Samuel Huntington has made famous his thesis “the clash of civilizations”, which was developed in his article in Foreign Affairs in 1993 and in the book that followed, in which the author expanded his thesis and reaffirmed the validity of his theory after the success and controversy that followed the publication of his article. In fact, the “civilizational” approach of conflicts today is now intrinsically linked to a comprehensive theory of international relations, which Samuel Huntington has developed by giving it an important value and a dominant paradigm
Reacting to the theory of Fukuyama, Samuel P. Huntington resumed the expression “Clash of civilizations” in 1993 and speculates that it is mainly cultural and religious identities which will be the source of conflict in the world of the post-Cold War in the future. He bases his analysis of future conflicts on the concept of “Civilization” (as the highest stage of cultural identity). He argues that the clash of civilizations will dominate global politics and conflicts will be in Inter civilizations areas, like those that swept the former Yugoslavia, India and Pakistan, and many others.
For Huntington, the two civilizations that arose as antagonists and competing in Western civilization are the Chinese civilization and Islam. In fact, he thinks that an Islamic junction ensures cooperation between China and Iran Pakistan, in the interest and for the benefit of China. In this perspective, Huntington argues that the shock West vs. Islam conflict will be the most destructive of the 21th century; in fact, a sort of Third World War, which must press the U.
S to ensure Japan and Russia’ support, to counter the Islamic junction. According to Huntington, the organization of the current unipolar world today is unsustainable and this equation between modernization and Westernization is a sham that hides the evolution of a multipolar and multi civilizational world. The assumption that the emergence of several poles goes hand in hand with, the existence of diverse and heterogeneous “Civilization” is not scientifically founded in his article but is only based on historical theories.
The current evolution of the world after the Cold War led to the assertion of multiple civilizations; The balance of power among civilizations changes and the relative influence of the Midwest declines, while the non-Western civilizations reaffirm the value of their own culture. Samuel Huntington sees an emerging world organized on the basis of “civilizations”. Societies that share cultural affinities cooperate with each other and the efforts to force a society into another civilization will fail; countries gather around the leading States of their civilization.
This description of the process of new structures of international relations that Huntington sees developing, leads him to consider that the greatest risks of violence and confrontation lie in the Westerns’ claims to universality, which are leading them to increasingly get into conflict with other civilizations, particularly Islam and China; local conflicts, especially between Muslims and non-Muslims, generate new alliances and lead to an escalation of violence, which will usually lead the dominant states to make an attempt to stop them.
On the other hand, Edward Said argues that the concept of clash of civilizations is a myth whose purpose is to justify an aggressive attitude in the minds of American and form a base for American and Western aggression against China and the Islamic world and culture. Beyond the paradigmatic character of his approach, criticism of the thesis of Samuel Huntington focuses on the relevance of its use of the concept of civilization.
The criticism on this point driven primarily by Edward Said, accuses Huntington to be an ideologue who wants to make cultures and identities, sealed-off, purged of all currents and contradictions that animate human history, and for centuries “have allowed not only to contain wars of religion and imperial conquests, but also to be a story of exchanges, cross fertilization and sharing. This far less visible history is ignored in the rush to highlight the ludicrously compressed and constricted warfare that “the clash of civilizations” argues is the reality. Many critics have violently attacked Samuel Huntington for its notions of “civilization identity” and the seven or eight civilizations. Said has easily detected a number of inconsistencies and contradictions in Huntington’ explanation of the concepts. Huntington’ “clash of civilizations” is partly based on the work of Bernard Lewis, whose ideological colors are clear in the title of his book “The Roots of Muslim Rage” to justify its thinking.
But Said says that neither of them have had time, nor have bothered to look into the dynamics and plurality of the different civilisations, and the fact that “the major contest in most modern cultures concerns the definition or interpretation of each culture, or for the unattractive possibility that a great deal of demagogy and downright ignorance is involved in presuming to speak for a whole religion or civilisation. ”
Said goes on and argue that, Huntington’s categorization of the world’s fixed “civilizations” omits the dynamic interdependency and interaction of culture. All his ideas are based not on harmony but on the clash or conflict between worlds. The theory that each world is “self-enclosed” is applied to the world map, to the structure of civilizations, to the notion that each race has a special destiny and psychology. According to Said, it is an example of an “imagined geography”, where the presentation of the world in a certain way legitimates certain politics.
Interventionist and aggressive, the concept of civilizational clash is aimed at maintaining a war time status in the minds of the Americans. Thus, it continues to expand the Cold War by other means rather than advancing ideas that might help us understand the current scene or that could reconcile the two cultures. Indeed, grouping nations into civilizations ignores the fact that powerful political alliances are possible across “civilizations”.
Far from encouraging a “clash of civilizations “as some might say, Samuel Huntington is rather the bearer of a fatalistic vision of international relations based on an approach to world history, from a civilizational perspective. In fact, his pessimistic view of U. S. power and its precautionary approach to international relations are based on the realization of the irrecoverable end of a Western universalism. The goal is to avoid the abrupt end of the western empire, that would result from the clash of “civilizations” and an attempt to freeze international relations to halt the decline.
However, Said says “the clash of civilizations” thesis is a gimmick like the ” War of the Worlds”, better to reinforce a defensive pride than for a critical understanding of the bewildering interdependence of our time. Said’s arguments are indeed very strong, and as the human civilization has progresses and is still progressing, at this stage, it is safe to say that the world is in the least hostile period in terms of wars and conflicts.