NESA Center Alumni Publication
Thokozani Andrew Chazema – A NESA Alumnus; an adjunct lecturer at Mzuzu University, Department of Governance, Peace and Security Studies; an adjunct lecturer at Malawi Defence Force Command and Staff College affiliated to Malawi University of Science and Technology, Bingu School of Culture and Heritage, Defence and Strategic Studies Program; a PhD Candidate, Transformative Community Development, Mzuzu University.
19 January 2024
The bipolar era of the word politics was characterised by the security of national interests of the two superpower countries of the former USSR and the USA. After the demise of bipolar politics, security scholars sought new theories that would help in understanding emerging security issues. Hence in 1996, Samuel, P. Huntington in his book set out a new security concept, the clash of civilisation, where he predicted what the main cause of conflict and cohesion of the different cultures would be, post bipolar conflicts. Huntington (1996) understood the effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the diminishing interstate conflicts and the emergency of intrastate conflicts that are caused by societal indifferences. This book critic intends to identify the central thesis and evaluate Samuel P. Huntington’s book entitled The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of the New World Order.
2. CENTRAL THESIS
The central thesis of this book is that culture and cultural identities, which at the broadest level are civilisation identities, are shaping the patterns of cohesion, disintegration, and conflict in the post-Cold War world. The author indicates that the central and most dangerous dimension of emerging global politics would be the conflict between groups from differing civilisations (Huntington 1996:13). The book exponent civilisation identities as central to understanding the new world order. The book elaborates corollaries to this main proposition in five parts. The author explains that the world is now both multipolar and multicivilisational; that there is a shift of balance of power among civilisations; that there is an emergency of civilisation-based world order; that Western culture dominance brings it into conflict with other cultures; and that survival of the Western culture will depend on America’s hegemonic involvement with the Western culture.
3. CRITICAL EVALUATION
The book assumes that for the first time in history, international politics is both multipolar and multicivilisational. Modernisation does not mean adopting Western culture and that now modernisation is distinct from Westernisation. The book notes that nation-states are still the principal actors in global affairs. Their behaviour is shaped as in the past by the pursuit of power and wealth, and contemporarily, in addition, the behaviour of nation-states will also be shaped by cultural preferences, commonalities, and differences. The most important groupings of states are no longer bipolar but rather the world’s nine major civilisations are categorised as Western, Orthodox, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, African, Latin, Sinic and Japanese. Non-Western societies, particularly in East Asia, are developing their economic wealth and creating the basis for enhanced military power and political influence. As their power and self-confidence increase, non-Western societies will increasingly assert their cultural values and reject those imposed on them by the West.
The West will no longer control world affairs. Huntington (1996) assumes that the international system of the twenty-first century will contain at least six major powers, the United States, Europe, China, Japan, Russia, and probably India as well as a multiplicity of medium-sized and smaller countries. Additionally, there are also important Islamic states whose strategic locations, large populations, and oil resources make them influential in world affairs. In this new world, local politics is the politics of ethnicity and global politics is the politics of civilisations. The rivalry of the superpowers is replaced by the clash of civilisations.
The clash of civilisations is resulting in the shift of the balance of power among dominant civilisations. The West is declining in relative influence. Asian civilisations are expanding their economic, military, and political strength. This notion is now being realised by China which has grown its economy significantly and is now involved in trade wars with the USA. On the other hand, Islam is exploding demographically with destabilising consequences for Muslim countries and their neighbours. Non-Western civilisations generally reaffirm the value of their own cultures and progress while maintaining and advancing their cultural identity.
Huntington (1996) further argues that a civilisation-based world order is emerging. Societies sharing cultural affinities cooperate and efforts to shift societies from one civilisation to another are unsuccessful. Countries group themselves around the lead or core states of their civilisation opposing other civilisations. In the post-Cold War world, culture is both a divisive and a unifying force. People are separated by ideology but united by culture as the two Germanys did. Societies are united by ideology or historical circumstances but divided by civilisation as did the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Sudan and Bosnia. Furthermore, countries having different civilisations are subjected to intense strain as is the case with Ukraine, Nigeria, and India. Countries with cultural affinities cooperate economically and politically at an international level. International organisations based on states with cultural commonality, such as the European Union, are far more successful than those that attempt to transcend cultures.
Huntington (1996) further noted that the West’s universalist pretensions increasingly bring it into conflict with other civilisations, most seriously with Islam and China; at the local level fault line wars, largely between Muslims and non-Muslims, generate the threat of broader escalation, and hence efforts by core states to halt these wars. The globalisation of world politics through the advancement of democracy has made the West particularly America clash with other civilisations. This presupposition has come to pass with America fighting the global war on terror targeting despotic leaders and Islamic cultures of Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq in the quest for cultural survival.
Huntington (1996) however, asserts that the survival of the West will depend on Americans reaffirming their Western identity and Westerners accepting their civilisation as unique. The new era in world politics will be the struggle for Americans to proponent Western universality and unite Western countries to preserve Western civilisation against challenges from non-Western societies. Avoidance of a global war of civilisations will depend on world leaders accepting and cooperating to maintain the multi-civilisational character of global politics.
One however can argue, that Huntington’s (1996) geographical categorisation of the fixed civilisation is erroneous as it overlooks the dynamic interdependency and interaction of cultures. Islam is not only practised in the Middle East and North Africa. Islam has become a global civilisation almost found in all the continents. The other element that Huntington (1996) did not take into consideration is diversity. Diversity is a feature in most civilisations and Western culture is no exception. Despite being found on Western civilisation identity, the European Union is disintegrating with Britain exiting the grouping hence an intra clash of civilisation.
The book posits that the post-Cold War world is a world of nine major civilisations. The book further notes that cultural commonalities and differences do shape the interests, antagonisms, and associations of states. The most important countries in the world come overwhelmingly from different civilisations and the local conflicts that are most likely to escalate into broader wars are those between groups and states from different civilisations. The predominant patterns of political and economic development differ from civilisation to civilisation hence the key issues on the international agenda will involve differences among civilisations. The book lastly concludes that power is shifting from the long predominant West to non-Western civilisations and that global politics has become multipolar and multi-civilisational.
Huntington, Samuel, P., (1996). The Clash of Civilisation and the Remaking of the New World Order. London. Simon & Schuster.
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