Category: Review

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.