Opinion: The Clash of Civilizations?

Upon my fall semester about to start, I have read a piece of article called “The Clash of Civilizations?” by Samuel P. Huntington that was written in 1993.

What Huntington argues is that, the new source of conflict will be cultural, whereas recent world conflicts have been between different ideologies (“first among communism, fascism-Nazism and liberal democracy, and then between communism and liberal democracy”) and the global superpowers vs. the third world. Huntington asserts that the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989 had marked a new beginning in the history of international politics. The new style of world politics will be the clash of civilizations. Later he explains why the clash of civilizations will eventually happen. Then he goes on to historical dates and details of “the fault lines between civilizations.” He concludes that “the central axis of world politics is likely to be the conflict between “the West and the Rest” […]” In the context of recent rise in Islamist terrorism, Islam appears to be the chief opponent of Western civilization. Subsequently, he gives some solutions in a few simple sentences, I quote, “Hence the West will increasingly have to accommodate these non-Western modern civilizations whose power approaches that of the West but whose values and interests differ significantly from those of the West. This will require the West to maintain the economic and military power necessary to protect its interests in relation to these civilizations […]” That is, in my opinion, quite aggressive and antagonistic attitude towards other non-Western states that clearly promotes interventionism.

To begin with my thoughts about the article, I strongly argue that the definitions of culture and civilization cannot be oversimplified on that level. Anthropologists define culture differently from common usage, yet do disagree about the precise definition of culture. And also his explanation for the kinds of civilizations is rather strict and bold in terms. For instance, Confucianism has sprout differently in China than in South Korea or Singapore. The same goes for the other eight major civilizations; he mentioned (Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and African), likely to shape the world. The rigid separation of cultures and civilizations is no more than a call for new further conflicts.

The given reasons why the civilizations will eventually clash are too focused on proving his hypothesis and solely historical context of how differences among civilizations resulted in endless warfare. The rationale or justification of what Huntington provokes, considering that the article was written in 1993, is probably already proving wrong. The two of them are particularly increasing numbers in the movement of people and economic regionalism. First, as the world is becoming a smaller place, people are no more confined by their cultural identity. The first-, second-generation Americans of African background can have the same privileges as other European “Americans” and consider themselves belong to the country they were born. We can see the mixture cultures living in a particular state, I can say, peacefully. Second, economic regionalism has expanded vastly since 1993. Closeness of cultures of commonalities in terms of Free Trade Agreements has been explained by political economy and international trade theorists that geographical vicinity is the foremost reason and establishing multi-lateral trade agreements can be far more complex and demanding long list of trade rules and restrictions. And that therefore, at the present, discourages some states in risk of low or no benefit at all. But that does not mean that there will be no such thing like “free world trade.” Respective scholars and economists are still working on how to make it mutable to all members of the world.

In sum, the terms of hypothesis and idea on the possible clash of civilization seem quite bold, idealistic and perhaps confusing. That could ultimately inherit prejudice against different cultures. The idea of a newly emergent era in human history that would be dominated by “The Clash of Civilizations“ might be convincing at the level of theory, but since the theory pertains to events in the future, one cannot ascertain its validity at this point in time.