Samuel P. Huntington

Samuel Phillips Huntington (born April 18, 1927) is an American political scientist who gained prominence through his "Clash of Civilizations"(1993, 1996) thesis of a new post-Cold War world order. Previously, his academic reputation had rested on his analysis of the relationship between the military and the civil government, his investigation of coups d'etat, and for his more recent analysis of threats posed to the U.S. by contemporary immigration.

Biographical details

Huntington graduated from Yale University, served in the army, earned his masters degree from the University of Chicago, and completed his doctorate at Harvard University all by the age of 23. He joined the faculty of the Harvard Government Department but was denied tenure in 1958 and accepted a position at Columbia University. In 1962, the Harvard Government Department offered him a tenured position and he spent the rest of his academic career in Cambridge, retiring in 2006 as Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor.

His first major book was The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations, which was highly controversial when it was published in 1957 but today is regarded as the most influential book on American civil-military relations.In the 1960s, he became a prominent scholar upon publishing Political Order in Changing Societies, a work that challenged the conventional view of modernization theorists that economic and social progress would produce stable democracies in recently decolonized countries. As a consultant to the U.S. Department of State, and in an influential 1968 article in Foreign Affairs, he advocated the concentration of the rural population of South Vietnam as a means of isolating the Viet Cong. He also was co-author of The Crisis of Democracy: On the Governability of Democracies, a report issued by the Trilateral Commission in 1976. During 1977 and 1978 he was the White House Coordinator of Security Planning for the National Security Council.

Notable arguments

Political Order in Changing Societies

In the 1970s, Huntington applied his theoretical insights as an advisor to governments, both democratic and dictatorial. In 1972, he met with Medici government representatives in Brazil; a year later he published the report "Approaches to Political Decompression", warning against the risks of a too-rapid political liberalization, proposing graduated liberalization, and a strong party state modeled upon the image of the Mexican PRI. After a prolonged transition, Brazil became democratic in 1985.

Huntington frequently cites Brazil as a success, alluding to his role in his 1988 presidential address to the American Political Science Association, commenting that political science played a modest role in this process. Critics, such as British political scientist Alan Hooper, note that contemporary Brazil has an especially unstable party system, wherein the best institutionalized party, Lula da Silva's Partido dos Trabalhadores (Party of the Workers), emerged in opposition to controlled-transition. Moreover, Hooper claims that the lack of civil participation in contemporary Brazil stems from that top-down process of political participation transition.

The Clash of Civilizations

In 1993, Professor Huntington provoked great debate among international relations theorists with the interrogatively-titled "The Clash of Civilizations?", an extremely influential, oft-cited article published in Foreign Affairs magazine. Its description of post–Cold War geopolitics contrasted with the influential End of History thesis advocated by Francis Fukuyama.

Huntington expanded "The Clash of Civilizations?" to book length and published it as The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order in 1996. The article and the book posit that post–Cold War conflict would most frequently and violently occur because of cultural rather than ideological differences. That, whilst in the Cold War, conflict likely occurred between the Capitalist West and the Communist Bloc East, it now was most likely to occur between the world's major civilizations — identifying seven, and a possible eighth: (i) Western, (ii) Latin American, (iii) Islamic, (iv) Sinic (Chinese), (v) Hindu, (vi) Orthodox, (vii) Japanese, and (viii) the African. This cultural organization contrasts the contemporary world with the classical notion of sovereign states. To understand current and future conflict, cultural rifts must be understood, and culture — rather than the State — must be accepted as the locus of war. Thus, Western nations will lose predominance if they fail to recognize the irreconcilable nature of cultural tensions.

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 Prof. 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.

Who Are We and immigration

Professor Huntington's, latest book, Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity, was published in May of 2004. Its subject is the meaning of American national identity and the possible cultural threat posed to it by large-scale Latino immigration, which Huntington warns could "divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, and two languages".

There is some criticism about this book. For details see Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity.


Huntington is credited with coining the phrase Davos Man, referring to global elites who "have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite's global operations". The phrase refers to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where leaders of the global economy meet.

The National Academy of Sciences controversy

In 1986, Prof. Huntington was nominated for membership to the National Academy of Sciences, with his nomination voted by the entire academy, but most votes, by scientists mainly unfamiliar with the nominee, are token votes. Professor Serge Lang, a Yale University mathematician, disturbed this electoral status quo by challenging Prof. Huntington's nomination. Prof. Lang campaigned for others to deny Huntington membership, and eventually succeeded; Prof. Huntington was twice nominated and twice rejected.

In the book Political order in changing societies that Huntington published in 1968 he used pseudo-mathematical arguments to prove that in the 1960s South Africa was a "satisfied society". Lang didn't believe the conclusion so he looked how Huntington justified this claim and saw that he used methodology which was simply not valid. Lang suspected that he was using false pseudo-mathematical argument to give arguments that he wanted to justify greater authority. It was, said Lang:-

... a type of language which gives the illusion of science without any of its substance.

Lang fought a vigorous campaign to prevent Huntington becoming a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1986 after he had been nominated. Lang was successful on this occasion and also on a second occasion when Huntington was again nominated. A detailed description of these events was published by Lang in Academia, Journalism, and Politics: A Case Study: The Huntington Case which occupies the first 222 pages of his 1998 book Challenges. Google Books, Contents:

Huntington's prominence as a Harvard professor and (as then) Director of Harvard's Center for International Affairs contributed to much reportage by The New York Times newspaper and The New Republic magazine of his defeated nomination to the NAS.

Prof. Lang was inspired by the writings of mathematician Neal Koblitz who accused Prof. Huntington of misusing mathematics and engaging in pseudo-science. Lang claimed that Huntington distorted the historical record and used pseudo-mathematics to make his conclusions appear convincing. Prof. Lang documents his accusations in his book Challenges.

Professor Huntington’s supporters include Herbert Simon, a 1978 Nobel Laureate in Economics. The Mathematical Intelligencer offered Simon and Koblitz an opportunity to engage in a written debate, which they accepted.


  • 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 dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.
  • The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do —— The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p.51.
  • Hypocrisy, double standards, and "but nots" are the price of universalist pretensions. Democracy is promoted, but not if it brings Islamic fundamentalists to power; nonproliferation is preached for Iran and Iraq, but not for Israel; free trade is the elixir of economic growth, but not for agriculture; human rights are an issue for China, but not with Saudi Arabia; aggression against oil-owning Kuwaitis is massively repulsed, but not against non-oil-owning Bosnians. Double standards in practice are the unavoidable price of universal standards of principle —— The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p.184.
  • In the emerging world of ethnic conflict and civilizational clash, Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems: it is false; it is immoral; and it is dangerous . . . Imperialism is the necessary logical consequence of universalism —— The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p.310.
  • In Eurasia the great historic fault lines between civilizations are once more aflame. This is particularly true along the boundaries of the crescent-shaped Islamic bloc of nations, from the bulge of Africa to central Asia. Violence also occurs between Muslims, on the one hand, and Orthodox Serbs in the Balkans, Jews in Israel, Hindus in India, Buddhists in Burma and Catholics in the Philippines. Islam has bloody borders —— "The Clash of Civilizations?", original 1993 "Foreign Affairs" magazine article.
  • Islam's borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power —— Huntington's 1998 text The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order.
  • Cultural America is under siege. And as the Soviet experience illustrates, ideology is a weak glue to hold together people otherwise lacking racial, ethnic, and cultural sources of community —— Who Are We? America's Great Debate, p.12.

Selected publications

See also


External links

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