The Clash of Civilizations

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"The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural," hypothesizes Samuel P. Huntington, author of "The Clash of Civilizations?" In cautious tones, he warns all Westerners of the impending cultural crisis that is rising to threaten the existence of enlightened Western thought and civilization. He forecasts major global cultures rolling up their sleeves to duke it out in a final battle of human identity, ignoring the real possibility of malleable and intertwining cultures that might actually emerge in the end, as Edward Said suggests. Author of Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism, Said studies Western imperialist culture and its passive legitimation through classic literature and a hawkish media. He concerns himself, also, with the power structures that accompany an imperialist culture. Both scholars agree that cultural heritage plays an important role in deciding a government’s role in society. As Huntington perceives, "Differences in culture and religion create differences over policy issues, ranging from human rights to immigration to trade and commerce to the environment." But Edward Said would beg to differ with Huntington’s thesis. Though not in direct response to Huntington’s essay, Said challenges any notion of The West vs. The Rest, articulating the superficiality of nationalistic and socio-cultural differences. An advocate of liberal muli-culturalism, Said would emphasize the inevitability of global, inter-cultural assimilation. He quotes T.S. Eliot, "An easy commerce of the old and the new/…The complete consort dancing together." With the advent of the Internet and satellite communications, the usefulness of nationalist and cultural identities becomes questionable as geographic barriers crumble, making room for a new, "global" identity (as optimistic and idealistic as that sounds). But Huntington makes a strong case for inter-civilizational strife, as he cites numerous examples from the Balkans to the Gulf...
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