The Clash of Civilizations

References: Fox, Jonathon. Ethnic minorities and the clash of civilizations: A quantitative analysis of Huntingtons thesis. British Journal of Political Science.

The Clash of Civilizations


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untington uses to support his thesis. For example for many of Huntingtons critics, the Gulf War was a case for “clash of state interests and not a case for “clash of civilizations”. Therefore, we may say that in this respect, the critics have focused on vast generalizations and inconsistencies.

Huntington is also very often is blamed for orientalist backdrop. According to Huntington, Islam turns to be a problem and even a threat to the West. He always privileges the West World and ignores the other - Islam. It is possible to say that such clash thesis distorts and de-humanizes the Muslims.

One more category of criticisms is about Huntington's policy recommendations on the basis of his understanding of post-Cold War global politics. Huntington looks for new enemies, which replace the rival of the Cold War, the Soviet Union. There are arguments that Huntington's theory is an ideological and strategic theory that aims at influencing the US foreign and defence policy (Edward W. Said 2001, 20). Huntington's scenario of World War III that stems from clash of civilizations interestingly fits best into military and representatives of arms industry. In this respect, it is possible to claim that the “clash of civilizations” is considered as determined thesis aiming at guiding the US foreign and security policy. What is more, some scholars criticize even Huntington's advice to pursue Atlantics policy, by means of strengthening relations with Europe to counteract Islamic-Confucian civilization.

There are some studies challenging the “clash of civilization thesis. It is interesting to review few of them - Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart's studies. In their study they have compared political and social values of the Muslim and Western societies. What is interesting, they have found that Muslims have no less democratic ideals than the West and the West is not so distinctive from Islam in terms of faith in democracy (Pippa Norris 2002, 12). In this regard, this study has significantly undermined Huntington's theory that Islam and the West have poles apart political values based upon leading religious cultures. These authors demonstrate the availability of similar political attitudes in the Muslim World as well as in the West World. What is more, many have criticized Huntington for his pessimistic vision of future and unawareness of the fact that collaboration and dialogue among civilizations are possible and even useful.

As a little conclusion, I would like to present some criticism that need no explanation and clearly outline Huntingtons flaws. The basic problem with Huntington's theory, however, is the conviction that all cultures aspire to imperial power. Huntington is not only inaccurate but his thesis has the potential to be extremely dangerous if taken as a prescription for making policy. Huntington's thesis maximizes the significance of cultural factors and minimizes the importance of nationalism. The problem is that most Islamic countries do not see themselves to be in conflict with the United States. Huntington paints an aggressive picture of the non-Western civilizations, Islam in particular, while ignoring the misdeeds of the Western civilization whose dominance is being challenged.

Further, within the paper it would be of use to mention some civilization clashes according to Huntington. As an example we may take the Cold War and 9/11 attack on USA. These two patterns are very similar and different at the same time. Both wars can be easily named as clash of civilizations, for involved two different civilizations and in its course endangered the whole planet.

The Cold War was a “Clash” of two different systems, for it is early to make a stress on cultural differences. On the first stage, there were political misunderstandings that have led to confrontation in all spheres of life including cultural diversity. The Cold War was putting on edge the whole world, for it saw the largest conventional and the first nuclear arms race in history.

Another significant event in our recent history is a 9/11 attack on the United States of America. It would be relevant to say that Huntington predictions have been truthful. For, we could not escape that great clash he forsaw between West and Muslim (or Islamic) world. Al-Qaeda (that is blamed to be responsible for 9/11 attack) considers its terrorist campaign against the United States to be part of a war between the ummahArabic for the “Muslim community”and the Christian and Jewish West. Many experts therefore say the September 11 attacks cannot be reduced to a “clash of civilizations”.

As a little conclusion, it is significant to state that it is impossible to say for sure whether Huntington was right in his observations. Definitely, he could have mistaken in some aspects, but we should not forget that some of his thoughts have real basis to be believed in.

It is evident that world politics is entering a new phase, in which the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of international conflicts will be cultural. Civilizations that are the highest cultural groupings of people are distinguished from each other by religion, history, language and tradition. These divisions are deep and increasing in importance. From Yugoslavia to the Middle East to Central Asia, the fault lines of civilizations are supposed to be the clash lines of the future. In this emerging era of cultural conflict, the United States must build alliances with similar cultures and spread its values wherever possible. With alien civilizations the West must be accommodating if possible, but confrontational if necessary. In the final analysis, however, all civilizations will have to learn to live in mutual tolerance and respect with each other.

If Huntington is right that clashes between civilizations are the greatest threat to world peace in the future, if he is right about our arrogance and conceit in believing that Western civilization is in the end of history; and if our leaders see no need to plan for the inevitable rise of other civilizations, I fear that the world map is due for another big change.
















  1. Fox, Jonathon. Ethnic minorities and the clash of civilizations: A quantitative analysis of Huntington's thesis. British Journal of Political Science. 32(3). 415-435.
  2. Herzfeld, Michael. 1997. Anthropology and the politics of significance. Social Analysis. 4(3). 107-138.
  3. Huntington. Samuel, 1993. The clash of civilizations. Foreign Affairs, 72(3):22-49.
  4. Graham, James. May, 2004. Samuel P. Huntington's Clash of Civilisations.
  5. Samuel P. Huntington. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), p. 43.
  6. Clash of civilizations. Online resourses from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
  7. Shireen T. Hunter, "The Future of Islam and the West: Clash of Civilizations or Peaceful Coexistence?", Fouad Ajami, M.E Ahrari, "The Clash of Civilizations: An Old Story or New Truth?", Yuksel Sezgin, "Does Islam Pose A Threat to the West?" Perceptions: Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 5, No. 2, (June-August 2000)
  8. Edward W. Said, "The Clash of Ignorance", The Nation, October 22 2001 and Mahmood Monshipouri, "The West's Modern Encounter With Islam: From Discourse to Reality".
  9. Robert Marks, "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" (Book Review).
  10. Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, "Islam and the West; Testing the Clash of Civilizations Thesis", John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Faculty Research Working Papers Series (RWP02-015), April 2002, p.14 ($File/rwp02_015_norris_rev1.pdf)






Part V of the book - The Future of Civilizations - is the really interesting part. Huntington points out that civilizations can reform and renew themselves. The central issue for the West is whether it can meet the external challenge while stopping and reversing the process of internal decay. He paints a scenario for a major war of civilizations and points out that the great beneficiaries will be those who abstain and closes by saying: "If this scenario seems a wildly implausible fantasy to the reader, that is all to the good. Let us hope that no other scenarios of global civilizational war have greater plausibility."

. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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