The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order

by Samuel P. Huntington

Hardcover, 1996




New York : Simon & Schuster, c1996.


In the summer of 1993 Foreign Affairs published an article entitled "The Clash of Civilizations?" by Samuel Huntington. No article, according to the editors of that distinguished journal, has generated more discussion since George Kennan's "X" article on containment in the 1940s. Now, Mr. Huntington expands on his article, explores further the issues he raised then, and develops many new penetrating and controversial analyses. In the article, he posed the question whether conflicts between civilizations would dominate the future of world politics. In the book, he gives his answer, showing not only how clashes between civilizations are the greatest threat to world peace but also how an international order based on civilizations is the best safeguard against war.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member davidpwithun
While I don't always agree with Huntington's conclusions and opinions -- and I sometimes dispute his "facts" -- I must say that this book is an excellent introduction to the issues that we, inhabitants of the world, face as the world continues to "shrink" and members of such a great variety of
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civilizations and cultures are brought closer and closer together. "The other" is often more different from ourselves -- and more difficult to really understand -- than most of us would like to admit. Two features of this book that stood out to me as especially worthy of consideration were: 1. Huntington's consideration of what it is that makes Western Civilization different from the other civilizations of the world and 2. Huntington's examination of the roots of Islamic violence. In these two areas especially I think that his commentary is especially insightful and helpful. I recommend this book to all people of all civilizations as seek to live together peacefully in this complex world of ours.
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LibraryThing member jcvogan1
The conclusions are not very happy, but this is a very well thought out book. His treatment of Africa and Latin America do leave a little to be desired, but neither is the real focus of the thesis.
LibraryThing member JBreedlove
The author argues that the political, social and economic interactions of "civilizations" will be the driving force of history since the Cold War ended.
LibraryThing member bmy78
An alarming but thorough analysis as to why the West is losing influence over the world. People are becoming better connected not through ideology, but through cultural identity. Huntington is a bit of an alarmist but he backs up his claims with case studies. He overdid the threat from China but
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was right on the money in predicting antagonism from Islam.

A good and worthy read.
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LibraryThing member gmicksmith
This work grew out of a well-known Foreign Affairs article in which Huntington postulated a clash between, in particular, the Arabic Middle East and the West. The book is an extended discussion of a clash between the various civilizations.
LibraryThing member lukeasrodgers
Worth the time to read, particularly if you suspect you'll disagree with much of it. Huntington's argumentation is occasionally lazy, but is overall fairly persuasive. His points about multiculturalism that wrap the book up, however, do not come across as terribly thoughtful.
LibraryThing member mangalayatan.uni
Huntington, Samuel P : The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Penguin Books, pp. 367, 1997. The central theme of the book is that the emerging global politics is driven by the conflict between groups from differing civilizations. Both the peace and civilization depend upon the
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understanding and cooperation among the political, spiritual, and intellectual leaders of the world’s major civilizations.
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LibraryThing member mchan79
Controversial book that sparked a lot of debate. Huntington's view is that the next war will be a clash between cultures and religion.
LibraryThing member Scarchin
Amazing. Thought provoking. Scary.

This detailed, thoroughly researched book gave me quite a lot to think about regarding the dynamics of international relations.
Interestingly - it was written in the mid 90s, BEFORE 9-11 and all of the current economic and political upheaval.
What I took away from
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-China will be the next dominant superpower
-Islam is going to be a force to be reckoned with -for good or ill -to a degree unsurpassed in history
-US intervention in the Middle East - regardless of the immediate "threat" solved- always winds up as a
bad idea long term

I finished this book a few weeks before the Libya mess started and I have a bad feeling about it. It fits the pattern to a T.
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LibraryThing member starcat
Comprehensive. Yet, the argument that civilizations are the base unit, and that they don't get along or trust each other, is very poorly argued, straw men litter the pages, separated often by strings of non-sequiturs. That being said, the analysis is still often very astute; even if Huntington is
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wrong, something like his thesis is most probably correct. All in all, worth reading, especially now that China, Russia, and Islam are all on the ascendant. Japan, heh, not so much. There's some pretty good humor to be found in the Japan parts of this book, written when it looked like Japan's strong economy was here to stay.
3 stars on oc
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LibraryThing member dpevers
This book made me think. It is interesting that the major part of the text was written in 1996, and seems to be coming to fruition in the last decade (from 2010 and forward based on when I read the book). My big takeaway is the need abolish religions, as they seem to be a root cause of conflict.
LibraryThing member scottcholstad
I'm aware of just how influential this book has been ever since it was published and I'm also aware of the author's tremendous reputation, but I've never been able to come to a decisive opinion on this book. I've always felt conflicted. I didn't like it very much, didn't agree with much, but in
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retrospect, I think I didn't like it because I DID agree with a great deal, but simply didn't want to admit it. I think Huntington had a better grasp on the coming future than his equally famous colleague, Francis Fukuyama, ever did. Sadly. Recommended as a kind of gruesome look into the future which was all too relevant.
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LibraryThing member Paul_S
This would be an amazingly observant book today except this was written 20 years ago making it so prescient it's absolutely terrifying.
LibraryThing member qaphsiel
When Civilizations Clash

This book is as ambitious as its full title--The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order--is long. Published in 1997, its author, Samuel Huntington, lays out what he sees as the new alignment of the world in the wake of the end of the Cold War and the
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sudden disappearance of the communist block as the arch-foe of the NATO countries and their allies and client states.

The year was probably just enough time after the 50 years of tension to see the inklings of the new alignments coming. That the basic shape of the world today, its political blocks, its new tensions, largely conforms to Huntington's vision, owes a lot to this fact. At the same time, Huntington deserves props for the accuracy of his main prediction as well as a few subordinate ones.

I read this book as part of a dive into the (non-fictional) conservative literature corpus and I would put it near the top of what I've read so far in terms of understanding where many (most?) on the US right are coming from.

Culture matters

The foundation of the new international political order rests on the notion that absent any larger concerns groups, up to and including nations, will tend to gather culturally. To be clear, this is an utterly uncontroversial thing to say. No social scientist would disagree with it. There are of course always exceptions, both individuals and countries--it's called a tendency for a reason.

So, while on the one hand, this is obvious to the point of banality, on the other, we often don't accept it. It's probably also fair to say that in the specific context of the immediate post-Cold War world, more than a few people had a lot trouble accepting it and its implications.

Now, just because we acknowledge this outgrowth of our innate tribalism doesn't mean we shouldn't work to bridge these cultural divides. Human cultural differences and tendency to prefer the familiar isn't going anywhere soon, so we should always be aware that this work is difficult and frustrating and no matter how many bridges get built, more will always be needed.

This goes to the heart of a core conservative belief: that there are limitations on what we can achieve socially and we ought to be careful about how and how fast we try to create social change. In the more extreme forms of this we ought not to try at all; further down the scale, you find nationalist notions and, well, you don't need me to finish this extrapolation for you, do you? But regardless of where one sits on this social policy conservatism scale, you get certain corollaries, like suspicion (or stronger dislikes) of authority and big government.

The New Current World Order

Much of the middle part of the book is taken up by laying out the culture-based civilizations to come (as seen from 1997) and looking at the world today, Huntington was downright prescient: Western (Western Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, etc.), Asian (China and most of the far east, but NOT Japan), Islamic (countries that are majority Muslim of course), Latin (the Americas south of the US), and African (sub-Saharan Africa, basically).

One notable division of these civilizations is the presence of a core country, for example the US within Western, China within Asian. Conversely, there's no obvious core country in the Islamic civilization, at least not in the same way that China dominates and can put pressure on other Asian countries. Likewise, Latin America is in a strange situation: the obvious contender is Brazil, but its status is hampered by its linguistic isolation.

Swing States

Wondering about Japan? Well, it and a couple other countries--India and Russia--are single-country civilizations. And they have particular roles to play too. If you follow US elections, think swing states, basically.

After this, Huntington discusses the fault lines and conflicts that he sees arising. Again, there's nothing here that will surprise any observer from 2017, though some missed opportunities might be noted. He stresses the importance of the single-country civilizations for tipping balances of power, and astute 21st century readers will surely have noticed failure of the West and Russia to bridge their differences as a counter to Islam and/or China. (Blame goes on both sides in this, if you ask me, but such a discussion is outside the scope of this review.)

Riding Two Horses

Another thing he addresses are so-called conflicted countries (possibly not the word he used, I'm writing this two books after having read Clash and I'm too lazy to check). These are countries straddling two civilizations.

The best example is Turkey, teetering between the West and Islam. But another is Mexico, semi-Western and part of the NAFTA agreement, but still very Latin too. Huntington does not have much good to say about countries in this position in a world where things are aligned primarily along culture. And looking at the how things are going in Turkey today, it's hard to say he's wrong. In his estimation, the differences between Islamic and Western civilizations are too much to allow Turkey to make the jump (to say nothing of how the EU has been, shall we say, less than enthusiastic about it joining). Mexico, he conjectures, might manage it: Latin America was settled by Europeans too after all, so Mexico (and Latin America in general) should be an easier fit with the West.

Doom and Gloom

The end of the book is largely occupied with more conservative notions about culture and civilization. In particular, dire predictions about the fate of Western civilization and culture should it fail to remain cohesive and fail to keep at least one or two of Russian, India, and Japan as friends against Asia and to a lesser extent, Islam.

He also worries that if too many Latins settle in the US, it could become a conflicted country too.

Finally, there's a full-on doomsday scenario involving North Korea, which, while the details are way off, certainly seems relevant in general today.

Bottom Line

So, overall, I think it's a book worth reading regardless of your politics. Certainly, the basic ideas seem to accurately reflect the world today and as such constitute a useful model for understanding it. Like all models, it has its limitations though. And of course, there's no predicting monkey wrenches: Donald Trump, for example, probably has Huntington rolling over in his grave (and indeed, anyone who accepts Huntington's argument that the West needs to hang together and cultivate swing civilizations like Japan if it wants to preserve its Westernness ought to be alarmed by Trump). Putin too might be considered one, though the West certainly did it's share to agitate Russia over the last 20 years.

At least as important as its value as a way to view the world is the insight I see it giving on conservatism in the United States today. Many of the ideas in it are plain in what conservatives are concerned about and the policies they support. You may think the whole premise is BS but still gain an understanding of conservatives.

Finally, I should add that its well-written and its clear Huntington (a political scientist by education and trade) is well-informed.
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