we start to study about civilizations, we should have at least three questions in our mind. They are:

  1. What causes the rise of civilizations?
  2. What factors support their growth? , and
  3. Why do some civilizations reach much higher levels of development than others?

Some social scientists decide that factors of geography are the most important (to the rise of civilization). Others stress economic resources, food supply, contact with older civilizations, and so on.

Under geographical conditions, Ellsworth Huntington, an American geographer, insisted that no nation rose to the highest cultural status except under the influence of a climatic stimulus. Related to the climatic hypothesis is the soil-exhaustion theory.

This group of theory believes that the majestic civilizations that once flourished in Mesopotamia, Palestine, Greece, Italy, China, and Mexico were ultimately doomed by the simple fact that their soil would no longer provide sufficient food for the population.

Another theory about the origin of civilizations is adversity. Arnold J. Toynbee, a British historian, said that conditions of hardship or adversity are the real causes which have brought into existence superior cultures. Such conditions constitute a :challenge” to stimulate men to try to overcome it and to generate additional energy for new achievements. The challenge may be in the form of a desert, a jungle area, rugged topography, or a grudging soil.

What makes a civilization is complexEdit

The majority of historians believe that the genesis of civilizations cannot be explained except on the basis of a complex of causes or a combination of factors. Among these factors, they place uppermost the geographic and economic elements of favorable climate, fertile soil, access to good harbors, and an abundance of mineral resources. They also accord a high place to opportunities for interchange of ideas with other people of a comparable level of advancement. Civilizations do not develop in isolated corners of the world.