The Clash of Civilizations: a Summary of Samuel Huntington’s Controversial Political Analysis and Its Critics

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POLI 100 - F10N01

Gabrielle Bishop

The Clash of Civilizations:
A Summary of Samuel Huntington’s controversial Political Analysis and its Critics

“Culture and cultural identities, which at the broadest level are civilizational identities, are shaping patterns of cohesion, disintegration, and conflict in the post-Cold War World” - Samuel Huntington

POLI 100 - F10N01!

Gabrielle Bishop

In a 1993 article published in Foreign Affairs, Harvard Professor of Government and Political Scientist Samuel Huntington made a prediction for the 21st century that would go on to be both disputed and supported by experts around the globe. As the Iron Curtain of ideology of the Cold War had fallen, Huntington theorized that a new “Velvet Curtain” of culture would rise1. While the Cold War divided the world up into “communist and democratic” societies, the 21st century would feature conflicts between “clashing civilizations”, whose disputes would be rooted in various ethnic, cultural, and/or religious differences 2. In 1996, Huntington wrote a book titled: “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order”, which expanded upon these points. Some were intrigued, others, extremely offended. But, few could ignore the controversial predictions Huntington made about the future of global politics.

Huntington divides “The Clash of Civilizations” into five parts, the first of which is titled as:

“Part One: A World of Civilizations”. In this chapter, he identifies the six principal civilizations that make up the world, as well as two other “possible” civilizations3: 1. Sinic4: Includes China and the Chinese communities in South-East Asia. Vietnam and Korea are also in this group. 2. Japanese: Huntington stresses that Japanese civilization is very distinct, and does not necessarily fit in with other “Far Eastern” nations; having split off from China between 100 and 400 AD. 3. Hindu (Also referred to as “Indian” or “Indic”): Huntington notes that while there are Muslim communities within India, Hinduism has been essential to the culture of the subcontinent since for almost 4,000 years.

4. Islamic: This civilization emerged around 700AD in the Arabian peninsula, and quickly spread across North Africa, the Iberian peninsula, central Asia, the Subcontinent, and Southeast Asia. Many unique Islamic “sub-cultures” exist because of this (ex: Malay, Turkic, Persian, etc.) 5

5. Western (formerly known as “Western Christendom”): This civilization is widely viewed as having emerged at around 700AD, Huntington states, and comprises many states in Europe, and North & Latin America, as well as many European settler countries (such as Australia and New Zealand) 6. Latin American: While this civilization has its roots in European civilization, Huntington states that its corporatist & authoritarian culture is what truly sets it apart from Europe and North America. 7. Orthodox (possibly): Huntington mentions briefly that some other academics consider the Orthodox Russian civilization to be separate from Byzantine and Western Christian civilization.

8. African (possibly): Huntington also mentions that most scholars do not consider there to be an African civilization, with the exception of French Historian Fernand Braudel6 . He notes that North Africa is part of the Islamic civilization, and that Ethiopia has been known to constitute a civilization of its own7 . He theorizes that because of their rapid growth of identity, Sub-Saharan Africa could indeed become its own civilization, with a chance of South Africa being its “core state”8. In choosing to identify civilizations in this way, Huntington received a number of rebuttals; such as the one from Fethi Keles (who teaches in the Anthropology department at Syracuse University)9. In “The The Antinomies of Samuel P. Huntington: Some Anthropological Reflections on the American Pundit”, Keles criticizes Huntington for being “Eurocentric”, and too general; for not recognizing that...
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