View Printable Version :: Email to a Friend
Clash of Civilisations: Remaking of World Order
Book Review
Sulayman S. Nyang


Samuel Huntington, Clash of Civilisations: Remaking of World Order, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996, 367 pp. Tables, Figures, Maps.


Since the end of the cold war, western strategists have spent a great deal of their time on the nature of the emerging world order. Francis Fukuyama’s End of History, Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, and several other seminal works have attracted the attention of scholars, politicians and members of the reading public around the world. Each of these texts is the sampling of intellectual fruits by one strategist or another who is pre-occupied with the present state of affairs in the world. The collapse of the former Soviet Union and the fragmentation of the old coalition against that ideological empire have combined to heighten the need for a new world order. This book by Samuel Huntington is the latest addition to the growing list of works trying to decipher the future course of international relations. It is an elaboration of an earlier article on the same subject published in the Summer, 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs, an important forum for debates on U.S. foreign policy.

Huntington’s book is significant in four important respects. But before we go to the discussion of how significant this work is in the universe of American strategic thought, let us examine his rationale for writing this book given in the first chapter. In this part of the book, Huntington argues for a new paradigm in international relations theory. Contending that the post-cold war period begs for a new way of looking at and explaining politics among nations, and convinced that he has worked out a formula for those who engage in world politics, especially his Western leaders, he points to the inadequacies of the rival theories while acknowledging their explanatory values. The rest of this review will be directed to the examination of his ideas and how they can be understood in terms of our four categories of significance.

First, the book has changed the nature of political definition of conflicts in the international system. It has also introduced a new way of looking at and interpreting political affairs between states. Instead of looking at international relations through the lens of nation-states, he now urges us to adopt a new way of looking at conflicts in the world system. For him the nation state is still an actor of note, but its behaviour and activity could best be interpreted and analysed from the perspective of inter-civilisational relations. This is to say, according to Huntington, the global system is now going to be driven more by civilisational motives and interests than by the traditional factor of national interest only. Or to put his points in a more positive way, one can say that, in Huntington’s view, the old idea of national interest should be expanded a bit to embrace the collective interest of fellow members of a given civilisation. This widening of the political net to include all partners within a given civilisation has serious consequences for world politics and for the big and small powers that are jockeying for influence around the world. Using his markers to demarcate the new configuration of political forces in the world, Professor Samuel Huntington has interestingly carved the world into eight possible centres of civilisations. These are the Chinese, the Islamic, the Hindu, the Japanese, the Latin American, the Orthodox-Christian, the Western and the African.

This division of the world, if accepted by the political leaders of the planet, could transform significantly the way we all view the international system. The implication of such an approach to understanding and dealing with global affairs is that men and women in the post cold war world are likely to fight each other not only because of race, language, ethnicity and religion, but also primarily because they belong to different civilisations. This is to say, our civilisations are cultural wombs that fashion us so that we cannot rise to the level of self-transcendence individually and collectively, and because we cannot transcend ourselves individually and collectively, we end life and die without ever crossing the cultural and civilisational lines separating us from the other members of humanity, who are trapped forever within the solid walls of their own civilisations. By conceptualising the world system in this manner, Professor Huntington makes it categorically clear to the students of international relations that henceforth mankind would suffer more by inter-civilisational rivalry and conflict than by the age-old wrangles over national interest. It is this perspective that makes the work of Huntington significant and interesting. What he proposes as a new and viable paradigm, if accepted by the powers that be in the West, would implicitly or explicitly warrant the creation of a Security Council for Human Inter-Civilisational Affairs. Such a political arrangement would resurrect the old notion of collective security and the politics of the balance of power.

The second significance of this book lies in its understanding and interpretation of world affairs. The perspective is both euro-centric and tempo-centric. That is to say, the author apparently seeks the best ways to guarantee the continued dominance of the Western countries in the affairs of men. His world view is built on the assumption that the peoples of the Euro-American world have dominated world affairs for several centuries, and that they should develop new and changing strategies to protect themselves from their current rivals and potential enemies tomorrow. The euro-centric bias in the book, when combined with its tempocentricity, leads to a view of the world that is a mirror image of the old American society, where the non-whites found themselves at the bottom of the social ladder. Such a world order creates a caste system in which the conflation of race, religion and culture decides one’s standing in the scale of social significance. This point does not register somehow in the mind of Professor Huntington. Even though he notes the fact that the international system of the European societies of the medieval and post medieval period was a mirror image of the pluralism of the feudal order, he still fails to realise that the structuring of the world according to his paradigm would create a world order that is a replication of his own society. In a world where the western man and woman are outnumbered by the Latin American and the Indian Hindu, it would be dangerous and unwise to deny these forces the opportunity to realise fully their right as humans to create and to compete for the recognition of fellow humans. The euro-centrism of his analysis apparently leads the author to include ‘disginenuous’ behaviour as an important element in the strategic calculus of the west. This is to say, according to Professor Huntington, that the western countries should remember that their civilisational interest may sometimes be served not by adherence to morality but by flirtation with political opportunism.

The third significance of this book is its conscious decision to bracket Judaism and Israel with the west. All other world religions that have played any meaningful role in human history are identified with a civilisation. Why lump Judaism with Christianity when other forms of Christianity are somehow segregated from the west? How do you go about separating one form of Christianity from the others? What is it that warrants the inclusion of the Jews in the western category? These and other related questions are somehow consciously avoided by the author. One can speculate about why this line of reasoning is pursued in his book. A thought that comes to mind is the fact that Judaism has not created, and did not create in the past, any major civilisation that currently embraces other human groups outside the people who now claim to be descendants of the ancient Hebrews. Another argument could be that the Jews have somehow transformed themselves significantly into full fledged westerners and their destiny is now inextricably linked to that of the United States and Western Europe. The second point of a speculation on my part might be the correct answer to the unanswered question in Professor Huntington’s book. No matter how one sees the question, the fact remains that Jews in the west are today an important group in the Euro-American World. Though their numbers are small, their current contributions in almost all areas of life in the west are definitely unprecedented and unbeatable.

The fourth significance of this book under review lies in the author’s desperate attempt to fashion out a new coalition of enemies for the Euro-American World. Having witnessed the collapse and disappearance of the old Communist empire under Russia, and determined to maintain high level of military spending in the Pentagon and elsewhere in the West, men like Professor Huntington are now in search of enemies. To them, the Green Threat now replaces The Red Menace. Muhammad, Confucius and their followers have now replaced Karl Marx and Chairman Mao on the enemy list of Professor Huntington and his cold war cohorts. To reify his theory and paradigm, he advises western leaders to note his reasons for bracketing these two civilisations as chief enemies. The followers of Islam constitute a perennial threat because they have a sense of cultural superiority that now suffers from their sense of humiliation under western domination. The Chinese people, on the other hand, are demographically challenging and their continued economic success poses a threat because economic success does translate into political and military power.

Huntington does not only identify the sources of conflict between the west and other civilisations, but he also formulates strategies that, if successfully followed by the planners in the west, would lead to their continued dominance. According to the Professor, the planners and strategists from the west should apply the balance of power theory to contain and neutralise the rising powers such as China in East Asia and India in South Asia. His reading of the literature on East Asian history leads him to the conclusion that the East Asian peoples have in the past accepted a hierarchical order dominated by China. He fears a return to this historical past and that rising China could well be the benefactor of a bandwagon effect. This bandwagoning strategy has been evident in East Asian history before, and Huntington fears its return if the East Asian peoples perceive the U.S. as retreating from a global role of a primary balancing force to a rising China.

This book deserves some attention from the Muslim World largely because the author is influential in certain circles wherein western policies are made. Although his ideas are being challenged globally as within the policy-making circles of the west, there is still need for concerted Muslim efforts to expose the fallacies of the argument presented in this work. Muslim countries should, however, avoid the problem of over-exposure of the Huntington thesis as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Many Muslim and non-Muslim countries in the Middle East and South East Asia have organised conferences and seminars to deal with part or all of the ideas contained in this volume. Because of its provocative nature and because of the intended and unintended consequences that such a scholarly work could bring to the life of Muslims individually and collectively, it would be an investment in prudential intellectualism for the English-speaking Muslims, especially those living and working in the West, to pay attention.


(Courtesy: ‘The Islamic Studies’, Islamabad)

For Questions on Islam, please use our

Replica Handbags Bottega Veneta fake Bvlgari fake Celine fake Christian Dior fake Gucci fake Gucci Bag fake Gucci Wallet fake Gucci Shoes fake Gucci Belt fake Hermes fake Loewe fake Louis Vuitton fake Louis Vuitton Belt fake Louis Vuitton Calf Leather fake Louis Vuitton Damier Azur Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Damier Ebene Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Damier Graphite Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Damier Infini Leather fake Louis Vuitton Damier Quilt lamb fake Louis Vuitton Embossed Calfskin fake Louis Vuitton Epi fake Louis Vuitton Game On Monogram Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Jewellery fake Louis Vuitton Key Holder fake Louis Vuitton Mahina Leather fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Denim fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Eclipse Canvas fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Empreinte fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Seal fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Shadow fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Vernis fake Louis Vuitton Monogram Watercolor fake Louis Vuitton New Wave fake Louis Vuitton Shoes fake Louis Vuitton Since 1854 fake Louis Vuitton Strap fake Louis Vuitton Taiga Leahter fake Louis Vuitton Taurillon leather fake Louis Vuitton Transformed Game On canvas fake Louis Vuitton Utah Calfskin fake Louis Vuitton X Supreme fake Mulberry fake Prada fake YSL fake