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Civilizations Under Stress: Reflections on Cultural Borrowing and Survival

ISSUE:  Winter 1975

THE words “culture” and “civilization” carry different meanings for different scholars. In this study both stand for that which is most fundamental and enduring about the ways of a group persisting in time. That is to say, they cover those values, norms, institutions, and modes of thinking to which successive generations in a given society have attached primary importance.

Numerous such discrete cultures have existed in time, and many can be recognized today. However, scholarly accords on the identification of cultures, past and present, cannot be presumed. Civilizations resist reliable mapping, and each scholar is therefore naturally inclined to chart his own way through the labyrinth of culture-related records by relying on mental processes of discernment, analysis, comparison, and evaluation that are congenial to him and his particular academic craft.

One of the major impediments in the path toward agreement is no doubt the fact that a culture—quite contrary in this respect to a state as this political unit is recognized in the modern state system and international law—is not administered by one center of authority and does not have precise boundaries either in space or in time. Indeed the contours of a civilization are bound to be fuzzy if only because the reach and intensity of its influence are unpredictable and because the timing of its impact cannot be controlled. Furthermore, not only are ideas—and these are the structural core of a civilization—airy and fragile entities which cannot be circumscribed as unequivocally as concrete events or institutions; they are also subject to more subtle metamorphoses than the latter in the sense that their life cycle cannot be dated or chronicled in manners common to the writing of straight political or economic history.


These difficulties in the morphology of any single civilization are naturally confounded when the focus of analysis shifts to intercultural relations and exchanges. Such communications—and they have marked all epochs in world history—occur in greatly diverse ways. Cultures may interact on the plane of biography as when an individual in culture A is deeply affected by the thought world of culture B. Now such an impact, however enriching or enfeebling for the particular person, is usually entirely devoid of historical consequences. The situation is altogether different only when the individual happens to be Alexander the Great or Mohammed; Eleanor of Acquitaine, Schopenhauer, or Gandhi; Picasso or Ataturk or Mao Tse-tung. For in such cases the reaction to culture B is known to have spawned entirely new, even revolutionary, systems of thought, among them some in which the germs of culture C become evident, at least in retrospect.

However, the most common auspices for intercultural encounters are offered by collective entities. And into this category one may place politically unified empires (such as those identified with Rome, Persia, China, Ottoman Turkey, Spain, France, Britain or the Soviet Union); multi-cultural nation states (like Malaysia, the Union of South Africa, Nigeria, or the United States); great trading cities and leagues of geographically far-flung towns; international systems of co-ordinate yet culturally disparate states, such as the United Nations and other international organizations, world churches, cosmopolitan societies, and fiscal or commercial associations.

Next, contacts between cultures may be willed or unwilled. Involuntary communications are illustrated by the imperceptible diffusion of an art style, a language, a religion, or a technique of doing things. Willed encounters include the importation of an alien crop; the deliberate propagation of a set of concepts, as for instance the dissemination of Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism by religious missions, or the translation and adaptation of texts; the implanting of literacy in formerly nonliterate areas such as Africa South of the Sahara, or of a special alphabet as evidenced by the work of certain Byzantine apostles in adjoining Slavic realms. Among numerous instances of purposeful interactions within the framework of a given political system one may cite: population policies that aim—officially at least—at the mingling or redistribution of culturally diverse national segments, as for example Alexander the Great’s insistence on intermarriages between Macedonians and Asians, or ancient Assyria’s device of forceably transferring culturally uncongenial peoples from one province to another—a precedent followed in the twentieth century by the Soviet Union in the administration, for example, of the Baltic region and by Maoist China in the management of Tibet; the methodical pairing or merging of traditionally different institutions, typified by Alexander’s attempt to fuse the Greek polis with the Iranian barony and by Great Britain’s colonial policy of Indirect Rule in such places as Singapore, Uganda, and Nigeria, in which indigenous and English institutions were made to coexist and interact; intentional efforts to resolve culture-conditioned conflicts and misunderstandings between states by resort either to some kind of negotiation or to armed force.

Lastly, and as the foregoing illustrations indicate, explicit allowance must be made for the fact firstly, that war is an encounter between civilizations whenever it involves culturally different units; secondly, that relations between cultures are bound to be conflicted in virtue precisely of their difference; and thirdly, that intercultural relations, whether willed or unwilled, may occur in conditions either of peace or of war or of protracted conflict. That is to say, they transcend these political dichotomies.

A few additional generalizations on the subject of encounters between civilizations are tenable. International historians, who are permitted an overview, are entitled to conclude that some civilizations have been more outgoing than others; that some regional histories have richer records of intercultural contacts than others; and that some periods are marked by more intense exchanges than others. For instance, communications in the Hellenistic Age and the first half of the twentieth century were so intense that contemporaries were tempted for a while to speak of One World and to assume that cultural differences had been superseded by a unified world culture. Yet, as historians of the Alexandrine and Hellenistic epochs know, Persians, Indians, Jews, Egyptians, Greeks, and Macedonians had in fact retained their cultural identities. And much the same may well be true today as we review the net result of that intense movement commonly known as Westernization. For the signals from Southern and Eastern Asia, the Middle East, Africa South of the Sahara, and even Latin America are certainly to the effect that residual, traditionally basic norms, values, dispositions, and modes of comportment have not been annulled by the leveling forces of Westernization.


In common parlance “borrowing” suggests a purposeful transaction between two parties—the lender and the borrower. That is to say, the word is not a mere synonym for “communication,” “exchange,” or “interaction.” In the rarefied context of comparative and international culture history, by contrast, in which neither intent and purpose nor the particulars of the ensuing exchange can be documented reliably, “borrowing” should probably be allowed to cover all processes or projected processes of transplanting ideas and institutions that can be verified. Contrary to interpersonal or even interstate relations—at least as these are understood in Western vocabularies of morality and law—”borrowing” is perfectly legitimate if it results in appropriation. Indeed in such a case we speak of “successful” cultural borrowing rather than of deceit and trickery.

These dimensions of the issue have received masterful treatment from Leo Frobenius and Oswald Spengler. Frobenius, who was the first to study Africa in depth as a living cultural organism, uses the term paideuma when he speaks of that core of a people’s culture which resists transformation and annulment. But he also maintains that the destiny of each culture, be it primitive or civilized, is heavily dependent upon a people’s capacity for assimilating new acquisitions and upon its talent for shaping these acquisitions into forms that harmonize with the paideumic structure.

Spengler, who was greatly influenced by Frobenius, went further in his examination of interactions between civilizations and societies. After chiding historians for their eagerness to establish causal series, which makes them count only the obvious influences and ignore those not readily apparent, he has this to say:

Two Cultures may touch between man and man, or the man of one Culture may be confronted by the dead form-world of another as presented in its communicable relies. In both cases the agent is man himself. The closed-off act of A can be vivified by B only out of his own being, and eo ipso it becomes B’s, his inward property, his work, and part of himself.

Commenting on the transfer of Buddhism from India to China in what is often called the “Indianization of China,” Spengler thus finds that there was no movement of “Buddhism” from India to China but only an acceptance of part of the Indian Buddhists’ store of images by Chinese of a certain spiritual tendency who then fashioned a new mode of religious expression having meaning for Chinese, and only Chinese, Buddhists. What matters in all such cases, he continues, is not the original meaning of the forms, but the forms themselves, for they suggest to the native sensibility of the observer potential modes of his own creativeness. Even though Indians and Chinese both felt as Buddhists in those days, they remained spiritually as far apart as ever—a conclusion which has since been confirmed by Arthur Wright, the foremost modern scholar on this particular intercultural encounter, even as it has been borne out by the record of actual Indo-Chinese relations. In light of subsequent developments it was thus plainly premature to assume that Chinese thought had been significantly Indianized.

Another prolonged process of so-called Indianization in the course of which Hinduism and Buddhism were allowed to impregnate several ancient societies in Southeast Asia, notably those in Java, Khmer-Cambodia, and Burma, had similarly negligible effects. For in this case too we find that the adjacent civilizations brought forth religious orientations, art styles, and political systems which diverged radically from models and designs associated with the Indian subcontinent. And closely analogous judgments commend themselves after a review of the great movement of Sinification which paralleled Indianization in parts of this vast Southeast Asian region. Each of the episodes here mentioned may thus be said to illustrate the proposition that the original connotations of ideas are not transferable in their authenticity; that borrowing is selective, and that grafting processes may stimulate unexpected forms of cultural growth.

The history of cultural relations between Europe and Asia confirms these general findings. Two particularly complex chapters—one relating to the Arab reception of the Hellenic legacy, the other to the impact of the modern Occident upon the Orient—suggest, furthermore, that misunderstandings and distortions of culturally indigestible foreign ideas ensue easily; that grafts are subject to outright ejection; and that such abortive attempts at cultural borrowing are apt to induce distrust, jealousy, or hostility in the ranks of the debtor civilization. That is to say, cultural borrowing does not necessarily lead to a narrowing of distances between the parties involved in the relationship. As Gibb, Von Grunebaum, Schaeder, Tarn, Saunders, and others have conclusively shown, Muslim Arabs thus valued the Hellenic inheritance for essentially utilitarian reasons. Being mostly interested in borrowing certain external forms or technical aspects, they knew how to disregard all elements in the Greek body of thought that would conflict with “the truth” as established in their fundamental Koranic norms and precepts. For example, in Aristotle’s work they singled out logic and metaphysics as objects of study because here their theologians found dialectical weapons and techniques of argument which they needed for the refutation of adversary positions and threatening new ideas. The substance and spirit of Greek philosophy, history, and literature, by contrast, constituted a challenge to which they refused to respond. In fact, their original openness to Hellenism gave way, in time, to withdrawal, isolationism, rebellion, and antagonism—a sequence of dispositions also discernible from the late nineteenth century onward when Muslim élites in the Middle East began to seek a selective attachment to the civilization of the modern West with a view, mainly, to rediscovering the sources of success in history. In the early phases of this morally and politically disconcerting period the borrower’s interest came to center on emulating forms of constitutional government and codes of law. In the later twentieth century, however, it was clear that the introduction of the technical Western idiom and apparatus had by no means been tantamount to the establishment of democracy and the rule of law.

Somewhat different reactions were registered in East Asia where law and government had also been selected in this epoch as suitable objects of Westernization. Japan’s Meiji Constitution of 1889 and varied borrowings from European, notably Swiss and German, public law, appeared to have been securely grafted upon trusted traditions of rule. But when Hozumi Yatsuka, a leading exponent of Japanese politics, had occasion to explain the modern hybrid system to a Western audience, he felt compelled to insist that the Meiji Constitution was an authorized, not a contractual, constitution which, having emerged wholly from the august solicitude of the emperor, was subject to abolition at the latter’s discretion. As Richard H. Minear points out, Hozumi’s writings have a thrust distinctly different from that of his Western informants—one that ought to oblige us to look to traditional Japanese ideas about the state and the emperor rather than to Western legal theories.

The conclusion that Western-type law is not the proper measure for the organization of human relations in Japan also holds for China. Here, where Confucian and Realist methods of statecraft had converged upon nonlegal systems of controlling both China proper and the peripheral societies over which Peking claimed dominance, international law was naturally viewed suspiciously when it was first encountered in the nineteenth century. In fact, Wheaton’s “Elements of International Law,” which had been translated into Chinese by an American missionary, was at that time regarded by mandarins as something of a Trojan Horse. Acquiescence in its presence appears to have set in only after it was discovered in a dispute with Prussia that international law could be a useful defensive weapon in relations with the West—an approach that also proved entirely compatible with the tenets of Marxism-Leninism which Maoist China was to borrow later on. For in the context of this ideology, too, it is axiomatic that international law is devoid of intrinsic normative validity in the conduct of international relations even as it may prove, on occasion, to be a tactically desirable device. In this particular case, then, the conclusion appears justified that the borrowing process has been successful, all the more so as Communist China has known how to reject explicitly almost every other import from without and how to discredit the earlier borrowing process as well as the foremost lending civilization.

The chief tool of these intricate exercises in intercultural relations has been the concept of “cultural aggression.” This form of imperialist stratagem, to cite a report dated December 29, 1950, by the writer Kuo Mo-Jo to his government, was implemented above all by American subsidies granted to Chinese religious, cultural, and medical enterprises as well as by American support of schools and welfare institutions. Two hundred hospitals, more than two hundred orphanages, approximately twenty leper sanitariums, thirty schools for the blind, and so on, are enumerated in this document in order to corroborate the thesis that “It [this aggression] has enabled American imperialists . . . to lead the Chinese people into error and to debase them with the intention of morally enslaving them.” As Von Grunebaum points out in connection with this reference, modern Arab spokesmen, among them the youthful Anwar as-Sadat, have vilified the West in very similar fashion, whereas Japanese reactions to the same phenomenon have been marked by a critical spirit of self-awareness.

A retrospective view of diverse episodes of cultural borrowing suggests that a grafting process is controllable, even though its ultimate outcome may not be predictable. In each case to which allusion has here been made, it has also been possible to point to an identifiable paideumic structure in Frobenius’ sense in terms of which foreign ideas were either integrated or ejected. Whether this will continue to be the case is, however, an open question if only because modern totalitarian statecraft can be presumed capable of knocking cultures out entirely.


Even though the preceding comments have suggested that borrowing does not imply cultural poverty or bankruptcy on the part of the receiving cultures, that lending does not presuppose the presence of a culturally wealthy or superior civilization, and that lenders and borrowers occasionally reverse their rôles, it may yet be justifiable to distinguish between strong and weak civilizations, provided, of course, that suitable criteria of distinction are found. It is in the framework of such inquiries that Talcott Parsons’ concept of “seedbed societies” appears useful, albeit with modifications that may have the effect of denaturing the original term.

In “Societies: Evolutionary and Comparative Perspectives,” Parsons argues that some societies have been seedbeds of development which became crucially important only long after the societies themselves ceased to exist. His exemplars here are ancient Israel and classical Greece on the ground that the former had a decisive influence on Islam, whereas the latter made a deep impact on Rome. In the Parsons scheme in which change is lord, societies are graded in accordance with their adaptive capacities as archaic, intermediate, and modern. The measure of distinction appears to be the understanding of law and the uses to which law is put; for law—Parsons writes—when developed to the requisite level, furthers the normative components of the societal structure from the exigencies of political and economic interests and from personal, organic, and physical-environmental factors. Since both Talmudic and traditional Islamic law lack the level of generality which Max Weber called “formal rationality,” neither can qualify as “modern” law in Parsons’ view. The societies in which these legal systems were operational must therefore be classed as “intermediate.” Confucian China could not break through archaic particularism, Parsons writes, because it had not developed a strong legally defined and protected order which could make economic activities relatively independent of requirements for particularistic political protection. And Rome failed the test, he concludes, because the empire did not bring forth a sufficiently integrated community even though Roman law came closest by far among pre-modern legal systems to meeting the formal aspects of these requirements.

The Parsons way of evaluating societies is persuasive if one holds to the view that all civilizations are fundamentally alike. Having the same potential for development, they may then be expected to evolve the same norms and to move in the same directions. And in such premises it is of course quite proper to apply the stern standards of accomplishment that have evolved in one particular civilization, namely, that of the Occident. This cannot be done, by contrast, if one finds in the process of isolating and comparing civilizations that there are few if any significant trans-culturally valid givens. In such a context China is culturally distinct precisely because its system of preferred values has never allowed for the understanding of law which is taken for granted in the West. Likewise, one would not have expected either the Chinese or the Indians to differentiate between the cosmic and the social orders in manners considered rational in the West, since the belief was traditionally dominant in both cultures that the social and political order is a function as it were of cosmic forces. And finally, it is doubtful whether our idea of development as progression—which provides the measure of evaluation in the Parsons model—is compatible at all with the philosophies of time encountered in the Orient; for what mattered most in classical China and India as well as in the Islamic culture world was after all the past. The challenge confronting countless generations thus called for “progress” by returning to the truths as they had been known, rather than by charting novel roads in future time.

Whatever the shortcomings of the two great Asian civilizations in the pure Parsons design, both may be said to qualify as seedbed societies on the ground that they have spawned enduring beliefs and institutions in a great variety of adjoining lands. Ancient Israel, by contrast, appears to have been a seedbed society only in so far as it gave the impetus to the evolution of Christianity and Islam. However, it had no effect anywhere upon art, metaphysics, philosophy, law, or political organization. Hellenie Greece—Parsons’ other classical example—may well be the seedbed culture par excellence if only because so much was invented here without any influence from without, and that in just about every field of human concern. Yet, and after allowance is made for the epoch of Hellenization in certain areas of the Middle East including Bactria and Northwest India, the impact has been lasting only in what later became known as European civilization. As Schaeder observes in a penetrating comparative study of human destiny in the Orient and the Occident, no changes or mutations of the human condition were induced by Greek thought in either Western, Southern, or Eastern Asia. In some of these areas it was Persia—traditionally the counterplayer to Greece—which left indelible marks. In fact, if the diversity of recipient or borrowing societies is one of the criteria in identifying seedbed cultures, Persia may well be the leading contender for this designation. Recognized by friends and foes in antiquity as the “prestige nation,” it was allowed to have profound effects upon Armenia and Cappadocia—the meeting ground, incidentally, of Greek and Persian cultures; the Jewish community, which evolved the Torah under Persian rule and incentive; India, where in Nehru’s view Iranian influences have been continuous, as well as upon the régimes called forth by Alexander the Great and his Hellenistic successors. In the Arab and Islamic world, meanwhile, the Persian impact upon statecraft, court organization, tax system, art, and architecture was so pervasive as to justify references to the Iranian conquest of Islam.

What then are seedbed civilizations, and in which if any ways are they different from seedbed societies as conceived by Parsons? Reflections on intercultural relations, notably cultural borrowing, suggest that such realms must be abodes of culturally distinct or original thought, and that the influences emanating from them should be intensive in effect, perhaps also extensive in scope. These conditions have been met by several of the world’s civilizations in the course of international history, most notably by Persia, Greece, and Western Europe. Neither of these influential nuclear areas borrowed much from other civilizations after its identity had become discernible, which meant in the case of Western Europe after Hellenic, Roman, Christian, and Germanic legacies had been blended into a unique life style. Two of these areas, namely Greece and Persia, are today mental references only, being defunct as culturally self-sustaining political systems, and the vitality of the third as a cultural creditor complex is in jeopardy today.


The varied destinies of civilizations raise several questions, among them the following: How does one measure “success” in the morphology of cultures? Are seedbed civilizations by definition culturally and politically resilient? Do they forfeit their status when they do not emerge intact from “times of troubles”? Conversely, is cultural borrowing stimulated by “times of troubles,” and is there a causal relation between such times of stress and significant breakthroughs in the development of civilization?

The term “Time of Troubles” was introduced into culture history by Arnold Toynbee in association with the following propositions or laws of history. Civilizations develop by responding successfully to the challenges they encounter. The records show, however, that each known civilization has come up against one challenge with which it could not cope because its creative minority proved no longer capable of having the mass of the people follow the elitist lead. There thus ensues a crisis or breakdown in the civilization which marks the beginning of the “time of troubles” (a phrase borrowed from the history of Russia) during which units of the same civilization are engaged in war. In the last phases of this troubled period, when the fighting instincts wane and the civilization is exhausted, a Universal Empire arises. It too is a creature of disintegration and men rebel against its oppressive presence by seeking salvation in religion and by promoting the evolution of a Universal Church.

Toynbee elucidates this cyclical pattern by pointing to developments in the civilizations of India, China, the Hellenic world of which Rome is in his view an integral part, and of Western European society after 1494. This sweeping attempt at equalizing cultures leads him to some rather startling conclusions. Since he had to find universal churches and empires in “Indie Society” and “Sinic Society” before he could locate the times of troubles that preceded these institutions he simply refers to Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism as “Churches” even though neither of these religions allows for such an appellation. Likewise he certifies certain periods in the histories of these Asian societies as extraordinarily troubled even though the incidence of fighting would be described as normal were the civilization analyzed on its own terms. For example, in referring to endemic and destructive warfare between local states in Northwest India during the times covering the life span of the Buddha, Toynbee goes out of his way to overlook the Hindu caste system, which stipulated that kings were members of the ‘warrior caste and had a religious duty therefore to be at war. Moreover, he quite ignores the historical fact that Buddhism, which originally taught a contrary doctrine, was ejected, that Hinduism remained the supreme reference, that wars were endemic on the Indian subcontinent also in subsequent centuries, and that India was culturally influential as a seedbed society in precisely these crucial war-marked periods.

When Toynbee turns to the antecedents of the Han Empire, he finds—quite rightly—a clearly marked time of troubles, known as the period of “The Warring States” (453—221 B. C.). What he fails to see or to say is that statecraft and the science of waging war as then perfected by the so-called School of Realists has been respected by successive Chinese governments including that of Mao Tse-tung, never more so than in the countless “times of troubles” with which they had to contend. For contrary to Toynbee, the flame of militarism did not burn itself out in what he calls the post-Confucian age. Not only did all Chinese schools of thought condone resort to war when neighboring states were badly governed or required chastisement for other reasons, but governments and pretenders to government traditionally followed their advice, even as China continued to play its rôle as a superior “creditor” nation in cultural relations with adjacent peoples, all indiscriminately described by spokesmen for this seedbed society as “barbarians.” That is to say, the acceptance and experience of military conflict had no troubling effect on China’s execution of “Heaven’s Mandate.”

Toynbee’s interpretation of the four hundred years’ crisis in Hellenic history, which commenced, in his opinion, toward the middle of the fifth century B. C. when the Greeks failed to break out of the narrow framework of the city state and engaged in interstate wars, is also open to criticism. What seems to be overlooked here is the consistent, deeply felt commitment to the small polis as the only form of political organization that was capable of serving man as an individual and a citizen and of furthering his independent and inventive genius. The price for the exercise of this option was chronic internecine conflict and ultimate disintegration, it is true. But as the rich records left by Greek philosophers, scientists, historians, artists, poets, and statesmen show, it was paid not only consciously but in full awareness of the tragic implications of the choice. Here too then one is entitled to conclude that a civilization flourished in the so-called “times of troubles” even as its political armor was gradually worn away.

It is clear in the perspective of comparative culture studies and international history—which is usually not the perspective of the world historian—that “trouble” is perceived and evaluated differently in different civilizations. This is so, we learn from Robert Livingston, a neurophysiologist also concerned with problems in intercultural communication, because there is no one metaphysical pool of universal human thought, no one language to dictate analogous logical processes of thinking, and no one culture to guide perception and commitment. What is critical in culture A may therefore be part of normal life in culture B. Likewise, what is perceived in one place as a challenge deserving of response may be totally ignored in another civilization.

The question whether times of troubles are a necessary precondition to significant breakthroughs in the development of civilization cannot receive a conclusive, trans-culturally valid answer in light of these probably immutable realities. Indeed, and as preceding comments have suggested, it is even questionable whether such concepts as “breakthrough,” “development,” and “advance” can be accommodated by all of the world’s civilizations. Subject to these reservations, however, it appears that the inventiveness of seedbed cultures has not been arrested or otherwise affected by internecine wars. All-Under-Heaven may have been in chaos in the Period of the Warring States, but it brought forth a great variety of new and diverse systems of ideas even as its élites succeeded in building what has been China ever since. Ancient Greece was ravaged by wars but none of these conflicts, not even the fratricidal Peloponnesian War, was instrumental in impeding daring and innovating thought. Indeed, the greatest names in Greek literature, historiography, science, and philosophy are associated with the tumult of this epoch. And greatly similar factual correspondences mark the histories of Renaissance Italy and of modern Europe, where breakthroughs in the natural sciences as well as in the humanities and arts appear not to have had any relationship at all with, for example, the Italian Wars, the Thirty Years’ War, the wars of the French Revolution, the Franco-Prussian War, or the First World War.

The further question, namely, whether times of troubles are conducive to cultural borrowings also resists a definitive answer, at least as long as one holds to Toynbee’s definition of “troubles.” Persia’s military defeat by Islamic forces certainly led to massive borrowings from the victorious new religion. Yet in this instance converse movements were even stronger. For in the war-filled centuries during which Mohammedanism was giving rise to a new civilization, the Persians not only developed their own language and their own variation of Islam, but also played the leading rôle in internationalizing Arabic and Islamic institutions. That is to say, they continued to represent their civilizations as a seedbed culture. And much the same can be said for classical Greece after its defeat by Macedon and Rome, and for modern Europe after the politically destructive experience of the great intra-civilizational war of 1914. Indeed, the massive yet deliberately selective borrowing of Occidental ideas and institutions by culturally discrete and politically autonomous societies of Eastern and Southern Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa occurred precisely in the first four decades of the twentieth century.


A retrospective view of seedbed civilizations under stress yields only a few transculturally valid conclusions, among them the following.

No civilization comes to mind that did not have its “times of troubles” in the sense of being required to cope with war. In fact, historical evidence indicates that war was not conceived in these societies as the worst or most calamitous of troubles. The opposite seems true, namely, that warfare was accepted as an integral part of existence, albeit on greatly various grounds. The trouble that is war thus did not doom, invalidate, or weaken the civilizations of China, India, Persia, Greece, and Western Europe. After all, none would have “survived” or could have been recognized as a creditor realm in intercultural relations had it been otherwise—that is to say, had the civilization in question not shown itself fit to absorb peace as well as war, military victory as well as defeat.

What was often wrecked by warfare were particular political structures and systems which represented a given realm at a certain point in time. Now these are of course important not only as specific manifestations of a culturally distinct realm but also as ramparts guarding against “trouble” from within and without. Yet the fact remains that such institutions are transient by comparison with the culture that had brought them forth, and that we are therefore dealing here with two sets of references which should not be confused. At any rate, survival and identity in the civilizations here surveyed have been functions not of particular political or economic arrangements but rather of certain fundamental ideas and mental persuasions which had lent uniqueness to the culture complex in the first place and which were not compromised in international relations even when the civilization was embattled.


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