The Clash of Civilizations is a theory, proposed by political scientist Samuel P. Huntington, that people's cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world. The theory was originally formulated in 1993 in a Foreign Affairs article titled "The Clash of Civilizations?", as a reaction to Francis Fukuyama's 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man. Huntington later expanded his thesis in a 1996 book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. The term itself was first used by Bernard Lewis in an article in the September 1990 issue of The Atlantic Monthly titled The Roots of Muslim Rage.
Mohammad Khatami introduced the idea of Dialogue Among Civilizations as a response to the theory of Clash of Civilizations. The term "Dialogue among Civilizations" became famous after the United Nations adopted a resolution to name the year 2001 as the year of Dialogue among Civilizations.
Additionally, the theory of Clash of Civilizations has attracted many criticisms, as explained below.
Huntington believed that while the age of ideology had ended, the world had only reverted to a normal state of affairs characterized by cultural conflict. In his thesis, he argued that the primary axis of conflict in the future would be along cultural and religious lines. As an extension, he posits that the concept of different civilizations, as the highest rank of cultural identity, will become increasingly useful in analyzing the potential for conflict. In the 1993 Foreign Affairs article, Huntington writes:
Huntington seems to fall in the primordialist school, believing that culturally defined groups are ancient and natural, however his early work would suggest he is a Structural Functionalist. His view that nation states would remain the most powerful actors is in line with realism. Finally, his warning that the Western civilization may decline is inspired by Arnold J. Toynbee, Carroll Quigley, and Oswald Spengler. Due to an enormous response and the solidification of his views, Huntington later expanded the thesis in his 1997 book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.'
The definition, nomenclature, and even the number of civilizations are somewhat ambiguous in Huntington's works. Civilizations may consist of states and social groups (such as ethnic and religious minorities). Predominant religion seems to be the main criterion of his classification, but in some cases geographical proximity and linguistic similarity are important as well. Using various studies of history, Huntington divided the world into the "major" civilizations in his thesis as such:
Huntington also argues that the widespread Western belief in the universality of the West's values and political systems is naïve and that continued insistence on democratization and such "universal" norms will only further antagonize other civilizations. Huntington sees the West as reluctant to accept this because it built the international system, wrote its laws, and gave it substance in the form of the United Nations. Huntington identifies a major shift of economic, military, and political power from the West to the other civilizations of the world, most significantly to what he identifies as the two "challenger civilizations", Sinic and Islam.
In Huntington's view, East Asian Sinic civilization is culturally asserting itself and its values relative to the West due to its rapid economic growth. Specifically, he believes that China's goals are to reassert itself as the regional hegemon, and that other countries in the region will 'bandwagon' with China due to the history of hierarchical command structures implicit in the Confucian Sinic civilization, as opposed to the individualism and pluralism valued in the West. In other words, regional powers such as the two Koreas and Vietnam will acquiesce to Chinese demands and become more supportive of China rather than attempting to oppose it. Huntington therefore believes that the rise of China poses one of the most significant problems and the most powerful long-term threat to the West, as Chinese cultural assertion clashes with the American desire for the lack of a regional hegemony in East Asia.
Huntington argues that the Islamic civilization has experienced a massive population explosion which is fueling instability both on the borders of Islam and in its interior, where fundamentalist movements are becoming increasingly popular. Manifestations of what he terms the "Islamic Resurgence" include the 1979 Iranian revolution and the first Gulf war. Perhaps the most controversial statement Huntington made in the Foreign Affairs article was that "Islam has bloody borders". Huntington believes this to be a real consequence of several factors, including the previously mentioned Muslim youth bulge and population growth and Islamic proximity to many civilizations including Sinic, Orthodox, Western, and African.
Huntington sees Islamic civilization as a potential ally to China, both having more revisionist goals and sharing common conflicts with other civilizations, especially the West. Specifically, he identifies common Chinese and Islamic interests in the areas of weapons proliferation, human rights, and democracy that conflict with those of the West, and feels that these are areas in which the two civilizations will cooperate. Russia, Japan, and India are what Huntington terms 'swing civilizations' and may favor either side. Russia, for example, clashes with the many Muslim ethnic groups on its southern border (such as Chechnya) but cooperates with Iran in order to avoid further Muslim-Orthodox violence in Southern Russia and in an attempt to continue the flow of oil. Huntington argues that a "Sino-Islamic connection" is emerging in which China will cooperate more closely with Iran, Pakistan, and other states to augment its international position.
Huntington also argues that civilizational conflicts are "particularly prevalent between Muslims and non-Muslims", identifying the "bloody borders" between Islamic and non-Islamic civilizations. This conflict dates back as far as the initial thrust of Islam into Europe, its eventual expulsion in the Iberian reconquest, the attacks of the Ottoman Turks on Eastern Europe and Vienna, and the European imperial division of the Islamic nations in the 1800s and 1900s. He believes that some of the factors contributing to this conflict are that both Christianity (upon which Western civilization is based) and Islam are:
More recent factors contributing to a Western-Islamic clash, Huntington wrote, are the Islamic Resurgence and demographic explosion in Islam, coupled with the values of Western universalism - that is, the view that all civilizations should adopt Western values - that infuriate Islamic fundamentalists.
All these historical and modern factors combined, Huntington wrote briefly in his Foreign Affairs article and in much more detail in his 1996 book, would lead to a bloody clash between the Islamic and Western civilizations. Along with Sinic-Western conflict, he believed, the Western-Islamic clash would represent the bloodiest conflicts of the early 21st century. Thus, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and subsequent events including the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have been widely viewed as a vindication of the Clash theory.
These conflicts may result from a number of causes, such as: relative influence or power (military or economic), discrimination against people from a different civilization, intervention to protect kinsmen in a different civilization, or different values and culture, particularly when one civilization attempts to impose its values on people of a different civilization.
Perhaps the ultimate example of non-Western modernization is Russia, the core state of the Orthodox civilization. The variant of this argument that uses Russia as an example relies on the acceptance of a unique non-Western civilization headed by an Orthodox state such as Russia or perhaps an Eastern European country. Huntington argues that Russia is primarily a non-Western state although he seems to agree that it shares a considerable amount of cultural ancestry with the modern West. Russia was one of the great powers during World War I. It also happened to be a non-Western power. According to Huntington, the West is distinguished from Orthodox Christian countries by the experience of the Renaissance, Reformation, the Enlightenment, overseas colonialism rather than contiguous expansion and colonialism, and a recent re-infusion of Classical culture through Rome rather than through the continuous trajectory of the Byzantine Empire. The differences among the modern Slavic states can still be seen today. This issue is also linked to the "universalizing factor" exhibited in some civilizations.
Huntington refers to countries that are seeking to affiliate with another civilization as "torn countries." Turkey, whose political leadership has systematically tried to Westernize the country since the 1920s, is his chief example. Turkey's history, culture, and traditions are derived from Islamic civilization, but Turkey's Western-oriented elite imposed western institutions and dress, embraced the Latin alphabet, joined NATO, and is seeking to join the European Union. Mexico and Russia are also considered to be torn by Huntington. He also gives the example of Australia as a country torn between its Western civilizational heritage and its growing economic engagement with Asia.
According to Huntington, a torn country must meet three requirements in order to redefine its civilizational identity. Its political and economic elite must support the move. Second, the public must be willing to accept the redefinition. Third, the elites of the civilization that the torn country is trying to join must accept the country.
As noted in the book, to date no torn country has successfully redefined its civilizational identity, this mostly due to the elites of the 'host' civilization refusing to accept the torn country, though if Turkey gained membership of the European Union it has been noted that many of its people would support Westernization. If this was to happen it would be the first to redefine its civilizational identity.
Amartya Sen wrote a book called "Identity and Violence: The illusion of destiny" in critique of Huntington's main concept of an inevitable clash along civilizational lines. In this book he argues that a root cause of violence is when people see each other as having a singular affiliation ie: Hindu or Muslim, as opposed to multiple affiliations: Hindu, woman, housewife, mother, artist, daughter, member of a particular socio-economic class...etc. all of which can be a source of a person's identity.
In his book Terror and Liberalism, Paul Berman proposes another criticism of the civilization clash hypothesis. According to Berman, distinct cultural boundaries do not exist in the present day. He argues there is no "Islamic civilization" nor a "Western civilization", and that the evidence for a civilization clash is not convincing, especially when considering relationships such as that between the United States and Saudi Arabia. In addition, he cites the fact that many Islamic extremists spent a significant amount of time living and/or studying in the western world. According to Berman conflict arises because of philosophical beliefs between groups, regardless of cultural or religious identity.
It has been claimed that values are more easily transmitted and altered than Huntington proposes. Nations such as India, Turkey, Japan, and Taiwan, as well as most Eastern European countries and Latin American countries, have become successful democracies in recent period, and the West itself was rife with despotism and fundamentalism for most of its history. Some also see Huntington's thesis as creating a self-fulfilling prophecy and reasserting differences between civilizations. Edward Said issued a response to Huntington's thesis in his own essay entitled "The Clash of Ignorance. Said argues that Huntington's categorization of the world's fixed "civilizations" omits the dynamic interdependency and interaction of culture. All his ideas are based not on harmony but on the clash or conflict between worlds. The theory that each world is “self-enclosed” is applied to the world map, to the structure of civilizations, to the notion that each race has a special destiny and psychology. According to Said, it is an example of an imagined geography, where the presentation of the world in a certain way legitimates certain politics. Interventionist and aggressive, the concept of civilizational clash is aimed at maintaining a war time status in the minds of the Americans. Thus, it continues to expand the Cold War by other means rather than advancing ideas that might help us understand the current scene or that could reconcile the two cultures.
As a genuine advocate of the often-elusive dialogue of religions and cultures, Pope John Paul II once observed: “A clash ensues only when Islam or Christianity is misconstrued or manipulated for political or ideological ends.” This insight – most applicable to the current crisis – perfectly mirrors that of Edward Said dispelling the myth of the Clash of Civilizations as a mere clash of ignorance.|||Hatim Salih
Critics (see Le Monde Diplomatique articles) call The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order the theoretical legitimization of American-led Western aggression against China and the world's Islamic cultures. Nevertheless, this post–Cold War shift in geopolitical organization and structure requires that the West internally strengthen itself culturally, by abandoning the imposition of its ideal of democratic universalism and its incessant military interventionism. Other critics argue that Huntington's taxonomy is simplistic and arbitrary, and does not take account of the internal dynamics and partisan tensions within civilizations. Huntington's influence upon U.S. policy has been likened to that of British historian A.J. Toynbee's controversial religious theories about Asian leaders in the early twentieth century.
Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for the UN Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations, has said:
Mr. Picco was appointed the Personal Representative to the Secretary-General for the United Nations Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations in 1999 in order to facilitate discussions on diversity, through organizing conferences, seminars and disseminating information and scholarly materials. Having served the United Nations for two decades, Mr. Picco is most recognized for participating in UN efforts to negotiate the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and in bringing an end to the Iran-Iraq war. He believes that people should take responsibility for who they are, what they do, what they value, and what they believe in.
Huntington's piece in Foreign Affairs created more responses than almost any other essay ever published in that journal. The thesis has received much criticism from wildly different paradigms, with implications, methodology, and even the basic concepts being questioned. In his book, Huntington relies mostly on anecdotal evidence. Despite his expectations, more rigorous empirical studies have not shown any particular increase in the frequency of intercivilizational conflicts in the post-Cold War period. In fact, regional war and conflict spiked immediately after the end of Cold War, then it has declined slowly and steadily since then. However, what proportion of existing conflict can be attributed to "intercivilizational conflict" and whether such conflict increase in proportion to the overall conflict would remain to be seen.
Some have argued that his identified civilizations are fractured and show little internal unity. The Muslim world is severely fractured along ethnic lines with Arabs, Persians, Turks, Pakistanis, Kurds, Berbers, Albanians, Bosnians , Africans and Indonesians all having very different world views. Moreover, the criteria of the proposed delineation are not clear. One can argue, for instance, that cultural differences between China and Japan are not more important than between China and Vietnam. However, Vietnam is put together with China under the label of the Sinic civilization while Japan is supposed to form a separate civilization. Whereas, Western civilization includes both Protestant and Catholic branches; and the Germanic (which would include Anglo Saxon) and Romance cultural differences in Western Europe are also disregarded, as well as Anglo Saxon countries (Britain, U.S., Canada, Australia, etc.) and Continental Europe. The distinction between the Western and Orthodox civilizations excludes non-religious factors, such as the post-Communist legacy or the level of economic development. It also ignores differences within Muslim communities.
In the case of Islamic societies, the "clash" may be with notions of "modernity" rather than with other comparable, religiously based societies or groups. Conflict arises between the values of traditional religion and those of consumerism and the entertainment world.
The Alliance of Civilizations (AOC) initiative was proposed at the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) in 2005 by the President of the Spanish Government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and co-sponsored by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The initiative is intended to galvanize collective action across diverse societies in order to combat extremism, to overcome cultural and social barriers between mainly the Western and predominantly Muslim worlds, and to reduce the tensions and polarization between societies which differ in religious and cultural values.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Huntington is increasingly regarded as having been prescient as the United States invasion of Afghanistan, 2002 Bali Bombings, 2003 Invasion of Iraq, the 2004 Madrid train bombings,the 2006 cartoon crisis, the 2005 London bombings, the ongoing Iranian nuclear crisis and the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict fueled the perception that Huntington's Clash is well underway.
Some maintained that the 1995 and 2004 enlargements of the European Union brought the EU's eastern border up to the boundary between Huntington's Western and Orthodox civilizations; most of Europe's historically Protestant and Roman Catholic countries (with the exception of Croatia and countries like Switzerland and Norway who voluntarily opted out of EU membership) were now EU members, while a number of Europe's historically Orthodox countries (with exceptions such as longtime EU member Greece and newly accepted Cyprus) were outside the EU. As others have noted, however, the NATO and EU membership of Romania and Bulgaria (since 2004 and 2007, correspondingly) present a challenge to some of Huntington's analysis and the line he drew throughout Romania failed to materialize. The recent tidal movements in Ukraine and Republic of Moldova show that there is no obvious limit between CIS and NATO either.
German geographers have pointed out that Huntington's regions of "civilizations" are affected by the concept of the "Kulturerdteile" (culture-continents) of the geographer Albert Kolb - a deprecated theory from 1962. In this theory, the effect of religious aspects was less important than historical and social aspects. Huntington notes in his book that German scholars hold a separate concept of civilization than presented in his analysis.
The Clash of Civilizations thesis may also be regarded as an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The ideas of Huntington and Bernard Lewis were already influential among American neoconservative figures such as Vice President Dick Cheney prior to September 11, 2001; Middle East scholar Gilles Kepel (2003) reports that many radical Islamists in the Middle East likewise viewed Huntington's thesis approvingly.
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