The Clash of Civilizations: Exploring International Conflict

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CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS: Social scientist Samuel L. Huntington published in 1993 one of the most influential articles in the last decade: "The Clash of Civilizations". He tries to define a model that explains international conflict. He predicted what is happening today. The heart of the thesis is: now that the Cold War is over, conflicts will be about civilizations. // Basically what he said was that after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union and so the end of the Cold War, what is going to happen now? He was answering Fukuyama's theory that sustained that the West won and it was the end of historical conflict and that now we were going to live in a peaceful world. // But Huntington believes it's not going to be entirely peaceful because the conflict will be about civilizations not ideological anymore. Civilization differences are much bigger than ideological so the conflict will be stronger: more conflicts, more frequent and stronger. // He argues that conflicts have gone through different stages:

  • 1º: Conflicts between princes and monarchs. They fought for territory because land meant wealth
  • The French Revolution (1789) introduced the concept of nations through war, until then you had the king saying "go to war". They fought for their nation.
  • In the XXth century after the Russian Revolution conflict was about ideologies. They didn't fight for their nation anymore but for an idea, a belief.
  • Huntington argues that we could be in the 4º stage: clash of civilizations. // But what do we mean when we talk about civilization? A forerunner of the concept of civilization is Toynbee. Civilization is a cultural identity. In order to identify a civilization we have common elements: language, history, religion, customs and the self-identification of people. We are not born into a culture or civilization, we adopt it. As Pye says "China is a civilization pretending to be a state". Huntington identifies 8 civilizations (Western, Confucian, Islamic, etc.).

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