International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations

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The International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations (ISCSC) is an international scholarly organization dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of civilizations. Based at Western Michigan University in the United States,[1] the ISCSC holds an annual conference and publishes the journal Comparative Civilizations Review.

Brief history[edit]

In October 1961, in Salzburg, Austria, an extraordinary group of scholars gathered to create the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations. Among the 26 founding members from Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, England, Russia, the United States, China and Japan were such luminaries as Pitirim Sorokin and Arnold Toynbee. For six days, the participants debated such topics as the definition of “civilization,” problems in the analysis of complex cultures, civilizational encounters in the past, the Orient versus the Occident, problems of universal history, theories of historiography, and the role of the “human sciences” in “globalization.” The meeting was funded by the Austrian government, in cooperation with UNESCO, and received considerable press coverage. Sorokin was elected the Society’s first president. After several meetings in Europe, the advancing age of its founding members and the declining health of then president, Othmar F. Anderle, were important factors in the decision to transfer the Society to the United States. Between 1968 and 1970 Roger Williams Wescott of Drew University facilitated that transition. In 1971, the first annual meeting of the ISCSC (US) was held in Philadelphia. Important participants in that meeting and in the Society’s activities during the next years included Benjamin Nelson (the Society’s first American president), Roger Wescott, Vytautas Kavolis, Matthew Melko, David Wilkinson, Rushton Coulborn and C.P. Wolf. In 1974, the Salzburg branch was formally dissolved, and from that year to the present there has been only one International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations (ISCSC).

The presidents of the ISCSC are, in order: In Europe, Pitirim Sorokin and Othmar Anderle; in the United States, Benjamin Nelson, Vytautas Kavolis, Matthew Melko, Michael Palencia-Roth, Roger Wescott, Shuntaro Ito (from Japan), Wayne Bledsoe, Lee Daniel Snyder, Andrew Targowski, David Rosner and the current president Toby Huff. To date, the Society has held 46 meetings, most of them in the United States but also in Salzburg, Austria; Santo Domingo, The Dominican Republic; Dublin, Ireland; Chiba, Japan; Frenchman’s Cove, Jamaica; St. Petersburg, Russia; Paris, France; New Brunswick, Canada; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. More than 30 countries are represented in the Society’s membership. Its intellectual dynamism and vibrancy over the years have been maintained and enhanced through its annual meetings, its publications, and the participation of such scholars as Talcott Parsons, Hayden White, Immanuel Wallerstein, Gordon Hewes, André Gunder Frank, Marshall Sahlins, Lynn White Jr., and Jeremy Sabloff. The Society is committed to the idea that complex civilizational problems can best be approached through multidisciplinary analyses and debate by scholars from a variety of fields. The Comparative Civilizations Review, which welcomes submissions from the Society’s members as well as other scholars, has been published continually since its inaugural issue in 1979.


The ISCSC is a multidisciplinary scholarly organization that has connections with comparative studies programs throughout the world. The society holds an annual conference, often with the cooperation of other scholarly organizations based in the conference locale. One example of this is the 1998 conference held at Reitaku University in Japan together with the Japan Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations; the two organizations continue to have a close relationship.

The ISCSC publishes the bi-annual 'Comparative Civilizations Review', a peer-reviewed journal. The blog Civilitas: has been active since 2011.


  • Pitirim Sorokin 1961–64
  • Othmar Anderle 1964–71
  • Benjamin Nelson 1971–77
  • Vytautas Kavolis 1977–83
  • Matthew Melko 1983–86
  • Michael Palencia-Roth 1986–92
  • Roger W. Wescott 1992–95
  • Shuntaro Ito 1995–98
  • Wayne Bledsoe 1998–2004
  • Lee Daniel Snyder 2004–07
  • Andrew Targowski 2007–2013
  • David Rosner 2013-2016
  • Toby Huff 2016-2017
  • Lynn Rhodes 2017-current


  1. ^ Brett Bowden (July 2012). "Politics in a World of Civilizations: Long-term Perspectives on Relations between Peoples". Human Figurations: Long-term Perspectives on the Human Condition, Volume 1, Issue 2. Retrieved August 27, 2014.

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