The Rise Of Civilization: exploring Arnold J. Toynbee’s Challenge and Response Theory

Rise of Civilization

The word Civilization is derived from the Latin ‘Civitas’. Which means city or citizen. Lewis Morgan and Edward Taylor considered the stages of human progress from barbarism, savagery and finally civilization. Arnold J. Toynbee has provided the most updated theory about the Rise of Civilization.

Doctrines Of The Origin Of Civilization

All the information that researchers have provided about the origin of civilization can be divided into five categories :-

  1. The Geographical Theory
  2. Soil-exhaustion Theory
  3. Topographical Theory
  4. Nomadic Theory
  5. Challenge and Response Theory

The latest and modern theory about the rise of civilization is the British historian ‘Arnold Joseph Toynbee’s Challenge and Response Theory ‘.

What does Toynbee’s theory says about the origin of civilization?

In his book (A Study of History), he discussed at length, the point that adverse environments and opposites help people to create better cultures. Toynbee said in this context, ”Man achieves civilization, not as a result of superior biological endowment or geographical environment, but as a response to a challenge in a situation of special difficulty which rouses him to make a hitherto unprecedented effort.” According to Toynbee, when man is faced with adversity, his creative genius or creative power is revealed and ultimately it is this creative power that helps him to overcome the challenge.

Different religions and religious stories tell of the conflict between the two forces. One is God, the other is Shaitan. One is good and the other is bad power. There is constant conflict between them. However, in the end good forces prevail.

Sometimes, in the conflict between God and Shaitan, God wins against Shaitan through a Prophet. Here we can mention the reunion of Adam and Eve, Who, having been led astray by Shaitan, only to be led astray by God, are confronted by Shaitan with an opportunity given by God.

Toynbee identified five stimuli for the creation of civilization in hostile environments, They are:

• The stimulation from difficult natural obstacles

• The stimulation of new land

• The impulse to escape from the conquered state

• The stimulation of escape from stress or attack

• Incentives for release from penal status

Toynbee shows that different civilization have existed or are still existing on earth for thousands of years. Various adversities have played an important role behind this survival.

For example, Toynbee states that, the Egyptian Civilization developed due to its ability to overcome many obstacles and exploit the dense forest and swampy terrain of the Nile Valley. Similarly, people developed the Mesopotamia civilization along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates river.

The people of Maya civilization fought against the constraints of the tropical forest. The barrier of the Aegean Sea had to be overcome to develop Crete and The Aegean Civilization.

The civilization that developed in this way faced some obstacle. Toynbee’s theory states that since beginning of creation every animal has faced obstacles in its quest for survival. Those who fail in this battle are lost. And those who won created and developed civilization and gradually added and made new discoveries.

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Author: MP Bench

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