McGuire Gibson's archaeological work ("Investigations,"
August/00) is fascinating, but his criteria for "civilization"
strike me as pretty uncivilized. According to the story, these
criteria are having "a division of labor, an organized and respected
hierarchy...to help societies develop order, defend themselves,
and provide opportunities for wealth to grow and arts to flourish."
This sociologist would like to know why having a
hierarchy is civilized and when one was ever respected except
by those at its top, whose order is being developed, who is being
defended against whom, and who gets the wealth.
Some societies do nicely without many of these inequalities,
and some also create art, if not always the museum kind. They
may lack complexity but appear more civilized than the one defined
by Prof. Gibson's criteria.
J. Gans, PhB'47, AM'50
New York, New