Samuel Huntington

Samuel Huntington
“The Clash of Civilizations”
The context
Who is Samuel Huntington?
What prompted him to write “Clash
of Civilizations”
What has he done since?
The Hypothesis
World politics is entering a new
phase in the wake of the end of the
Cold War
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
Conflict in Modern History
Conflict in the modern era, for Huntington,
has been largely a sequence of;
(a) conflicts between princes (what we will
study as the “Westphalian system”),
(b) conflicts between nation-states (after the
French revolution), then
(c) conflicts between ideologies (during the
Cold War)
Underlying Assumptions
Huntington is reproducing what we
might call a ‘neo-Hegelian’ view of
history (history as unfolding through
Assumes that the end of the Cold
War is a defining moment in history,
“a tipping point”
Assumes that civilizations are fairly
fixed over time
The Contemporary Era
For Huntington, this means that
international politics, hitherto, was in
a western phase; non-western
civilizations were the objects of
history, the targets of western
colonialism. In the post-Cold War,
they “join the West as the movers
and shapers of history”.
Civilizations and History
In this view, contemporary civilizations represent
the product of a long process of ‘identity
It is the incompatability between these core
values that will produce inevitable conflict
between different civilizations
While from a contemporary perspective this may
seem like a new phenomenon, it is actually a
reversion to a previous period of history
Read in this fashion, the “clash of civilizations”
represents the closing of a parenthesis in world
What is a Civilization?
Three attributes: objective, subjective,
and dynamic.
(1) Objective elements include
language, history, religion,
customs, institutions
(2) Subjective elements include
variable levels of self-identification
(3) Civilizations are dynamic; they rise
and fall, divide and merge
Why will civilizations clash?
Differences between civilizations are
more fundamental and enduring than
ideological or political differences.
Interactions between civilizations are
Economic modernization and social
change are separating people from
longstanding identities; they weaken the
nation-state as a source of identity.
The rest of the world is increasingly
willing to define itself in non-Western
Cultural characteristics are less
mutable and less easily
compromised than political and
economic ones.
Economic regionalism is increasing,
which will increase “civilization
consciousness”. Common culture,
Huntington argues, may be a
prerequisite for economic
The Two Levels of the Clash
At the micro level, groups clash along
the “fault lines” of adjacent
At the macro level, states from
different civilizations compete for
political and economic power.
The “kin-country syndrome”
Groups or states becoming involved
in a war with groups or states from
another civilization will attempt to
rally other groups or states from
their own civilization behind their
Examples may be, the Gulf War, the
former Soviet Union in the Caucasus,
and Yugoslavia.
The West versus the Rest?
Talk of “the world community” and the “free
world” is, according to Huntington, a thin
veneer for the domination of global affairs
by western interests.
The West sees its values as universalist
(meaning that they are applicable to
everyone, irrespective of civilization).
International institutions based on these
values are merely tools for maintaining
and promoting western values and
Torn countries?
Some countries are torn over which
civilization their country belongs
to (Russia, Mexico, Turkey).
They can redefine their identity
on three conditions;
(1) A supportive elite
(2) Acquiescent masses
(3) Willingness from the dominant
The Biggest Challenge to the
The biggest challenge to the West will
come from an emerging ConfucianIslamic connection, primarily
concentrated around the asserted
right to develop and deploy NBC
weapons (counter to the western
value of non-proliferation).
Nation-states may not disappear, singular
civilizations will not become the norm.
(1) civilization-consciousness is increasing
and will become the dominant source of
(2) The west will need to strengthen its own
civilization to meet the challenge
(3) The West will need to better understand
other civilizations and seek to define
areas of potential co-existence