The Value of Civilization: Exploring the Development of Technique and the Liberation through Work

Lucas Charbonnier

Hatched by Lucas Charbonnier

Jun 07, 2024

3 min read


The Value of Civilization: Exploring the Development of Technique and the Liberation through Work


The value and progress of a civilization can be measured in various ways. One common factor often considered is the development of techniques within a civilization. The mastery of nature, economic and political dominance, and the ability to create a more comfortable life are often seen as signs of progress. However, it is important to recognize the relativity of these values and the potential alienation that can arise from work. This article will explore the interplay between the development of technique and the liberation through work within civilizations.

I. Technique, Progress, and Power:

1. The Mastery of Nature:

One of the primary aims of developing techniques is to improve the quality of human life by effectively mastering nature. Through this mastery, the material needs of humans are better satisfied, leading to a more comfortable and fulfilling life. The ability to achieve grand dreams and aspirations becomes possible through the development of techniques.

2. Economic and Political Dominance:

Possessing advanced techniques often signifies the power of a state. It allows for the imposition of rules and regulations on other states, leading to economic and political dominance. It is tempting to hierarchize civilizations based on their unique technical advancements, considering each civilization as a step in the evolutionary process toward increasingly technologically advanced societies.

II. The Relativity of Values:

1. The Risk of Ethnocentrism:

Civilizations tend to belittle or dismiss others that do not resemble their own. Ethnocentrism arises when a particular ethnic group becomes the reference model for evaluating the values of civilizations. According to Levi Strauss, there is no universal model for hierarchizing the values of civilizations, as each civilization fears what is dissimilar to it.

2. Alternative Criteria for Value:

The Western civilization, over the past few centuries, has dedicated itself to the progress of techniques, aiming to provide humans with increasingly powerful mechanical means. However, it is erroneous to proclaim this as a universal criterion. The degree of ability to triumph over the most hostile geographical environments can also serve as a criterion for evaluating the value of a civilization.

III. The Liberation through Work:

1. Work as Alienation:

The Greeks viewed work as a form of enslavement, the antithesis of freedom, reducing individuals to a cyclical life trapped in a production-consumption loop. Work becomes alienated when it is external to the worker, fragmented into multiple small tasks, and the worker cannot perceive the result of their labor. In this scenario, individuals become mere cogs in a machine, with only the wage as a perceived reward, leading to alienation.

2. The Mastery of Nature and Humanization:

Work and techniques empower individuals to become masters and possessors of nature, contributing to their happiness and the attainment of desired ends through the efficient utilization of natural laws. Additionally, work serves as a process of humanization, as individuals transform the world around them and, in turn, transform themselves. Through work, individuals gain self-awareness, distinguishing themselves from nature and attaining their humanity.


The development of techniques and the liberation through work are interconnected aspects of civilization. While the mastery of nature and the progress of techniques contribute to a more comfortable life and economic power, it is crucial to avoid ethnocentrism and recognize alternative criteria for evaluating the value of civilizations. Moreover, work, when not alienated, can lead to humanization and self-realization. To leverage these insights, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Embrace cultural diversity and avoid the pitfalls of ethnocentrism to appreciate the unique values and contributions of different civilizations.
  • 2. Assess the value of a civilization beyond its technological advancements by considering its ability to adapt and thrive in challenging environments.
  • 3. Foster work environments that promote the meaningful engagement of individuals, encouraging self-expression, and providing opportunities for personal growth.

By understanding the complex relationship between the development of technique and the liberation through work, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the diverse values and progress of civilizations throughout history.

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