Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Book Review: The Clash of Civilizations

The world according to uncle Sam

The Clash of Civilisations

Samuel P. Huntington

Simon & Schuster (1997), 367 p.

In 1993 the political science journal Foreign Affairs published what was to be its most contested and controversial essay since WWII. The paper (the title of which was initially suffixed with a question mark, possibly to indicate uncertainty or speculation) proposed a new paradigm with which to understand global conflict. In the post-Cold War world, after the great battle of ideologies, there shall be a re-assertion of cultural and religious identity and the ultimate clash of civilisations will result.

This book is the response to the deluge of criticism that Huntington's essay evoked. The core theory is now expanded to take in more case studies and to present further evidence to advance his cause. It is a deeply conservative argument which sees scholarship not as an attempt to gain insight into the workings of our world, but as a programme of action for US securocrats and policy makers to reassert Western hegemony with even more vigour than they have done in the past.

Huntington’s division of the world into seven or eight neat cultural blocs belies the complexities of these societies and how they conflict. The ‘civilisational clash’ thesis ignores the interplay of ideologies and material conditions which often serve as the tinder for these seemingly inevitable fires. At its core, the work is a rejection of universal humanism and a study in the short-sightedness of the Neo-Conservative movement.


  1. Mmmm, ja apologies for the lack of flesh.

    This is an old review I had kicking about on my hard drive long before the days of QPQ so I though I would just put it up. I'm actually rather bored of Huntington-bashing at the moment so I didn't bother adding to this skeleton.

    However, more tasty delights will be forthcoming..