What does it mean to be civilized? While we may think of that quality as a pinky-extended attitude, the truth is it simply means the nation is well-formed and organized with a government and laws in place. The characteristics of civilized societies aren't limited to just seven. However, a few overarching ideals encompass a wide variety of morals and beliefs to shape a society. Defined as simply a group of people living in an area or region, several characteristics keep a society running smoothly and make it a place people continue to settle and maintain households in.
Most advanced societies have a central authority that acts as a government and makes laws. These laws can differ from civilization to civilization, but each society will have a government that makes and enforces the laws that dictate how people are supposed to live and behave. The political structure is usually divided. For example, in the United States, politicians are usually divided into the Republican, Democrat and Independent parties.
Food, Water and Agriculture
Access to food and clean water is a characteristic of a civilized society; this can also include the use of agriculture to provide inhabitants with a food source. A truly civilized society, however, also includes people who don't work in agricultural fields and who aren't involved in producing food but instead have other jobs that contribute to society.
Safety and Protection
A safe place to live is a key characteristic of a civilized society. That perceived safety can be seen in a variety of roles within the community. For example, personal safety includes permanent shelter for individuals and their families as well as a police force to help enforce the laws and protect citizens. Civilized societies also include some type of army for protection.
Civilized societies include schools and institutions of higher education, and provide all citizens with a chance to pursue an equal education. Education is used to pass down the morals, values and beliefs of the society in addition to providing access to reading, writing, mathematics, art, music and other subjects to enhance the value and enjoyment of the civilization. Being literate is another key component of a civilized society; education advances the people as a whole and gives them the means to keep accurate written records.
Trade and Availability of Goods
The ability to store surplus food is a characteristic of civilized societies, and this provides one way to trade with other societies for useful goods. Because civilized societies are made up of people contributing different areas of expertise, such as shop owner, farmer, teacher and office worker, these allow a civilization to trade with other civilizations that have other things to offer, such as a musician or an artist.
Defined Societal Roles
Civilized societies aren't made up of people who are all equal. Instead, a civilized society includes a type of caste system in which some make more money and have more power than others. Examples of society members might include government officials, blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, the unemployed and those collecting governmental assistance. Additionally, an upper, middle and lower class in some role are also defined.
The specific freedoms of any society will vary, but people within any civilized society are afforded certain freedoms such as the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech and the freedom to pursue higher education. These freedoms help unite people within the civilization by allowing them to do things such as worship together and speak the same language.
- Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present; Cynthia Stokes Brown
- New World Encyclopedia: Civilization
- Reference: What are characteristics of a Civilized Society?