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David O. Wilkinson

The study of comparative civilization raises a variety of questions; for example, how “civilization” is related to “culture,” what criteria shall be used to distinguish one civilization from another, or whether the past of civilizations can tell us anything about the future of our global civilization. One way to approach these elements of the comparative-civilizational problematique is by analyzing the successive theses of notable workers in the field, from Herodotus of Halicarnassus and Marco Polo to Garcilaso Inca de la Vega, Ibn Khaldun, Giambattista Vico, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The works of Hegel and four other scholars—Nikolai Danilevsky, Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee, and Pitirim Sorokin—are considered classics in the study of macrosocial systems. More recent studies of macrosocial systems that deserve consideration are those by André Gunder Frank and Barry Gills; Christopher Chase-Dunn and Thomas Hall; Carroll Quigley; Matthew Melko; and Samuel P. Huntington. The “civilizations” and “world-systems” approaches to macrosocieties are both strongly concerned to explain political conditions like hegemony and rivalry, general war, and general peace. Thus, it would be useful to concentrate on the political–military–diplomatic foci of both approaches. A key to making comparative-civilizational research more systematic is to identify the spatio-temporal boundaries of civilizations as complex systems with particular locations in space and time.