Harry Redner: Beyond Civilization

Society, Culture, and the Individual in the Age of Globalization

Transaction, 2013


For Harry Redner, the phrase “beyond civilization” refers to the new and unprecedented condition the world is now entering – specifically, the condition commonly known as globalization. Redner approaches globalization from the perspective of history and seeks to interpret it in relation to previous key stages of human development. His account begins with the Axial Age (700–300 BC) and proceeds through Modernity (after AD 1500) to the present global condition.

What is globalization doing to civilization? In answering this question, Redner studies the role played by capitalism, the state, science and technology. He aims to show that they have had a catalytic impact on civilization through their reductive effect on society, culture, and individualism.

However, Redner is not content to diagnose the ills of civilization; he also suggests how they might be ameliorated by cultural conservation. Above all, it is to the problem of decline in the higher forms of literacy that he addresses himself, for it is on the culture of the book that previous civilizations were founded. This study will be of interest to sociologists, historians, and social and political theorists. Its style makes it accessible also to general readers, interested in civilization past, present, and future.


“Redner (Monash Univ., Australia) examines how the processes unleashed by globalization are usurping civilization as a means of social organization and mode for arranging identity. He argues that as globalization begins to make the World ‘unified’ and ‘uniform’, it wears away the cultural distinctions that have defined different forms of civilization. As this occurs, the historical foundations of cultural life found in the traditions of world civilizations become threatened with extinction as the civilizations evolve into an undifferentiated, globalized mass culture. Redner’s focus is primarily on the rise of Western civilization, particularly since the advent of modernity. Western modernity essentially unleashes a series of social processes that spread globally, such as industrial capitalism, the legal-rational state, and a focus on science and technology. In the wake of this dispersion of modernity, people are left in a ‘post-civilization’ age composed of a culture without depth and a cosmopolitanism without substance… [F]or those interested in a broad overview of the effects of modernity and globalization, the book is indispensable… Highly recommended.”  S. C. Ward, Choice

“[E]xplores the replacement of unique worldwide civilizations with one unified global culture.”  Book News

Beyond Civilization challenges us to rethink contemporary world society in the light of the great historical civilizations of East and West and their progressive dissolution and destruction by the combined forces of modernity from capitalism and the state to science and technology. The author opens up productive new perspectives by bringing globalization and civilizational theory together in a mutually illuminating interrogation, which informs and frames the crucial question of the future of civilization in the age of technological globalization.”  David Roberts, author, The Total Work of Art in European Modernism

“Will the protean dynamism of modernity finally gobble up culture or civilization? Harry Redner has been stretching our brains over these issues for forty years. Magisterial in scope, critical but generous in inflection, his new book is breathtaking. It takes a life’s work to achieve this: here is the book that is its result.”  Peter Beilharz, La Trobe University, Australia

About the Author:

Harry Redner was reader at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and was visiting professor at Yale University, University of California-Berkeley, and Harvard University. He is also author of Totalitarianism, Globalization, Colonialism and many other books.

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