[Marxism] Re: Civilization, civilisation
aymery at ix.netcom.com
Wed Jun 2 13:31:00 MDT 2004
Richard Fidler writes:
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 us".
Yes, the words "civil," "civiliser," as my entry indicates seem to get
into usage as early as the XIII or XIV century. the word "civilisation"
appears to have been coined later. The review of Patterson's book
(posted by Lou) seems to confirm this.
However, I am not sure how the usage moved from "policé" to
"civilisé." The meaning of policé (Etym: Greek: 'polis' = city), before
taking its modern usage (cops) was educated, "une personne
cultivée." To police the countryside was to bring the "higher" values
held in the cities to the 'peasants'. It also had (and still have, I think)
the meaning of political/social organization (polity).
It's also interesting to note that civil comes from the Latin "civis"
(citizen). So during that period of capitalism/colonialism, there seems
to have been a change in the thinking of those luminaries, moving from
the propagation of the "higher" values coming from the city to the
countryside, to the propagation of the "higher" values of the
people/citizens (racial connotation?) to the countries (being
colonized), in the name of progress of course!
To bring class into the picture, David Hume wrote to Turgot
(correspondence, 1767): "...Independently from land owners and
poor workers, there is in any civilized nation a group very
considerable and very opulent that employs its capital in commerce
and that gets important revenues by giving work to the poorer class."
(approximate translation from the French; in Histoire de la pensée et
des doctrines économiques, Luc Bourcier de Carbon, Editions
Montchrestien, 1971, Tome I, page 61).
And centuries later we're still at it....
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