Lecture Ten: The Plurality of Civilizations and the Unity of History
In the civilizational studies, the plurality of civilization is a topic very difficult to escape. Because there were different civilizations even in ancient times and and there are different civilizations at present and also because when civilizations were growing, they pick up their own unique characteristics or qualities. Yet believe all these take place in the unity of history. The plurality of civilizations is easy to understand, because you have quite a few civilizations even at present times, not just one. The unity of history is not that easy to understand. Very often this notion depends on what perspectives you have. If we accept the perception that the differences and unity of civilizations are all relative, then we must also accept the fact of there being different perspectives. Although the East Asian, European and South Asian civilizations have their different values, customs and cultures, there’s also something they share in common in the way of their progressive historical growth or social and economic development.
In the final analysis, the so-called five-stage theory of social development, which used to be a dominant narrative, is based on this. Indeed the civilizations in their different historical stages display a relative synchroneity or simultaneity in the way of the social development level. Fundamentally, this relative simultaneity of social development level springs from what I call a congenital geographical pattern or the fact that the Eurasian continent is a continuous and massive geographical whole in which most of human history took place before modern times. It is exactly this geographic continuousness that makes possible different civilizations’ relative simultaneity of social development level. Apart from this, we also have reasons to say that it is exacly this geographic reality, this colossal landmass called Eurasia, that makes possible the relative.