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Huntington: The Clash of Civilizations

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Huntington. 1996. The Clash of Civilizations. New York: Simon & Schuster.

This is the book, not the article by the same name.

Chapter 2:

A civilization = the broadest cultural entity--if you were to go one step broader, it would have to be "humanity." There are cultural reasons to think of European and Hindu civilizations differently. There are no reasons to gropu them into one category and Chinese and Latin Americans into another.

Civilizations are mortal, but they endure a long time, evolving all the time.

The major civilizations: Sinic, Japanese, Hindu, Islamic, Western (Europe, US/Canada, Australia/NZ), Latin American, perhaps African.

Chapter 6:

He boldly asserts that, since the Cold War, civilizational divides are paramount. The question is no longer, "What side are you on?", but instead, "Who are you?" But as evidence he lists several countries that had debates of identity (top of 7 in pdf)--but most of them were intra- (not inter-) civilizational disputes (Canada, Ukraine, Russia, UK, Mexico, Syria, etc.)

Other cleavages remain important (occupation, class, territory, education, ideology, etc.) but are diminishing relative to identity. This is largely the result of modernization. Other factors also matter: feelings of superiority, lack of trust in others, difficulty communicating, and differing customs.

Sources of conflict are the same as always (wealth, territory, etc.), but cultural disputes can also matter now.

Pg 130: "It is human to hate."

Much talk in the 1990s was about growing regional ties--intraregional trade grew much more quickly than interregional trade. But this misses a crucial point: the most successful regional organizations are those that include only one civilization (EU, NATO as opposed to ASEAN, others). Cooperation requires trust, and trust most easily stems from shared values and culture (131).

Core state: some civilizations have cores (US and France/Germany in West, China in Sinic, India in Hindu, etc.) others don't (Latin America, Islamic [what about Egypt?])

Lone countries: Some states are alone: Ethiopia. Haiti, Japan. These are "lone countries" (137).

Cleft countries: countries home to two significant groups from different civilizations (Sudan, not Canada).

Torn country: It's mostly in one civilization, but wants to join another. Turkey, Russia since Peter the Great, Mexico [interestingly, all three of his examples are of states trying to go West--perhaps not all civilizations are equally opposed? Perhaps there really is a West/non-West or center-periphery divide driving what Huntington sees?]. Three things must happen for a shift to occur: (1) the leaders must be united on the change; (2) the public must at least acquiesce; (3) the civilization must accept the convert. (139).

Russia is a particularly odd case, since it is both the core state of orthodoxy and a torn state. The debate disappeared somewhat during Soviet days, but has reemerged: should Russia be part of the west, or is it different? Cannot change because elites and public aren't agreed that it should.

Turkey: a torn state, though Huntington gives too much credence to cultural reasons for excluding it from EU (human rights and develoment do matter, too). Turks haven't quite fit into Islamic or Western culture, and have lately considered a common Turkish culture (the "stans"). But popular sentiment (democracy) has forced more concessions to Islamists (which Huntington interprets as the rising importance of civilization). Can't change because, although elites and public often want to go west, the west won't take them.

Mexico: also can't join the West.

The point about torn countries: no matter how much leaders may try, they will fail. Civilization and culture die hard. [well, then why were bitter enemies from WWI and WWII able to form a common European civilization?]

Research on similar subjects


Huntington, Samuel (author)Comparative PoliticsWarEthnic ConflictCultureParticipation

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