Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Short summary of The Clash of Civilizations by S. Huntington

"The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" (1996) by Samuel Huntington sets forth a hypothesis regarding the nature of global politics in the post Cold-War era. According to Huntington, wars in the 21st century will not be thought between countries (nationalism) not between ideologies (such as Liberalism, Marxism, Fascism etc.) as they did in the 20th century but rather between civilizations. In the "The Clash of Civilizations" Huntington listed several different civilizations comprising the world today (see detail below), and argued that after the end of the Cold-War the next battles will be thought between the Western civilization and the Islamic world (and it took history only 5 years to prove him right).

The philosophical backdrop to Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations" is the Hegel inspired thought (like Fukuyama's "End of History") that the fall of the Berlin Wall marks the end of human conflict with the eventual victory of Western Liberalism, Huntington opposes this by suggesting that conflicts are only about to take on a different shape, a cultural one. According to his hypothesis, when local and even national identities are being eroded by globalization culture in its broadest sense is becoming more and more important in defining who people are. A common religion, language, history, heritage and traditions is what groups people into sects that oppose one another.

Huntington's analysis also holds that globalization brings civilizations into closer interaction, resulting in higher tensions. The victory won by the West in the Cold-War and the global spread of its Capitalism actually prompted these processes and pitted the West against "the rest". The spread of Western ideology and economy actually drives other cultures into fundamentalism in an attempt to protect their cultural identity.

Huntington lists several civilizations and sub-civilizations including: the Western civilization, the Muslim world, Latin American civilization, the Eastern civilization, the Orthodox civilization and the Sub-Saharan African civilization. These civilizations are the tectonic plates of humanity, and when the clash earthquakes happen. Huntington further maps out the relations between the civilizations and their potential for conflict. For Huntington the most acute potential for conflict is along the fault lines of the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds (remember he first suggested "The Clash of Civilizations" in 1992 and published the book in 1996).