Saturday, September 16, 2017

Clash of Civilizations explained

Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" (1996, based on a lecture from 1992) argues that after the age of big ideologies (Liberalism, Marxism, Fascism etc.) contemporary international relations will be determined by cultural and religious identities. Huntington argues (in the mid 90's) that future great wars will be fought not between countries but cultures or civilizations, starting with the clash between The western civilization and the Islamic world.

Huntington's Clash of Civilizations is a response to Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History" where he argued, based on Hegel, that the fall of the Berlin Wall marks the last stage of human development and conflict with the victory of western liberalism. Huntington agrees that ideology indeed reached its end as the power that drives global politics but argues that it is only replaced by the cultural, not ideological, aspects of identity. This, according to Huntington, will make civilizations the most important factor in analyzing contemporary historical events and processes.       

In "The Clash of Civilizations" Huntington divides the world into several civilizations:

The Western civilization. Christian Europe, North America and Australia.

The Muslim civilization. The Islamic Middle east, North Africa, parts of Asia, parts of the Balkans, Malaysia and Indonesia. 

Latin American civilization. Central and South America and the Caribbean.

The Orthodox civilization. Former Soviet union and parts of Eastern Europe.

The Eastern civilization. Southeast Asia including China, India and Japan.

The Sub-Saharan civilization. Most of Africa south of the Sahara.

(Note that this is a summary, Huntington goes into greater detail and specification of the regions and countries that belong to each civilization.

According to Huntington these civilizations differ fundamentally in almost every aspect of life and culture, with religion being a key factor. People in the modern era are uprooted from their local, even national, communities and this is why civilizations plays a bigger role in identity.  

According to Huntington globalization is bringing these civilizations into closer contact, a process that will result in clashes. The Western civilization is pivotal here, since its power is actually what drives other civilizations (and the western civilization itself) to seek ways to consolidate their identity against globalization pressures originating in the west.  Huntington  therefore thought that the next big global clash will be between the Western and Islamic civilizations, making "Clash of Civilizations" a prophecy fulfilled only 5 year after it was given.