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A Note on Civilizations and Economies
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2010 (English)In: European Journal of Social Theory, ISSN 1368-4310, E-ISSN 1461-7137, Vol. 13, no 1, 15-30 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article approaches the topic of civilizations and economies through a discussion of two key texts that appeared during the first wave of interest among social scientists for the phenomenon of civilization: ‘Note on the Notion of Civilization’ ([1913] 1998) by Emile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss, and ‘Author’s Introduction’ ([1920a] 1930) by Max Weber. Durkheim and Mauss were of the opinion that civilizations have their own, unique form of existence that is very difficult to understand and theorize. Civilizations, they nonetheless suggest, are marked off by symbolic boundaries and consist of elements that are hard for political authorities to control, including money, commerce, techniques and tools. Max Weber’s most important attempt to struggle with the idea of civilization, can be found in his portrait of Western civilization in ‘Author’s Introduction’. Weber, as is well known, suggests in this writing that Western civilization is characterized by a ‘specific and peculiar rationalism’ — and he devotes a large part of the text to a portrait of modern rational capitalism. This type of capitalism, we conclude, is consequently civilizational in nature. Its emergence, as Weber also shows elsewhere, cannot be explained by referring to some special group or nation. The two works by Weber and Durkheim and Mauss, the article concludes, allow us to better understand civilizations as distinct social-cultural configurations and also to approach their economic dimension. Both works emphasize the fact that one needs to use an interdisciplinary as well as a comparative approach to undertake a civilizational as well as a civilizational-economic analysis.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. Vol. 13, no 1, 15-30 p.
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-50009DOI: 10.1177/1368431009355865OAI: diva2:380332
Available from: 2010-12-21 Created: 2010-12-21 Last updated: 2011-01-19Bibliographically approved

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