[Marxism] Re: Civilization, civilisation

Richard Fidler rfidler at cyberus.ca
Wed Jun 2 07:19:39 MDT 2004

Interesting note from Gilles. Le Petit Robert (see below) suggests that
the word goes back to the 16th century in French. One of its meanings is
"to police" or govern. As an example of its earlier usage, Le PR cites
Babeuf (Gracchus): "The masters, instead of policing us, have barbarized

The OED (below as well, Greek letters omitted for plain text) likewise
indicates that the word originates in 16th century France. It cites its
use in English as early as 1601.

Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.):

civilize, v.
[app. f. 16th c. F. civilizer (Cotgr.) now civiliser; app. representing
a med. or mod.L. civilizare, to make civil (a criminal matter), whence
transferred to 'make civil' in other senses; f. -is civil + verbal
formative -izaZre, ad. Gr. -¬feim, in mod.F. -iser, Eng. -ize, q.v.]
1. To make civil (sense 7); to bring out of a state of barbarism, to
instruct in the arts of life, and thus elevate in the scale of humanity;
to enlighten, refine, and polish. to civilize away; to do away with, by
1601 Cornwallyes Ess. ii. xxviii, And ciuilized, or ciuited..kisse the
1611 Cotgr., Civilizer, to ciuilize, bring to ciuilitie, make ciuill, to
tame, quiet, reclaime.
1631 Massinger Emperor East i. ii, I..civilize Their barbarous natures.
1641 J. Jackson True Evang. T. II. 102 The doctrine of the
Gospell..Christianizeth men, and then civilizeth them.

Le Petit Robert:

 civiliser [sivilize] v. tr. (Conjug. : 1)

. 1568; de civil

1¨ Faire passer (une collectivité) à un état social plus évolué (dans
l'ordre moral, intellectuel, artistique, technique) ou considéré comme
tel. Þ  civilisation; affiner, dégrossir, éduquer, policer. Les Grecs
ont civilisé l'Occident. « L'art civilise par sa puissance propre »

 policer [pClise] v. tr. (Conjug. : 3)

. fin XVIIIe; « gouverner » 1461; de police

¨ Vieilli ou littér. Civiliser, adoucir les mours de, par des
institutions, par la culture. « Les maîtres, au lieu de nous policer,
nous ont rendus barbares » (Babeuf).


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