The clash of civilizations is a treatise in which Samuel Huntington radically argues for a shift in the geopolitical landscape of the world. According to the author, the world societies are likely to differ not based on the ideal nation state. Rather, the ground of differentiation lies in the civilization orchestrated by the religious, ideological and idealistic forces that determine nation states. However, Huntington is cautious not to presuppose the death of nationalism. He outlines a reasonable ground for ideological clashes of civilizations. He insists that the western set of reasoning would always be in competition with Asian, African and other regional ideals. The crux of the matter, according to Huntington, is nations and regions are determined to advance their local ideologies at an international level. He asserts the unfortunate but the fact that the Western powers have abused various economic, military and political institutions to blatantly promote their own courses that have in them colossal western ideological undertones.
According to the author, non westerners perceive political, economic and social decisions and policies made in an international context by Western dominated institutions as express forms in which the Westerners promote their ideologies. The clash, however, is that not in every instance would such ideologies go unchallenged. It these challenges, that inform divisions and disagreements at the international level.
The author traces his proposition through a historical account of world occurrences. He begins from the origin of the clashes in which the birth of nation states began. It becomes clear that the exclusive reign, control and expansion by emperors, monarchs and traditional leaders essentially laid the ground for the establishment of the nation states. In fact, the French revolution was a product of the reign by despotic and non democratic leaders. The author argues that it was during that period that the battle lines of conflict were drawn between civilizations outlining a departure from the previous struggle between princes and the populace.
The author suggests the bases for civilization lies in the cultures of the people. In fact, he propounds the various civilizations being Arabs, Chinese, Westerners and African people. He asserts that common culture and traditions inform the basics for the establishment of a civilization. It is from this premise that various civilizations struggle to have control and dominance in the larger international context. The inevitable happens, in that the civilizations at one time or another run into collision against each other. It is these clashes that the author suggests would continue to dominate the international landscape.
In his illustrations, the author brings out different manifestations in which the clashes suffice. It could be through economic, political, social and even religious policies. The Arabs, for example, are recognised for their defence of Islam; the Westerners embrace Christianity while the Africans have embraced a blend of both religions depending on the region in Africa. The author narrows down into specifically eight forms of civilizations in the world. These include Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic Orthodox, Latin American and African. He argues that the eight civilizations would possible clash at their fault lines. This he says in recognition of the inevitable meeting of people from different civilizations. The meeting would lead into interactions that essentially establish avenues for interactions.
Huntington outlines reasons explaining why clashes of civilizations would be inevitable. He argues that the differences in civilizations are real and basic in nature. He outlines history, language, tradition, culture and religion as some of the basic aspects that inform the differences in civilizations. However, despite the real differences, the world has become increasing small so that people of different civilizations meet and interact. He goes on to mention the changing economic model in the world, in which social change and economic modernization buoyed by globalization, is increasingly diminishing the domestic effect of one’s culture through exposure into other cultural norms and practices.
The author then takes a radical approach claiming that the dual role of the West also plays an essential role in the clash of civilizations. The position of the West at the top of the power set up makes it able to advance its civilization. However, non- Western nations have exploited the loophole to transit back to their roots, which essentially requires observation of their civilizations. The author further attributes the clashes to the immutability of cultural differences, as opposed to political and economic clashes, which are easily compromised and resolved. He even goes on to give an explicit example in which he rightly observes that Russians cannot be Estonians or otherwise. Finally, the author attributes the clashes to increasing economic regionalism which in essence is credited for the shift of nationalistic clashes into a more region based clashes. In other words, societies are becoming more cohesive not based on the national boundaries but regional boundaries. The latter bases rely in common cultural practices.
Analysis of the article
The article rightly suggests that the trend lately and in the near future would be skewed towards a civilization clash rather than nation based clashes. From a critical perspective, one ought to examine in details world affairs and unfolding. Even today, the economic struggle has become culture based with Chinese determined to control and govern the world through application of the cultural practices. In strong opposition to the Chinese prosperity are two civilizations, namely, the West and Japan. The two are fighting hard to contain the emergence and economic growth of China. This war should not be narrowly perceived as an economic war rather it is the threat of the emergence of a Chinese civilization dominant in the entire world that worries other civilizations.
That civilizations would form the main ground for conflicts, is clearly illustrated in the patterns of war that have characterised the world affairs especially post World War II. After Soviet Union and America engaging in the reneged and bloodless cold war, the direction of war has tended towards civilizations fighting each others. The war against terror passes out as a perfect and convenient example. Does it mean only the Islam civilization is embracive of terrorist activities? Why is it that the West has as a matter of convenience engaged Islam nations in war, in the pretext of terrorism war? Some sceptics have asserted that the West is just intolerant of a progressive Islam nationhood and to a large extent civilization.
In fact, fundamentally backing that assertion is the facts that Western backed governments in Islam nations have more than often criticised their own nation states. States such as Saudi Arabia and the Egypt led by fallen veteran Mubarak, operate or operated like Western puppets, at least, in as far as their Arab counterparts are concerned. The contest cannot be limited to economic, political and social matters as the West would like others to see. Rather, the contest lies in the desire to maintain a hedge of their civilization across the entire globe.
World political leaders from non- West nations are continuously exploiting this narrative for political mileage further rubberstamping the civilization clash. In political set ups and campaigns, the political class insist that the sovereignty of their countries ought to be respected and due law complied with. The objective of such political narrative is founded on the now continuous clash of civilizations at the international levels. Just like the author rightly observed, political, social and economic institutions have been dominated by the West who as a matter of practice, continuously feed the globe with their philosophy and policy with heavy undertones from their civilizations. This inevitably leads to a clash especially in the wake of calls to go back to one’s traditional roots.
Finally, with increasing regionalism, nations are finding it convenient to compete in the globe as a united region. The binding artifice in the region is the shared ideologies and civilizations. Countries want to gain competitive advantages through regionalism without necessarily having to forgo their cultures. The effect of such an approach has been seen through reduced nationalistic restrictions yet a rather cautious approach when dealing with nations outside respective regions. A case in point could be seen in the author’s mention of Turkey relative to her application to join the European Union. The reluctance of the European Union at Turkey’s membership could only be explained in the context of a civilization gap between Turkey and the larger European Union states.
Adler, Philip J and Randall L Pouwels. World Civilizations:Since 1500. New York: Cengage Learning, 2011.
Huntington, Samuel. "The Clash of Civilizations." Bint Jbeil (1993). .
Shimko, Keith L. International Relations:Perspectives and Controversies. New York: Cengage Learning, 2009.