In Walden, Thoreau frequently compares American society is to what were then considered "primitive" or "savage" societies, such as that of the Native Americans. Thoreau also juxtaposes our society with ancient societies such as the Greek or Chinese. In both of these comparisons, American society often loses. Instead of becoming a more just society, Thoreau sees everywhere around him a barbaric attachment to wealth and political power. We are still savages, according to Thoreau, and worse, we haven't even maintained the best customs of so-called savage societies – lose-lose. Our author argues that the project of civilization remains incomplete as long as materialism, injustice, and intolerance prevail.
Civilization is only another form of barbarism for Thoreau. It has no redeeming value.
Thoreau's allusions to ancient philosophical texts reveal their relevance to modern American society.