A civilization or civilisation (see English spelling differences) is any complex society characterized by urban development, social stratification imposed by a cultural elite, symbolic systems of communication (for example, writing systems), and a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment. Civilizations are intimately associated with and often further defined by other socio-politico-economic characteristics, including centralization, the domestication of both humans and other organisms, specialization of labour, culturally ingrained ideologies of progress and supremacism, monumental architecture, taxation, societal dependence upon farming and expansionism. Historically, civilization has often been understood as a larger and "more advanced" culture, in contrast to smaller, supposedly primitive cultures. Similarly, some scholars have described civilization as being necessarily multicultural. In this broad sense, a civilization contrasts with non-centralized tribal societies, including the cultures of nomadic pastoralists, Neolithic societies or hunter-gatherers, but it also contrasts with the cultures found within civilizations themselves. As an uncountable noun, "civilization" also refers to the process of a society developing into a centralized, urbanized, stratified structure. 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. Civilization concentrates power, extending human control over the rest of nature, including over other human beings. Civilization, as its etymology (below) suggests, is a concept originally linked to towns and cities. The earliest emergence of civilizations is generally associated with the final stages of the Neolithic Revolution, culminating in the relatively rapid process of urban revolution and state formation, a political development associated with the appearance of a governing elite.
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