Huntington, Samuel. (1996). The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster.
reviewed by Sharlene Swartz, as sent in an email to Graeme Codrington on 7 Nov, 2001

The Clash of Civilizations is an impressive book: its analysis of ancient and recent events that have shaped the world is breath-taking, well referenced and a superb introduction to international relations (even for a youth worker).
It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.
Samuel Huntington, a professor of political science at Harvard University, wrote this book in the aftermath of the Balkan conflict, the dismantling of communism and the Gulf War, but since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre, it has become extremely popular. The reason – its prescient thesis that future global conflict would not be between nation states (e.g. USA and Russia), social classes, rich and poor but rather between civilizations that are defined by shared values, cultures and religions.
“Rather than being brought closer by economic globalisation or modernization, the civilizations will clash over cultural differences�, he writes.
Huntington defines 8 major civilizations: Sinic (China, Vietnam and Korea); Japanese; Hindu; Islamic; Orthodox Russian; Western; Latin-American and African. He then proceeds to sketch past conflicts in each civilisation, which is informative for the lay person. One frustrating lack in the analysis of African and Latin-American civilisations. Mostly, Huntington is concerned with the way in which Islamic, Western and Asian cultures may be expected to interrelate with one another. But the lessons to be learned are legion.
He sees friction growing as America’s efforts to promote Western culture grate against religious identities in the other civilizations. He says that the wars of the future are likely to arise out of “Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance and Sinic assertiveness�.
But Huntington doesn’t assume that Islam is uniform, nor does he ignore the intra Islamic conflict – not merely between Shiite and Sunni, or nation states such as Iran and Iraq, or Iraq and Saudi (the Gulf War). But he says that:
Conflicts and violence will also occur between states and groups within the same civilization. Such conflicts, however, are likely to be less intense and less likely to expand than conflicts between civilizations. Common membership in a civilization reduces the probability of violence in situations where it might otherwise occur.
The world, Huntington says, is not becoming homogeneous; English is not a lingua franca nor likely to be one any time soon; the sort of capitalism preached in the halls of the IMF and World Bank in Washington, or celebrated each winter at the World Economic Forum in Davos, is not sweeping all before it. The economic boom is occurring in Asia not in the West. Common culture is clearly facilitating the rapid expansion of economic relations e.g. Economic Cooperation Organization, which brings together ten non-Arab Muslim countries; Caricom, the Central American Common Market and Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay), all of which rest on common cultural foundations.
The efforts of the West to promote its values of democracy and liberalism to universal values, to maintain its military predominance and to advance its economic interests engender countering responses from other civilizations. Decreasingly able to mobilize support and form coalitions on the basis of ideology, governments and groups will increasingly attempt to mobilize support by appealing to common religion and civilization identity.
Huntington lists 6 reasons why civilizations will clash:
1. The differences between civilizations are basic: The people of different civilizations have different views on the relations between God and man, the individual and the group, the citizen and the state, parents and children, husband and wife, as well as differing views of the relative importance of rights and responsibilities, liberty and authority, equality and hierarchy. These differences are far more fundamental than differences among political ideologies and political regimes.
2. The world is becoming a smaller place: The interactions between peoples of different civilizations are increasing; these increasing interactions intensify civilization consciousness and awareness of differences between civilizations and commonalities within civilizations. It often invigorates differences and animosities stretching or thought to stretch back deep into history.
3. Economic modernization and social change: The processes of economic modernization and social change throughout the world are separating people from longstanding local identities. They also weaken the nation state as a source of identity. In much of the world religion has moved in to fill this gap, often in the form of movements that are labeled “fundamentalist.” Such movements are found in Western Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as in Islam. In most countries and most religions the people active in fundamentalist movements are young, university-educated, middle-class technicians, professionals and business persons. The unsecularization of the world, is one of the dominant social factors of life in the late twentieth century. The revival of religion, provides a basis for identity and commitment that transcends national boundaries and unites civilizations.
4. A Return to roots: On the one hand, the West is at a peak of power. At the same time, however, and perhaps as a result, a return to the roots phenomenon is occurring among non-Western civilizations. Increasingly one hears references to trends toward a turning inward e.g. Asianization” in Japan, “Hinduization” of India, the failure of Western ideas of socialism and nationalism and hence “re-Islamization” of the Middle East, and now a debate over Westernization versus Russianization in Russia. A West at the peak of its power confronts non-Wests that increasingly have the desire, the will and the resources to shape the world in non-Western ways. In the past, the elites of non-Western societies were usually the people who were most involved with the West, had been educated at Oxford, the Sorbonne or Sandhurst, and had absorbed Western attitudes and values. At the same time, the populace in non-Western countries often remained deeply imbued with the indigenous culture. Now, however, these relationships are being reversed. A de-Westernization and indigenization of elites is occurring in many non-Western countries at the same time that Western, usually American, cultures, styles and habits become more popular among the mass of the people.
5. Culture is entrenched: Cultural characteristics and differences are less changeable and hence less easily compromised and resolved than political and economic ones. In the former Soviet Union, communists can become democrats, the rich can become poor and the poor rich, but Russians cannot become Estonians and Azeris cannot become Armenians. In class and ideological conflicts, the key question was “Which side are you on?” and people could and did choose sides and change sides. In conflicts between civilizations, the question is “What are you?” That is a given that cannot be changed. And as we know, from Bosnia to the Caucasus to the Sudan, the wrong answer to that question can mean a bullet in the head. Even more than ethnicity, religion discriminates sharply and exclusively among people. A person can be half-French and half-Arab and simultaneously even a citizen of two countries. It is more difficult to be half-Catholic and half-Muslim.
6. Economic regionalism is increasing: The proportions of total trade that are intra-regional rose between 1980 and 1989 from 51% to 59% in Europe, 33% to 37% in East Asia, and 32% to 36% in North America. The importance of regional economic blocs is likely to continue to increase in the future. On the one hand, successful economic regionalism will reinforce civilization-consciousness. On the other hand, economic regionalism may succeed only when it is rooted in a common civilization.
In this battle of the west versus the rest, Huntington goes on to show that the “rest� have adopted 1 of 3 stances towards the West:
1. Isolation: to insulate their societies from penetration or “corruption” by the West, and, in effect, to opt out of participation in the Western-dominated global community. e.g. Burma and North Korea,
2. Band-wagoning: an attempt to join the West and accept its values and institutions.
3. Balance: Balancing the West by developing economic and military power and cooperating with other non-Western societies against the West, while preserving indigenous values and institutions; in short, to modernize but not to Westernise.
The West in effect is using international institutions, military power and economic resources to run the world in ways that will maintain Western predominance, protect Western interests and promote Western political and economic values. That at least is the way in which non-Westerners see the new world, and there’s a significant element of truth in their view.
At a superficial level much of Western culture has indeed permeated the rest of the world. At a more basic level, however, Western concepts differ fundamentally from those prevalent in other civilizations. Western ideas of individualism, liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of law, democracy, free markets, the separation of church and state, often have little resonance in Islamic, Confucian, Japanese, Hindu, Buddhist or Orthodox cultures. Western efforts to propagate each ideas produce instead a reaction against “human rights imperialism” and a reaffirmation of indigenous values, as can be seen in the support for religious fundamentalism by the younger generation in non-Western cultures. The very notion that there could be a “universal civilization” is a Western idea, directly at odds with the particularism of most Asian societies and their emphasis on what distinguishes one people from another.
Indeed, the author of a review of 100 comparative studies of values in different societies concluded that “the values that are most important in the West are least important worldwide.”
Western civilization is both Western and modern. Non-Western civilizations have attempted to become modern without becoming Western. To date only Japan has fully succeeded in this quest. Non-Western civilization will continue to attempt to acquire the wealth, technology, skills, machines and weapons that are part of being modern. They will also attempt to reconcile this modernity with their traditional culture and values. Their economic and military strength relative to the West will increase. Hence the West will increasingly have to accommodate these non-Western modern civilizations whose power approaches that of the West but whose values and interests differ significantly from those of the West.
But the division is not only between the West and the Rest but also between Western Christianity, on the one hand, and Orthodox Christianity and Islam, on the other. The most significant dividing line in Europe may well be the eastern boundary of Western Christianity in the year 1500. The peoples to the north and west of this line are Protestant or Catholic; they shared the common experiences of European history — feudalism, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Industrial Revolution; they are generally economically better off than the peoples to the east; and they may now look forward to increasing involvement in a common European economy and to the consolidation of democratic political systems. The peoples to the east and south of this line are Orthodox or Muslim; they historically belonged to the Ottoman or Tsarist empires and were only lightly touched by the shaping events in the rest of Europe; they are generally less advanced economically; they seem much less likely to develop stable democratic political systems.
Finally, on the issue of trans-civilisation coalitions, Huntington is quick to point out that while they do happen, they seldom last, He cites the Western-Soviet-Turkish-Arab anti-Iraq coalition of 1990 [which] had by 1993 become a coalition of almost only the West and Kuwait against Iraq. In an interview in the Boston Globe (6 November, 2001) Huntington is pessimistic about he future of the current coalition against terrorist and countries sponsoring them.
This book does not argue that civilization identities will replace all other identities, that nation states will disappear, that each civilization will become a single coherent political entity, that groups within a civilization will not conflict with and even fight each other. It does set forth the hypotheses that differences between civilizations are real and important; civilization-consciousness is increasing; conflict between civilizations will supplant ideological and other forms of conflict as the dominant global form of conflict; international relations will increasingly be de-Westernized; successful political, security and economic international institutions are more likely to develop within civilizations than across civilizations; conflicts between groups in different civilizations will be more frequent, more sustained and more violent than conflicts between groups in the same civilization; violent conflicts between groups in different civilizations are the most likely and most dangerous source of escalation that could lead to global wars.

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