Difference Between Culture and Civilization

Culture vs Civilization

Human beings by nature are social creatures. Culture and civilization being two of the factors that determine the nature of the society we live in, it is of extreme importance that we are aware of the many differences between the two words. Although, most of the time,  the two words go hand in hand, it would be inaccurate to use them synonymously since culture and civilization stand for very different concepts.

What is Culture?

Culture, a concept that emerged in the 20th century, is a central concept in anthropology referring to various human phenomena that cannot be directly attributed to one’s genetics. While culture is usually interpreted in various ways, the most accepted definition of the term would be the distinct ways that people creatively represent and classify the different ways that they lived within each community. It is an integrated system of learned behavioral patterns which are not of biological origin and are characteristic of the members in a certain society, ethnic, or social group.

Culture can exist in either physical or intangible form. Physical artifacts of culture would include any physical material that is materialized as a product of beliefs, traditions and customs of a certain group of people with a definite culture. The intangible aspects of a culture would be the customs, traditions, beliefs, language, and behaviors of a certain group of people belonging to a definite culture. Culture often refers to an internal aspect of the human being, representing one’s feelings, thoughts, ideals, art, literature and values.  

What is Civilization?

Civilization can be generally defined as a stage of advanced human social development and organization. An ensemble of geographic, political, economic, religious and social structures, it is a ceremonial center for social and cultural activities. Civilization is a specific type of human community, made up of large, complex societies based on domestication of animals, plants, people, knowledge, beliefs and practices.

Civilization can also mean reaching an advanced state of the human society, where a high level of science, culture or industry has been reached. This would also come to mean a stage where authority of man over natural phenomena is practiced while social technology would control the man’s natural behavior. A civilization refers to an external aspect of the human being as it is a means of expression and a manifestation of utility of day to day life.  

What is the difference between Culture and Civilization?

• Civilization is much larger than a culture. It is a complex aggregate made up of many things out of which one aspect is culture.

• According to anthropologists of 19th century, culture developed itself earlier and civilization was created later. Civilization is a state of cultural development that is well advanced.

• Culture exists within a civilization. A civilization can be made up of several cultures.

• Culture can exist by itself. A civilization cannot be identified as a civilization if it does not have a certain culture.

• Culture exists in both tangible and intangible forms. A civilization is more or less tangible.

• Culture can be learned and transmitted through the medium of speech and communication from one generation to another. Civilization cannot be thus transferred easily because of its complexity and magnitude.

• Culture cannot be said to be advancing. Civilization is always in a state of advancement.


Further Readings:

1. Difference Between Culture and Tradition

2. Difference Between Culture and Heritage

3. Difference Between Eastern and Western Culture