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Title: Plus ca change… civilizations, political systems and power politics : a critique of Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’
Other Titles: The ‘Clash of Civilizations’ 25 years on : a multidisciplinary appraisal
Authors: Khakee, Anna
Keywords: Huntington, Samuel Phillips, 1927-2008. Clash of civilizations -- Criticism and interpretation
East and West
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: E-International Relations
Citation: Khakee, A. (2018). Plus ça change… civilizations, political systems and power politics : a critique of Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’. In D. Orsi (Ed.), The ‘Clash of Civilizations’ 25 years on : a multidisciplinary appraisal (pp. 87-97). Bristol: E-International Relations.
Abstract: In an article – and later a book – that have received more attention than perhaps any others in International Relations, Samuel P. Huntington predicted that the ‘West and the rest’ would clash because of differences in religion and civilization as the ‘highest cultural grouping of people and the broadest level of cultural identity people have’. Huntington’s hypothesis was that ‘the fault lines between civilizations’ would replace Cold War ideological boundaries as the ‘flash points for crisis and bloodshed’ Over the 25 years since its first publication, Huntington’s essays have been widely discussed and roundly criticized from a variety of perspectives. Indeed, it would probably be fair to say that while ‘The Clash of Civilizations?’ made Huntington (1993) more of a household name that that of any other political scientist, it at the same time reduced his – previously stellar – standing in scholarly circles. Peers have found fault with its logic, consistency and strong tendency to simplify complex phenomena, perfunctory treatment of empirical case studies, lack of backing by empirical statistical evidence, confounding political and social conflict with religious and civilizational confrontation, and insufficient attention to the heterogeneity of political culture within each major civilization. More broadly, many scholars have been disturbed by the blurring between purportedly dispassionate scholarly prediction and the conjuring up of civilizational animosities and discord. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, however, Huntington received some more positive feedback. Twenty-five years on, what can usefully be added to this wealth of existing analysis? This chapter proposes a brief contemporary analysis of the empirical validity of the prediction – after all, Huntington’s main goal was prognostic. Just as Huntington’s article and book were, in essence, essays, so is this chapter. The focus is on the increasingly conflictual relations between Russia and the West as arguably the most important example of a purported ‘civilizational’ clash today. Can this clash be usefully analyzed in terms of discordant Orthodox and Western civilizations in line with Huntington? Theoretically, the chapter seeks to critically explore the Huntingtonian relationship between civilizations and regime types. In fact, for Huntington, civilizations are directly related to political systems, and this is important for understanding why they clash. However, the chapter argues that, rather than take a ‘civilizational detour’, it is more analytically fruitful to focus directly on how and why ideologically different political systems and regimes clash and how this can be circumvented. Doing so also avoids conflating regime interests and ideology from the more diverse interests and ideational viewpoints of citizens.
ISBN: 9781910814437
Appears in Collections:Scholarly Works - FacArtIR

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