This is my first question on this site. So, I just hope I would be helped here.

As used by historians, what is the difference between a 'civilization' and a 'culture'?

I used Google to find some logical answers but couldn't find anything satisfactory.

  • 2
    Can you expand your question, explaining what part of the wiki entries for culture and civilization you aren't satisfied with?
    – justCal
    May 2, 2017 at 15:59
  • Edited to clarify that you didn't want a general English Language question, and removed the request for opinions (which is by definition off-topic here). If you don't like the changes, feel free to revert them.
    – T.E.D.
    May 2, 2017 at 16:01
  • I need some main points to differentiate between them. Because, I would like to put the remarks in examination. I want to collect some ideas for examination because 'civilization' is our subject in Pakistan. May 2, 2017 at 16:01
  • I am as sick as a parrot because of "civilization" its concepts, and evolution! I looked up it on Google but I didn't find anything satisfactory. Now, I am looking for help over here. May 2, 2017 at 16:06
  • 1
    Using a linguistic aproach, I would say that a civilization is a culture with an army.
    – Santiago
    May 2, 2017 at 17:21

2 Answers 2


A civilization is a culture of a certain scale and complexity. All civilizations are cultures, but only a small subset of cultures are civilizations.

As the Wikipedia article on civilization puts it:

Historically, a civilization was a so-called "advanced" culture in contrast to more supposedly primitive cultures... In this broad sense, a civilization contrasts with non-centralized tribal societies, including the cultures of nomadic pastoralists, egalitarian horticultural subsistence neolithic societies or hunter-gatherers... Civilizations are organized in densely populated settlements divided into hierarchical social classes with a ruling elite and subordinate urban and rural populations, which engage in intensive agriculture, mining, small-scale manufacture and trade.

All human populations participate in one or more cultural groups regardless of whether they are part of a civilization.


Culture is a more general notion. "Civilization is characterized by urban development, social stratification, symbolic communication etc. (see Wikipedia). So we can speak of a Paleolitic culture, for example but not a civilization.

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