Category: Review
Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations

The world politics embraces a new phase, and the variety of versions about the course of the phase has been suggested. The article “The Clash of Civilizations” written by the world-renowned American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington's and first published in the journal Foreign Affairs caused a lively debate in academic and political circles in many countries, splitting opinions into diametrically different ones. The main counterargument to Huntington's thesis was the assertion about the assembly of world civilization. His endeavors to go beyond the narrow meaning of pacifism met a barrage of criticism and rejection at first. He also claims that the conflict unfolds between nations and countries belonging to different civilizations. This paper aims to examine the main point of Huntington's “The Clash of Civilizations” and make their summations to find out whether his work reveals all the aspect of civilization alongside its specific features and relevance to current states of affair.

The coming conflict between civilizations is the final phase of the evolution of global conflicts in the world today. In over 150 years after the Peace of Westphalia, the current international system was created, and conflicts unfolded mainly between rulers namely, kings, emperors, absolute and constitutional monarchy seeking to expand their bureaucracies, increase the army to strengthen the economic power, and, most importantly, to join new land to their possessions. This process gave rise to a nation-state, and since the French Revolution, the main lines of the conflict were not so much between the rulers, but more between the nations. This is the preamble to Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations” theory.

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Samuel Phillips Huntington is American sociologist and political scientist, the author of the concept of ethnocultural division of civilizations that was announced in an article “The Clash Civilizations?” published in 1993 in the journal Foreign Affairs and then in 1996 in the book The Clash of Civilizations. He claims that the geographical proximity of civilizations often leads to confrontation and even conflict between them. These conflicts typically occur at the junction amorphous or delineated borders civilizations. Sometimes, these conflicts can be predicted based on the logic of development and interaction of civilizations. The scope of his main interests include issues of national security strategy, relations between civilians and the military, the problems of democratization and economic development of developing countries, cultural factors in world politics, and the problems of American national identity.

Specific Features of the Concept

The summation of Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations theses is presented as following: civilization is a large conglomerate of countries that have any common defining features (culture, language, religion). As a rule, the main defining feature is a common religion. Usually, civilizations, unlike countries, exist for a long time. As a rule, they exist for more than a millennium. After the occurrence of the earliest civilizations (Ancient Egypt, Ancient Sumer, Babylonia, Ancient China, and Ancient India), for almost three millennia between them, there were no contacts, or those contacts were very rare and limited. Each civilization sees itself as the most important center of the world and represents the history of mankind according to this understanding. Western civilization emerged in the 5-9th centuries AD. It reached its zenith in the early 20th century. Western civilization has had a decisive influence on the rest of civilization. Religious fanaticism is often a reaction to the layman on modernization, westernization, or a combination of both. Some civilizations (Western, Hindu, Orthodox, Buddhist and Japanese) have their ‘core’, for instance, the main countries (core states), while other civilizations (Islamic, Latin American and African) do not have core states. Civilizations with core states are generally more stable.

In the process of global change, international organizations such as the United Nations that emerged after World War II will have to gradually change towards a more equitable consideration of the interests of all countries. For example, the UN Security Council should be submitted to each civilization. During the Cold War, the world was divided into ‘first’, ‘second’ and ‘third’ ones. But then, this division lost its meaning. Now, it is more appropriate to group countries based not on their political or economic system, not on terms of economic development, but based on the cultural and civilizational criteria.

It is necessary to find what people mean when they talk about civilization. Civilization is a kind of cultural identity. Villages, regions, ethnic groups, peoples, religious communities – all have their own distinct culture, reflecting the different levels of cultural heterogeneity. A village in southern Italy may be different culturally from the same village in northern Italy, but they are just Italian villages, they cannot be confused with the German ones. In turn, the European countries have common cultural traits that distinguish them from the Chinese or the Arab world.

Hence, for the Western world, the Arab region and China are not part of a broader cultural community. They are a civilization. One can define civilization as a cultural community of the highest rank as the broadest level of cultural identity people. The next step is to reveal what distinguishes the human race from other living species. Civilization is determined by the presence of an objective order of things in common, such as language, history, religion, customs, and institutions as well as the subjective self-identification of people. There are different levels of identity: a resident of Spain may well describe themselves as Spanish, a Catholic, a Christian, a European, a man of the Western world. Civilization is a broad level of generality with which it relates. The cultural identity of people can change, and as a result, the composition and the borders of a civilization may change as well.

Civilization can cover a large mass of people, for example, China is considered to be a civilization that passes itself off as a country. Nevertheless, a civilization can be small like a civilization of English-speaking inhabitants of the Caribbean islands. Civilization consists of several nation-states, like Latin American, or Arab civilizations, or only one like Japan. Western civilization exists in two main versions: European and North American and Islamic one subdivided into Arabic, Turkish, and Malay. Despite all this, civilization is certain integrity. The boundaries between them are rarely clear, but they are real. Civilizations are dynamic, they rise and decline, they break up and merge. Certainly, a civilization can disappear. In the West, it is assumed that nation-states are the main actors in the international arena. However, they have acted in this role merely for a few centuries. Most of human history is a history of civilizations. According to estimates of some scholars, the history of mankind knows 21 civilizations and only six of them exist in the world today.

The Inevitability of a Clash of Civilizations

The clash of civilizations is inevitable as first of all, civilizations are very different. They have a different language, history, culture, tradition, and religion. Secondly, the world is getting closer. North African immigration in France aroused the hostility of the French, and, at the same time, strengthened goodwill to other immigrants such as good Catholics and Europeans from Poland. Americans are more sensitive to Japanese investment than much larger investments from Canada and European countries. The growth of civilizational identity is dictated by the split of Western countries. On the one hand, the West is at the height of his power, and on the other hand, and perhaps for that very reason, among non-Western civilizations, the return to their own roots occurs. Moreover, cultural characteristics and differences are less susceptible to change than economic and political, and therefore, they are more difficult to resolve or reduce to a compromise. In the former Soviet Union, communists could become Democrats; the rich could become poor and the poor – the rich, but with all desire, a Russian could not become an Estonian or Armenian. A person can be half-Spanish or half-English, but it is much more difficult to be a half-Catholic or semi-Muslim.

The main centers of bloody wars moved to the fault line between civilizations. Perhaps, the most important dividing line in Europe is the eastern boundary of Western Christianity. It runs along the current border between Russia and Finland, between the Baltic countries and Russia, Belarus and Ukraine dissect. According to Lewis (2002), “it turns west, separating Transylvania from the rest of Romania, and then, passing through Yugoslavia almost exactly coincides with the line now separating Croatia and Slovenia from the rest of Yugoslavia.” The military confrontation between the West and the Islamic world has continued for the whole century, and there is no sign of it easing. On the contrary, it has escalated even more. In Italy, France, and Germany racist attitudes have become increasingly open, and since 1990, the political reaction and violence against Arab and Turkish immigrants have been constantly growing. The fight between Serbs and Albanians does not fade, and the relations between Bulgaria and the Turkish minority in Bulgaria are strained. Fighting between Muslims and Hindus, which is expressed today, is not only about the rivalry between Pakistan and India, but also about strengthening of religious strife within India and increasingly militant Hindu groups and a significant Muslim minority.

Most often, ethnic conflicts occur in Eurasia between the groups belonging to different civilizations, and in this case, they take the most extreme forms. Special filament reaches these conflicts on the borders of the Islamic peace, crescent stretching on the area between North Africa and Central Asia. However, the violence is present in the Muslims conflicts and the boundaries of the Islamic world everywhere are covered with blood. On a superficial level, Western culture indeed permeated the rest of the world. However, on a deeper level, Western concepts and ideas are fundamentally different from those inherent in other civilizations. In Confucian, Islamic, Hindu, Japanese, Buddhist, and Orthodox cultures, there is almost no response to Western ideas such as liberalism, constitutionalism, individualism, human rights, equality, freedom, the rule of law, democracy, free markets, and the separation of church.

The significance of attitudes in a hundred different societies can be shown on the example of values that are of paramount importance in the West but that are much less important in the rest of the world. Apparently, the core of world politics in the future will be as a conflict between the West and the rest of the world. Firstly, and this is the most extreme version, non-Western countries may follow e. g. North Korea or Burma, and take a course on insulation, namely protect their country from the western penetration and expansion, and, in fact, withdraw from participation in the international community where the West dominates. The second variant is to join the West and accept its values and institutions. In the language of international relations, this theory is called the ‘jump on the running train’, or to try to create a counterweight to the West, developing economic and military power and cooperating with other non-Western countries against the West.

Consolidation of Civilization: The Syndrome ‘Fraternal Countries’

Groups or countries that belong to the same civilization, being involved in the war with the people of another civilization, naturally try to enlist the support of members of their civilization. The gradual occurrence of the syndrome of ‘fraternal countries’ shows all recent conflicts, namely in the Persian Gulf, the Caucasus, and Bosnia. However, none of these conflicts was a full-scale war between civilizations, but each included elements of internal civilization consolidation. This factor seems to become increasingly important. Its current role is a harbinger of things to come. For example, on the side of Saddam Hussein's, there officially stood only a few Muslim governments, but unofficially, he was supported by the rulers of many Arab countries.

There is an internally divided country, relatively homogeneous culturally, but in which there is no agreement on what civilization they belong to. The most striking example of the split within the country is Turkey. Turkish leaders end of the 20th century refers their country to the modern nation-states of the Western type. They made Turkey an ally of the West in NATO and in the Gulf War, and they constantly seek the adoption of the country in the European Community. At the same time, some elements of Turkish society support the revival of Islamic traditions and argue that Turkey is essentially a Middle Eastern Muslim state.

In the last decade, Mexico has been in a similar situation. In case of Turkey, they abandoned their historic opposition to Europe and attempted to join it, and Mexico, which previously identified itself through opposition to the United States, now tries to imitate the country and seeks to enter the North American free trade zone (NAFTA). Historically, internal split most deeply affected Turkey. For the United States, the immediate split inside the country is Mexico. On a global scale, the most significant split of the country is Russia. The question of whether Russia is part of the West, and it is headed by its special Orthodox-Slavic civilization throughout Russian history has been raised repeatedly. After the victory of the Communists, the problem became even more tangled. Armed with Western ideology, the communists adapted it to Russian conditions, and then, the name of this ideology challenged the West. The Communist rule was removed from the agenda of the historical dispute between Westerners and Slavonic. However, after the discrediting of communism, the Russian people once again faced this problem.

For the internally split country to regain its cultural identity, there should be observed three conditions. Firstly, it is necessary that the political and economic elite of the country as a whole supported and welcomed such a move. Secondly, its people must agree, albeit reluctantly, to the adoption of a new identity, and third, the dominant group of the civilization, which split the country, must be prepared to ‘convert’. In the case of Mexico, all three conditions are met while in the case of Turkey, only the first two are present.

One should mention the Confucian-Islamic military bloc. Its goal is to contribute to its members in the acquisition of weapons and military technology needed to create a counterweight to the military power of the West. Whether it will be long-lasting, it is unknown. A new arms race has begun between Islamic-Confucian states and the West. At the previous stage of an arms race, each party shall develop and produce weapons in order to achieve balance or superiority over the other side. Now, one side develops and produces new types of weapons, and the other one tries to limit and prevent that arms build-up, at the same time reducing its own military capabilities.

In the course of the research of Huntington’s thesis, the main point of the paper was to find the following. The contradictions between civilizations are real and important, and civilizational consciousness increases. The conflict between civilizations would replace ideological and other forms of conflict as the dominant global form of conflict; international institutions in the field of politics, economy, and security will be formed within civilizations rather than between them. Conflicts between groups belonging to different civilizations will be more frequent, protracted, and bloody than the conflict within one civilization; armed conflicts between groups belonging to different civilizations will be the most likely potential source of world wars. The main axes of international politics will be the relations between the West and the rest of the world; in the near future, the main source of conflict will be the relationship between the West and several Islamic-Confucian countries. The author believes that the West needs to focus on long-term international relations, and it is necessary to reckon with other civilizations, similar in its power, but different in their values and interests. From the West, it will be required to form a deeper understanding of the fundamental religious and philosophical foundations of these civilizations.

The thinkers of different epochs condemned the war, longed for eternal peace and endeavored to develop different aspects of world peace issue. Some of them paid attention mainly to its ethical side. They believed that aggressive war was a product of immorality, that peace could be achieved only as a result of moral re-education of people in the spirit of understanding, tolerance of different religions, elimination of vestiges of nationalism, and educating people in the spirit of the principle that all men are brothers. Others saw the main evil inflicted by the war, in economic ruin, in violation of the normal functioning of the entire economic structure. In this regard, they tried to persuade mankind, drawing a picture of shared prosperity in a society without war, where the priority would be given to the development of science, technology, art, literature, rather than improving the means of destruction. They believed that peace between nations could be set as a result of sound policies and enlightened ruler. Still, others have developed the legal aspects of the world, which they sought to achieve through the agreement between the governments, the creation of a regional or global federation of states.

The problem of the world, as well as the problem of war, attracted the attention of political and social movements as well as scientists from many countries. The undisputed success of all peace-loving forces and organizations, as well as achieving a number of schools and trends, research centers specializing in the study of the problems of the world. It has gained an extensive amount of knowledge about the world as the goal, as a factor of development and the survival of humanity, about the complex dialectic relationship of war and peace, and its features in the modern era, on possible ways and assumptions, move towards a world without weapons and war.

Equally obvious is another important conclusion from the above: analysis of the concepts of peace requires serious effort. It must be built deep enough on the consistent philosophy of the world, a major part of which should be the dialectics of war and peace in their historical development. Appeal to politics and ideology, as shown above, the relation between war and politics is inseparable, and it is not only permissible but necessary in this analysis.

Common to all mankind, the comparison of the global problems of war and peace lends urgency cooperation pacifists, believers and atheists, the Social Democrats and conservatives, and other parties, movements, and currents. The pluralism of the philosophical interpretation of the world, ideological pluralism is inextricably linked with political pluralism. The various components of the peace movement are interconnected in a complex way, from ideological confrontation to fruitful dialogue and joint action. This movement played a global challenge – the need to find the optimal form of cooperation of various social and political forces to achieve a common goal for the human community. The world is a universal value, and it can be achieved only through the joint efforts of all nations.

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