Huntington’s thesis of civilizational clash
Russia 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—according to Huntington—cooperates with Iran to avoid further Muslim-Orthodox violence in Southern Russia, and to help 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 and the attacks of the Ottoman Turks on Eastern Europe and Vienna. Huntington also believes that some of the factors contributing to this conflict are that both Christianity (which has influenced Western civilization) and Islam are:
• Missionary religions, seeking conversion of others
• Universal, “all-or-nothing” religions, in the sense that it is believed by both sides that only their faith is the correct one
• Teleological religions, that is, that their values and beliefs represent the goals of existence and purpose in human existence.
• Religions that perceive irreligious people who violate the base principles of those religions to be furthering their own pointless aims, which leads to violent interactions.
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. The political party Hizb ut-Tahrir also reiterate Huntington’s views in their published book, The Inevitability of Clash of Civilisation.
Why Civilizations will Clash
Huntington offers six explanations for why civilizations will clash:
1. Differences among civilizations are too basic in that civilizations are differentiated from each other by history, language, culture, tradition, and, most important, religion. These fundamental differences are the product of centuries, so they will not soon disappear.
2. The world is becoming a smaller place. As a result, the interactions across the world are increasing, and they intensify civilization consciousness and awareness of differences between civilizations and commonalities within civilizations.
3. Due to the economic modernization and social change, people are separated from longstanding local identities. Instead, religion has replaced this gap, which provides a basis for identity and commitment that transcends national boundaries and unites civilizations.
4. The growth of civilization-consciousness is enhanced by the dual role of the West. On the one hand, the West is at a peak of power. At the same time, a return-to-the-roots phenomenon is occurring among non-Western civilizations. A West at the peak of its power confronts non-Western countries that increasingly have the desire, the will and the resources to shape the world in non-Western ways.
5. Cultural characteristics and differences are less mutable and hence less easily compromised and resolved than political and economic ones.
6. Economic regionalism is increasing. Successful economic regionalism will reinforce civilization-consciousness. Economic regionalism may succeed only when it is rooted in a common civilization.
The West versus the Rest
Huntington suggests that in the future the central axis of world politics tends to be the conflict between Western and non-Western civilizations, in Kishore Mahbubani’s phrase, the conflict between “the West and the Rest.” He offers three forms of general actions that non-Western civilization can take in response to Western countries.
1. Non-Western countries can attempt to achieve isolation in order to preserve their own values and protect themselves from Western invasion. However, Huntington argues that the costs of this action are high and only a few states can pursue it.
2. According to the theory of “band-wagoning” non-Western countries can join and accept Western values.
3. Non-Western countries can make an effort to balance Western power through modernization. They can develop economic, military power and cooperate with other non-Western countries against the West while still preserving their own values and institutions. Huntington believes that the increasing power of non-Western civilizations in international society will make the West begin to develop a better understanding of the cultural fundamentals underlying other civilizations. Therefore, Western civilization will cease to be regarded as “universal” but different civilizations will learn to coexist and join to shape the future world.
Core state and fault line conflicts
In Huntington’s view, intercivilizational conflict manifests itself in two forms: fault line conflicts and core state conflicts.
Fault line conflicts are on a local level and occur between adjacent states belonging to different civilizations or within states that are home to populations from different civilizations.
Core state conflicts are on a global level between the major states of different civilizations. Core state conflicts can arise out of fault line conflicts when core states become involved.
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.
Modernization, westernization, and “torn countries”
This article contains weasel words: vague phrasing that often accompanies biased or unverifiable information. Such statements should be clarified or removed. (October 2012)
Critics of Huntington’s ideas often extend their criticisms to traditional cultures and internal reformers who wish to modernize without adopting the values and attitudes of Western culture. These critics[who?] sometimes claim that to modernize is necessary to become Westernized to a very large extent.
In reply, those who consider the Clash of Civilizations thesis accurate often point to the example of Japan, claiming that it is not a Western state at its core. They argue that it adopted much Western technology (also inventing technology of its own in recent times), parliamentary democracy, and free enterprise, but has remained culturally very distinct from the West, particularly in its conceptions of society as strictly hierarchical. Contradictory evidence on a more granular scale in turn comes from empirical evidence that greater exposure to factories, schools and urban living is associated with more ‘modern’ attitudes to rationality, individual choice and responsibility.
China is also cited by some[who?] as a rising non-Western economy. Many[who?] also point out the East Asian Tigers or neighboring states as having adapted western economics, while maintaining traditional or authoritarian social government.
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 ancient Greece 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[clarification needed].
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 elite, beginning with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who took power as first President of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, 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 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.
The book claims that 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 in the European Union, it has been noted that many of its people would support Westernization, as in the following quote by EU Minister Egemen Bağış: “This is what Europe needs to do: they need to say that when Turkey fulfills all requirements, Turkey will become a member of the EU on date X. Then, we will regain the Tukish public opinion support in one day.”. If this were to happen, it would, according to Huntington, be the first to redefine its civilizational identity.
Huntington has fallen under the stern critique of various academic writers, who have either empirically, historically, logically, or ideologically challenged his claims (Fox, 2005; Mungiu Pippidi & Mindruta, 2002; Henderson & Tucker, 2001; Russett, Oneal, & Cox, 2000; Harvey, 2000). In an article explicitly referring to Huntington, scholar Amartya Sen (1999) argues that “diversity is a feature of most cultures in the world. Western civilization is no exception. The practice of democracy that has won out in the modern West is largely a result of a consensus that has emerged since the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, and particularly in the last century or so. To read in this a historical commitment of the West—over the millennia—to democracy, and then to contrast it with non-Western traditions (treating each as monolithic) would be a great mistake” (p. 16).
In his 2003 book Terror and Liberalism, Paul Berman argues that 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 various groups share (or do not share), regardless of cultural or religious identity.
Edward Said issued a response to Huntington’s thesis in his 2001 article, “The Clash of Ignorance”. Said argues that Huntington’s categorization of the world’s fixed “civilizations” omits the dynamic interdependency and interaction of culture. A longtime critic of the Huntingtonian paradigm, and an outspoken proponent of Arab issues, Edward Said (2004) also argues that the clash of civilizations thesis is an example of “the purest invidious racism, a sort of parody of Hitlerian science directed today against Arabs and Muslims” (p. 293).
Noam Chomsky has criticized the concept of the clash of civilizations as just being a new justification for the United States “for any atrocities that they wanted to carry out”, which was required after the Cold War as the Soviet Union was no longer a viable threat.
Mohammad Khatami, reformist president of Iran (in office 1997–2005), introduced the theory of Dialogue Among Civilizations as a response to Huntington’s theory.
In recent years, the theory of Dialogue Among Civilizations, a response to Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations, has become the center of some international attention. The concept was originally coined by Austrian philosopher Hans Köchler in an essay on cultural identity (1972). In a letter to UNESCO, Köchler had earlier proposed that the cultural organization of the United Nations should take up the issue of a “dialogue between different civilizations” (dialogue entre les différentes civilisations). In 2001, Iranian president Mohammad Khatami introduced the concept at the global level. At his initiative, the “dialogue among civilizations” was the basis for United Nations’ resolution to name the year 2001 as the Year of Dialogue among Civilizations. The year 2001 was proclaimed as the “United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations”.
The Alliance of Civilizations (AOC) initiative was proposed at the 59th General Assembly of the United Nations 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 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.
Huntington’s geopolitical model, especially the structures for North Africa and Eurasia, is largely derived from the “Intermediate Region” geopolitical model first formulated by Dimitri Kitsikis and published in 1978. The Intermediate Region, which spans the Adriatic Sea and the Indus River, is neither western nor eastern (at least, with respect to the Far East) but is considered distinct.
Concerning this region, Huntington departs from Kitsikis contending that a civilizational fault line exists between the two dominant yet differing religions (Orthodox Christianity and Sunni Islam), hence a dynamic of external conflict. However, Kitsikis establishes an integrated civilization comprising these two peoples along with those belonging to the less dominant religions of Shiite Islam, Alevism, and Judaism. They have a set of mutual cultural, social, economic and political views and norms which radically differ from those in the West and the Far East.
In the Intermediate Region, therefore, one cannot speak of a civilizational clash or external conflict, but rather an internal conflict, not for cultural domination, but for political succession. This has been successfully demonstrated by documenting the rise of Christianity from the hellenized Roman Empire, the rise of the Islamic caliphates from the Christianized Roman Empire and the rise of Ottoman rule from the Islamic caliphates and the Christianized Roman