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THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS by Samuel P. Huntington

THE CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS

The Emerging World Order

By Samuel P. Huntington

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-81164-2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

This characterization of the present precarious state of the international order is provocative, scholarly, mostly objective, and an example of how to stretch a single insight into a book-length manuscript.

Huntington (Strategic Studies/Harvard; American Politics: The Promise of Disharmomy, 1981, etc.) argues that in the postCold War world the potential for major and minor clashes between "civilizations''--defined primarily by religion--has replaced East/West conflict as the critical backdrop of international relations. A seemingly endless array of examples and statistics from every conceivable angle is employed in defending this claim and analyzing the implications of a multipolar world. Anyone who has already escaped from the myopia of the long-prevailing bipolar perspective will find this discussion tedious. As Huntington correctly assumes, however, Americans tend to identify Western ideas and institutions as civilization rather than as one version of it, leaving us ill equipped to understand societies that reject our beliefs as sincerely as we reject theirs. Moreover, he sees Western universalism as "dangerous'' because it could lead to a "major intercivilizational war.'' This kind of brutal honesty is not limited to discussion of the West; the unflattering characterization of Muslim civilization will undoubtedly draw unfair charges of xenophobia. Huntington submits that the requirements for preserving Western civilization in the face of declining Western power include higher levels of political, economic, and military integration among Western states, the "Westernization'' of Latin America, and maintenance of Western technological and military superiority.

Even those who share his perspective may disagree with these proposals, but Huntington should be given his due: He takes his own analysis seriously and calls for limiting Western intervention in other civilizations, a departure from the aggressive foreign policy pronouncements of his Cold War days.