by John Armstrong

Graywolf Press, $24.00, 208 pages

What is civilization? When most people hear that question they think of Western Civilization, Islamic, Civilization, Chinese Civilization. Those responses do not answer the basic question of what is civilization, however. John Armstrong takes on that question in his new book In Search of Civilization, a look at an idea that has been tarnished and largely forgotten.

When we think of civilization, we think of specific examples.  Rarely do we probe deeper and actually think of what civilization is, that it might be something more than just the ugly parts of our history. Instead it is something deeper: it is both the material world and the spiritual world. It is something where we try to recreate the Renaissance everyday, to learn and explore new ideas and new concepts. To drive society to the best it can be, along with all the bumps that will happen.

This is a book for thinkers, people who really want to get down and learn about civilization. It is not for everyone, and some people might not agree with Armstrong, but he makes some valid points. He is bringing to life a neglected idea.

Reviewed by Kevin Winter