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What is Behind the Clash of Civilizations?; Samuel Huntington


What is Behind The Clash of Civilizations? From

The text of Samuel P. Huntington

What is Behind the Clash of Civilizations?

By Wendy Avalos

In this Paper, Samuel P. Huntington explains how societies are starting to become more conscious of theirs identities and more aware of other cultures, but the main problem here, is that these societies are not ready to interact, because of their intolerance, which is causing the clash of civilizations.

The first conflicts, back in history, in the western countries, were between monarchs (trying to expand their power). After the French revolution and during the 19th century, the conflicts were between people, and then, they followed by The Cold War.

Huntington also talks about the old classification of states, (based in economic and political systems) as obsolete, this takes us to seek new classifications based in terms of civilizations, (objective matters and subjective elements) which can be either huge, (multiple number of countries) or small (a specific nation in a country). Which make us remember that every civilization, rise, fall and finally… Disappear!

Now a day we have eight major cultural groups (western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and African), different from each other, because of their historical backgrounds. They see life in different ways. This should not necessary meant conflict, but at least, at the cultural level, has generated the most violent ones. To this, Huntington adds technology (media, transportation, communications, etc), which is making the world to become smaller, causing more interaction between civilizations (each of them, have very particular taboos about each other). The first groups that are against it are the religious ones.

As we see, civilization-consciousness (because of the interaction between peoples) is growing and with it, the de-westernized idea (people don't want to loose their cultural identities). And if cultural identities, means for much of the people, individual identities (people who thinks that their cultural background is all they are), then we know that this de-westernized idea will be extremely difficult to change. This affects economic development, which can only occur with the cooperation of countries. As a result we get, the creation of economic blocks (economic cooperation in between, more or less similar cultures) such as The European Community, The North America free trade, The Central American Common Market and The Mercossur.

It would not be until people define their identity, that we will have an "us" against "them". This occurs at two levels. The micro-level, (violent, competing, principally, for territories), and the macro-level which occurs in between states that are competing for military and economic power, trying expand their values.

We have always had conflicts between Western and Islamic cultures, since the crusades, then the Turks (14th Century to 18th Century) extended to the Middle East, and in the 19th Century, Italy, Britain and France controlled almost all North Africa and the Middle East

After World War II emerges a western dependency, on the Eastern oil-rich Muslim, and the Islamic fundamentalism. The mix of these two elements, brought wars such as: France in Algeria, British and French in Egypt, etc. And the NATO planning. The result was humiliation and resentment, for the western military in the Middle East, and these anti-western political forces keep complicating the relations between Islamic countries and the West. This Judeo-Christian heritage cause prominent discrimination, with the huge migration from Arab countries to Western Europe, (effect of the spectacular growing population in this countries).

There has always been an antagonistic interaction between Islamic and pagan animists and now, also with southern Black Christians. In the Northern border of Islam, the struggle has become worse between Orthodox and Muslims including Serbs and Albanians, Bulgarian and Turkish, Ossetians and Ingush, Armenians and Azeris, Russians and Muslims in central Asia.

We have different kinds of kin-country syndrome (Nationalism becomes stronger, when a conflict in between states appears):

1) Such was the case during the Gulf War. People even forgot about the real conflict and renamed it as the "War of West against Islam", so they declared Holy War against the West. West and Muslims were clashing,

2) With the end of Soviet Union, religious considerations became more important

3) Kin-country syndrome appeared in Soviet Union conflicts.

4) In the conflict with Yugoslavia, the Western supported Bosnia

5) Conflicts between groups from the same civilizations are much less violent. In this Russia-Ukraine conflict they were willing to fight for a territory, but everything ended in effective negotiations.

Without Soviet Union Western countries are imposing their interests (globalization, democracy, human rights, etc.).

6) The last kind of countries we have, are the torn countries. Those who have cultural homogeneity but there are, also part, of other culture (Mexico as part of north America). So, much of this countries are trying to incorporate to their neighbors and in order to make this redefinition happen, they need: A supportive economic elite, for the movement, a public willing to acquiesce and dominant groups willing to embrace the covert. Such are the cases of Turkey and Mexico. Turkey keeps being Muslim but wants to access to the European community (feeling they are part of it), such as Mexico who is historically and cultural a Latin American country, seeking to be part of the North American countries. But the most important Torn country is Russia.

The main actual western concern focuses on biological, chemical and nuclear weapons earned by hostile non-western nations (These, nations are supporting and providing weapons to each other), acquired to fight the US (more than any other western state).

The conclusion of this paper shows us how conflicts in between cultures (especially with West and non-west) will become more violent, causing short-term advantages and long-tem accommodations. The short-term goals are: To incorporate the western civilizations (in one group) and those similar to them; prevent conflicts with non-west civilizations, and promote involvement of this inside institutions. In the longer term we will find that Non-western civilizations will try to achieve more weapons (part of modernizing), Western will try to protect from this aspect. And in a long term, instead of having one global society, we will have different civilizations that will learn to coexist with others.



The text of The Clash of civilizations? written by Samuel P. Huntington is very interesting and whatever people say (even if they agree or not with globalization), makes no difference in the truth that Huntington shows us at the end of his paper, what means that people will learn to coexist with the other cultures. Other wise, without tolerance, the whole human race will be vanished.


First of all, my critic goes to “…the first, Second and Third Worlds. Those divisions are no longer relevant. It is far more meaningful now to group… in terms of their culture and civilization” (p 23). Basically he says that the economical factor, (of states) is not the most important factor anymore; what we are watching everyday is that the principal goal of The United Nations is to eradicate poverty; economy is what rule the world today. As we all know, whatever happens around the world, the main interest is economy, the first thing people look at when something happens, is the impact that it will bring to the economy. The economic factors are the ones that make possible technological development, movement of masses from one country to another, which means interaction among civilizations.

As Felix Martin, director of the Centre UNESCO de Catalunya in Barcelona, explains, “until now, inter-state relations and conflicts have routinely been explained according to economic analysis… culture is economics, …establishes the general framework of values which should in theory be independently generated by culture.” (Felix Martin, Clash of civilizations or intercultural dialogue?, para 2) Economy is the base for everything, which explains, why First World countries have less struggles (inside their nations), than Third World countries.

Even Samuel P. Huntington in one of his papers, (consider that the clash of civilization was written in 1996), says “Our relationship with Mexico in this regard is unique …No other first-world country has a land frontier with a third world country…The significance of this border is enhanced by the economic differences between the two countries”. (Samuel P. Huntington, 2000, Reconsidering Immigration Is Mexico a Special Case? Section Immigration from Mexico,

para 3).

And Here may I ask, If the classification of countries based on economical capabilities, is not the most important, anymore, Is it really, for United States, a problem, to have a third world country, such as Mexico, as neighbour?


This critic is based in what I see as a strong mistake. Huntington says that civilization-consciousness, is emphasize by the process of modernization. Which he also says affects the countries identities. Here are two points I want to stress.


Now I will talk about the contradiction in between two statements: One says “… The world is becoming a smaller place. The interaction between peoples of different cultures is increasing… interactions intensify civilization consciousness” (p25). And the second says, “…Modernization and social change… are separating people form longstanding local identities. They also weaken the nation state as a source of identity” (p 26).

So first we have that the interaction between people is becoming bigger. And this is because of? Of course! Because of technology, that is helping us to go from one place to another, or to talk with people in different parts of the world without moving ourselves from a chair. As Robert D. Putnam in his Article The Decline of Civil Society: How Come? So What? Says, “Every day I can easily communicate with people in Germany and Japan…My friends abroad are great, and perhaps it is less likely there will be a war because I talk to them every day…”. (p 131). Here Putnam, clearly shows, that technology (when interaction occurs) help to develop tolerance and knowledge (about other cultures), but… For Huntington, this is why people try to impose their culture over others!

On the other hand we have that this technology is breaking nation state's identity, and here is the contradiction. If this technology causes civilization consciousness, how could it be weakening the nation state's identity at the same time, that it is reinforcing it (with civilization consciousness)?

If people are becoming more aware of their civilization (as Huntington says), will mean that they are reinforcing their cultural values and making their cultural identity stronger, not loosing them (as Huntington, also says).


The problem in between cultures come mainly from religious believes, which, religious groups are trying to enforce even more, in order to expand their ideological power over others.

And that's why religions do not accept technology. (Technology!interaction !knowledge !tolerance).

Religions and cultures are seeking to expand their ideologies, religion, traditions, language, etc. All the cultures are seeking the same. Having this in mind, we can think now in what, for me, has a huge influence over the people.


Thinking in different religions we'll see that, huge amount of them are doing is promoting intolerance, Holly wars, aggression to the ones with different believes, etc. We can see it in one of the millions of reports, such as that from Dov Lynch, posted at 7:41 PM on Sunday August, 13 of 2000, when he was in in Tbilisi. He went to a ceremony, at a small church, to bless the Armenian Land. Here the priest carrying an image of Christ said, "This nation is a nation of believers. This is why we have always had to fight the Turks. And we will always fight them." (Lynch, 2000, documentaire, Sunday August, 13 section, para 8).

If different religions are encouraging their believers, to be against those with different ideologies, asking them to fight for “the truth” (their own truth) which is God's will. People are not going to make anything but fight for their believes and their truth.

I'm talking about it, to make clear the problem in the whole process going, from technology, to the conflicts between civilizations.

And my argument here is, that the problem in this process is going from civilization consciousness to intolerance, the problem is in between the transition of both of them.

Civilization consciousness should bring tolerance instead of intolerance, but what is breaking the chain here, is that religions are not accepting technology because this will bring tolerance. And what they need to transmit to their believers is intolerance among other peoples, in order to have them fighting, to extend their believes.


Technology!interaction between people!civilization consciousness =!!intolerance

!conflict between civilizations

So as I see the problem is not the cultural, technological, ideological or economical aspect, but the relation religion-technology. Technology, when it is used to interact, (work, business, entertainment, knowledge, etc) helps to know other cultures and tolerate them, because we understand them. The problem comes when that technology interferes with the religious powers' interests, those who are in charge of promote their faith and they do it in military ways. Making fanatism their main tool to mobilize people. Just as conservatists use the promotion of values to make people move, but in a 1000 times more, scale. Those religious powers are the problem.

So I do agree with Huntington, in the fact that one important kind of wars, we will be facing will be at the cultural level. But I emphasize that it's not caused by technology itself. And I don't think either, that the clash of civilizations will be the only kind of war we will have in the future.






“The Decline of Civil Society: How Come? So What?”. From a speech given by Prof. Robert D. Putnam, to the Canadian Centre for Management Development (1996), pp 131.


Enviado por:Wendy Avalos
Idioma: inglés
País: México

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