The Clash of Civilizations: A Review Essay

Written in 1993, political scientist Samuel Huntington presented the world a paper that is very descriptive and provocative. His statements are simple and his hypotheses are clearly elaborated. He has actually written a piece of vision and reality. More than ten years after his paper was published, the war of civilizations he has been talking about is already gradually emerging. Huntington’s premise states that the “fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or economic” rather cultural.

The paper could have titled Clash of Cultures but it seems that the author has incorporated every aspect of humanity from ideologies, people, economic to culture, arts, sciences and progress — thus the meaning of civilization in a sense. He has stated that the basis of this clash would be culture and religion. Lately, the war between Israel and Palestine resurfaced. The conflict is traced by the killing of two Israeli soldiers by the HAMAS, an Islamic resistance movement. However, the foundation of the war goes beyond their military conflicts but is rooted in domain of the land and in religion.

Palestine in this case is Islamic and Israel is Jewish who are now both claiming for a piece of land where they can trace their identities as a people and where they can establish their sense of nation. Though international pressure is already imposed on the two conflicting power, the war seemed to be the only way for them to shape their own identities not only as a nation composed with people but with religious ideologies and culture. Some people and nations take side especially those that can identify with the main reason why these forces are fighting each other.

Huntington was right in stating that people identify themselves in a broadest sense of identity in terms of culture and with that, the composition and boundaries of civilizations change. The many nations of the world are increasingly identifying themselves by relation of cultural identity and history more than they do in economics. Though many want to be allied with the West which holds the economic power, Asian countries like China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore relates to each other by culture and are gradually emerging super economic power to which many economic analysts envision to surpass the West in the near future.

The Asianization or bringing back the glory to Asian civilization, the cradle as it was termed in history, has already began because of its reach cultural identities. Though divided, it is the countries in Asia that poses both historical and religious identities which they could call their own. The writer was very analytical when he presented the six reasons of this so-called clash of civilizations. First is the differences among civilizations as basic.

He build up along that premise the next ones — “the world becoming a smaller place, the processes of economic modernization and social change throughout the world are separating people from longstanding local identities, the growth of civilization-consciousness is enhanced by the dual role of the West, cultural characteristics and differences are less mutable and hence less easily compromised and resolved than political and economic ones, and economic regionalism is increasing. ”

The second reason is not thoroughly discussed in a sense that he has not given the “how” of the world becoming smaller. He discussed about migration however, it could have been better presented because of the technological advancements like the Internet; to which most part of the world now interact because of this means. Migration, though, plays a great part in the civilization consciousness and awareness but the World Wide Web in this era plays greater part. People can already interact and learn from each other even without being physically present at the same time of place.

They may have different cultural backgrounds and may live in different parts of the world but the world is small just in front of an electronic devise like the computer. However, this means of interaction could unite people of the same culture but could also divide and set boundaries among those who are not. When the article was written, this type of technology was already present yet Huntington might have underestimated the capability of the development of communications throughout the world thus not including it in his paper.

Moreover, Huntington has also overemphasized the role of religion in his model. According to him, it is unifying factor of civilization and defines the identity of people. In a sense, right but then, it should play a separate role from the culture and politics of a nation and its people. The West for instance is known for being Christian but Christianity along the line is not only confined in the geography of the West yet has been evolving and becoming more diverse. It another sense, the West has also used Christianity in their aim to conquer lands during the era of conquest.

On the other hand, the West is not also confined with Christianity. There are also other religions present especially Islamic and Jewish which are emerging economically. Religion goes beyond culture. This brings us to Huntington’s next point, the countries thorn in the clash. There are countries that are divided in culture or are heterogeneous in terms of religious affiliations of people and the ideologies they believe in. The Philippines, though a small country in Southeast Asia is already suffering with this clash given the division of its geography and people.

Those in the south identify themselves of Islamic ancestry and are followers of Islam who are also fighting for their ancestral domain which is at some point already occupied by people from the northern part who happen to be believers of Christianity. The conflict could be identified as cultural but also be political. Finally, Huntington made a good point in tracing the implications and effect of the clash to the Western civilization. Over the years the West has continuously influenced other parts of the world to adapt its culture.

It may have thought that it’s was supreme and the “very notion that there could be a ‘universal civilization’” a sort of one size fits all. But then because of this tactic other have become more aware about their own identity and seek to establish their own concept of culture and civilization. The paper could have been more realistic if Huntington did not post some kind of disclaimer at the end. Though it just rehash his hypotheses at the beginning of his paper, it has spoiled the presentation of the realities throughout the discussion.