Formational and civilizational approaches. Comparison of formation and civilization approach

To develop an objective picture of the historical process, science needs to rely on certain general principles and methodology. This will streamline all the material accumulated by researchers and create effective descriptive models. Next, we consider the formational and civilizational approaches (a table briefly describing them will be given at the end of the article).formational and civilizational approaches

General information

For an extended period, subjectivist or objectively idealistic methods of studying history were used. From the standpoint of subjectivism, the process was explained by the activity of great people: kings, kings, leaders, emperors and other major politicians. In accordance with this, mistakes or, on the contrary, clever calculations provoked this or that event.The interrelation of such phenomena determined as a result the course and result of the historical process. According to the objectively idealistic concept, the decisive role was assigned to the influence of superhuman forces. In particular, we are talking about providence, the will of God and so on. With such an interpretation, the historical process became purposeful. Under the influence of these superhuman forces, there was a steady movement of society towards a predetermined goal. At the same time, major figures acted only as a tool, a means of these impersonal factors.


It was determined by the question of the nature of the driving forces of the process. The most common was the periodization of historical eras. In particular, they distinguish the Ancient times, Antiquities, the periods of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, as well as the New and the Newest times. In this sequence, the time factor was clearly expressed. At the same time, in the periodization, there were no qualitative substantive criteria for distinguishing these epochs.formational and civilizational approaches table

New concept

Marx tried to put the process on a scientific basis in the middle of the 19th century to overcome the shortcomings possessed by the methods of studying history.He formulated a new concept of materialistic description and explanation. It was based on 4 main principles:

  • The unity of humanity and, as a consequence, the historical process.
  • Regularities. In this question, Marx was based on the recognition of influence in the process of stable, common, repetitive, essential connections, as well as human relations and the results of human activity.
  • Determinism. This principle implies the recognition of the existence of dependencies and causal relationships. According to Marx, it is necessary to single out the determining, basic ones from the whole variety of phenomena. He considered one of the basic methods of producing various material goods.
  • Progress Marx believed that historical development is a progressive improvement of society, which rises to a higher level.

formational approach to history

Materialistic explanation: description

Its base is the formational approach to history. Marx, in his reasoning, proceeded from the fact that with the progressive, regular development of mankind as a whole, he needed to go through certain stages.Thus, the key position in the description and explanation of the driving factors of the process and periodization is occupied by the socio-economic formation. Actually, it represents the stages that Marx defined. In accordance with the definition of a thinker, the socio-economic structure is represented as an association of people at a certain level of development. At the same time, society has peculiar features. The term "formation" was borrowed from natural science by Marx.

Formational approach to history: the basis

As mentioned above, Marx assigned a key place to the method of producing various material goods. This or that technique is distinguished by a certain degree and character of the development of the productive forces and the corresponding interactions. In the latter, Marx called property relations the basis. The complex of industrial relations forms their basis. Legal, political and other interactions and institutions are built on it. They, in turn, correspond to forms of social consciousness. These include, in particular, morality, art, religion, science, and others.In the composition of the socio-economic formation, thus, there is all the diversity of human life at different stages of development.

The main stages of human development

civilizational approach to the study

According to the formational approach, there are five stages of human progress:

  • Communist (in it socialism acts as the first phase);
  • capitalist;
  • feudal;
  • slave;
  • primitive communal.

Transitions are based on the social revolution. As its economic basis, there is a deepening conflict between production forces, which have reached a new level and a conservative, outdated system of relations. This confrontation manifests itself in the form of strengthening social antagonisms, intensifying the struggle between the oppressed, demanding the improvement of their lives, and the dominant, interested in ensuring the safety of the existing system, classes.

The result of the revolution

As a result, the conflict leads to a change of the ruling layer. The winning class begins transformations in various areas of society. As a result, prerequisites are being formed for the formation of a new structure of legal, socio-economic and other relationships, a new consciousness and so on. As a result, a new formation appears.On the basis of this, in his theory Marx attached great importance to revolutions and class opposition. The struggle was recognized as the main driving force of history. At the same time, the revolution was characterized by Marx as the “locomotive” of progress.

Positive features

The concept described above has been dominant in Russia for the past 80 years. The advantages of the formational approach are that it forms a clear model explaining development using certain criteria, makes its driving forces clear. As a result, the process becomes natural, objective, progressive.correlation of formational and civilizational approaches


However, the formational approach of explanation and cognition also has disadvantages. Both domestic and foreign critics point to its shortcomings. First of all, they say that the story with this approach becomes unilinear. Marx formulated the theory as a synthesis of the European path of development. However, he saw that some states did not fit into it. However, they did not carry out a detailed development. Such countries he simply referred to the category of "Asian mode of production."On its basis, as Marx believed, a new formation is being formed. However, in Europe itself there are states that are not always possible to relate to such a scheme. In addition, the formational approach is characterized by a rigid linkage of events to the production method, the economic system of relations. The decisive role is assigned to extra-personal, objective factors. At the same time, the person as a subject of history puts the approach on a secondary plan. As a result, the personal content of the process is diminished.

Secondly, within the framework of the formation approach, the importance of conflict relations, including violence, is absolutized. The description of the process is carried out mainly through the prism of the struggle between classes. Opponents of this concept, making a comparison of the formational and civilizational approach, for example, say that social conflicts, being undoubtedly an integral component of society, do not play a leading role in it. This situation, in turn, requires revaluation and the place of political interactions. The structure of the formation approach contains elements of social utopianism and providentialism.In accordance with the above scheme, the development of the process must inevitably pass through specific stages. Marx and his students spent a lot of effort, proving the inevitability of the arrival of the communist era. It assumes that each person will contribute his wealth according to his abilities and receive material benefits according to his needs. The utopia of this concept is reflected in the last decades of the socialist system and Soviet power.

Civilization approach to history

It is to some extent opposed to the one described above. The civilizational approach to history began to take shape in the 18th century. But it reached its fullest development only by the end of the 19th and 20th centuries. The most prominent supporters of this approach include Weber, Spengler, Toynbee. Among the Russian supporters, Sorokin, Leontiev, Danilevsky stand out. The features distinguishing the formational and civilizational approaches are quite obvious. The philosophy and concepts of these systems are aimed at somewhat different areas of human life.


Formational and civilizational approaches have structural differences.In particular, the cultural development level of a society is considered to be the main element of the latter. The word "civilization" has Latin roots and, in translation, means state, civil, urban. Initially, this term was used in the designation of a certain level of social development, which occurred in folk life after a period of barbarism and wildness. The distinctive features of civilization are the existence of writing, the formation of cities, statehood, and social stratification.comparison of the formational and civilizational approach


The ratio of the formational and civilizational approaches in this sense is unequal. The latter undoubtedly has many more advantages. In particular, among them it is worth noting the following:

  1. The ability to apply the principles of a civilizational approach to the historical development of any state or group of countries. They are focused on the knowledge of the development of society in accordance with the specifics of the regions. Thus, the formational and civilizational approaches differ in their level of applicability. In this case, the latter can be called universal.
  2. The presentation of the story itself as a multivariate, multi-line process.
  3. The presence of certain highlighted criteria.Due to them, researchers have the opportunity to assess the level of progress in a particular state, region, ethnicity, as well as to analyze their contribution to world development.

The civilizational approach presupposes the integrity of human history. At the same time, the systems formed in the process of development can be compared with each other. This makes it possible to widely apply the comparative historical research methodology. This, in turn, implies consideration of the development of a region, nation, state not as an independent unit, but in comparison with the others. Thus, the formational and civilizational approaches have different depths of understanding processes. The latter allows you to more clearly record the features of development.

advantages of the formation approach


The above described the formational and civilizational approaches. The table below briefly illustrates their features.


Distinctive features

Formation approach

  1. The main direction of research is objective laws independent of a person.
  2. Material values, production are crucial.
  3. The movement of society is seen as a transition from lower to higher levels.

Civilization approach

  1. The center of research is the man. Consideration of society is carried out through the assessment of forms and products of political, social, cultural and other activities.
  2. The decisive role belongs to the worldview, the system of higher values, the cultural core.
  3. Society is represented as a set of civilizations that have their own characteristics.

Formational and civilizational approaches put different systems and values ​​in the lead. In the second case, social organization, culture, religion, and political system are of great importance. These elements have a close relationship with each other. Each component reflects the originality of a particular civilization. It should be noted that, despite the changes taking place under external and internal influences, the base and core remain unchanged. Civilizational approach to the study of the development of mankind highlights certain cultural types. The existing communities that occupy a particular area, having peculiarities of social and cultural progress, peculiar only to them, act as them.

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