The Clash of Civilizations

By samuel huntington.

  • The Clash of Civilizations Summary

Huntington’s text addresses the structure of global politics in the post-Cold War world. After the Cold War came to an end and the world was no longer dominated by the two superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union, how were international affairs reorganized? How can we characterize the balance of power in the world today? And where does Western civilization fit into the mix? Huntington answers these questions by focusing on the recent rise of seven or eight major civilizations. His central argument is that culture and cultural identity shape the patterns of conflict, coming together, and splitting apart of international institutions in the post-Cold War world. With the end of the Cold War, countries stopped defining themselves by the ideologies they aligned with. They could no longer turn to their status as Communist or Capitalist nations in order to define themselves and their place in the international order. Instead, countries began to emphasize their cultural identity. This emphasis on culture meant that no country was exempt from determining where it stood. States no longer asked each other, “whose side are you on,” but rather “who are you?” This second question is impossible to avoid.

The five sections of Huntington’s text present different components of this central argument regarding the importance of cultural identity. In the first part, Huntington argues that global politics have become multipolar and multicivilizational. In other words, the world contains multiple different major powers and civilizations that interact on an international stage. He also points out that the process of modernization does not necessarily lead to Westernization or the universalization of civilizations. When countries become modern through industrialization, they do not automatically adopt Western values or merge into one shared culture. The West must begin to recognize that it is fruitless to attempt to spread Western civilization throughout the rest of the world.

In the second part, Huntington focuses on the shift away from Western power and toward Asian and Islamic civilizations. A recent religious resurgence has impacted the Islamic world. This has been motivated in part by the alienation that can result from modernization; as people move away from their family structures and into cities to work industrial jobs, they tend to lose their old senses of identity. In the absence of strong family or community ties, religion presents a good alternative for building a new identity. Huntington argues that the rise of Islam makes Muslim civilization less stable overall; it prompts leaders to make religious appeals and youths to mobilize violently around religious causes. However, he points out that the demographic growth of Islamic societies makes them stronger and more able to influence global politics, as well. They are more culturally confident and have the strength needed to promote that culture. In East Asia, meanwhile, economic growth has brought a similar confidence to countries like China. In general, non-Western civilizations are refocusing on their own particular cultures while rejecting the West. Their economic and demographic strength makes this possible, in a way it wasn’t when the West was more definitively dominant during the Cold War.

In the third section, Huntington argues that international politics are reorganizing around the lines of different civilizations. The key players in world affairs are now the primary states of each of the seven civilizations. Huntington outlines the general structure of civilizations: core states, which are the strongest and most influential members; member states, which are clearly aligned with a given civilization; lone countries, which are culturally isolated; cleft countries, which include more than one influential cultural group; and torn countries, which started out in one civilization but have attempted to shift to a different one. Overall, similar cultures cooperate with one another when it comes to international politics. Of course, this also means that cultures which differ from one another are likely to come into conflict. It is also more difficult than ever to shift a society from one culture to another, because cultural identities have become more solidified as they have become more important.

In the fourth section, Huntington explains that the Western desire to dominate the world is what leads to conflict with Islam and China. As China and Islam have gained in strength and cultural confidence, they have been less willing to accept Western dominance. However, the West has continued to try to exert its influence, anyway. Moving forward, the West will have to become more accommodating on the key issues that bring it into conflict with China and Islam: militarization, human rights, and the influx of refugees and immigrants in the Western world. Huntington predicts that the West will no longer be able to influence these issues as clearly as it once could. Instead, it will have to focus on preserving its own culture while respecting the boundaries of these other civilizations.

Huntington’s last section argues that the West must accept its own civilization as unique, instead of wanting to make it universal. Above all, it must protect this unique culture from non-Western influence. If the United States continues to embrace multiculturalism, for example, it will eventually lose its central identity as a Western nation; it will no longer be identifiable as the United States, but rather will become something closer to the United Nations. The preservation of Western culture is also important when it comes to making sure that the world as a whole can maintain the multicivilizational nature of world politics. The West must stop trying to universalize, and must instead allow other civilizations to hold on to their unique cultures and values. Only by rejecting multiculturalism and embracing multicivilizationalism can the world avoid devolving into conflicts between the major civilizations.

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The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order

By samuel p. huntington, summary written by hollie hendrikson, conflict research consortium.

Citation:  Huntington, Samuel P.  The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order . New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1996.

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order  is an expansion of the 1993  Foreign Affairs  article written by Samuel Huntington that hypothesized a new post-Cold War world order. Prior to the end of the Cold War, societies were divided by ideological differences, such as the struggle between democracy and communism. Huntington's main thesis argues, "The most important distinctions among peoples are [no longer] ideological, political, or economic. They are cultural" (21). New patterns of conflict will occur along the boundaries of different cultures and patterns of cohesion will be found within the cultural boundaries.

Part One:  A World of Civilizations

To begin his argument, Huntington refutes past paradigms that have been ineffective in explaining or predicting the reality of the global political order. "We need a map," Huntington says, "that both portrays reality and simplifies reality in a way that best serves our purposes" (31). Huntington develops a new "Civilization paradigm" to create a new understanding of the post-Cold War order, and to fill the gaps of the already existing paradigms. To begin with, Huntington divides the world into eight "major" civilizations:

  • Sinic:  the common culture of China and Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. Includes Vietnam and Korea.
  • Japanese:  Japanese culture as distinctively different from the rest of Asia.
  • Hindu:  identified as the core Indian civilization.
  • Islamic:  Originating on the Arabian Peninsula, spread across North Africa, Iberian Peninsula and Central Asia. Arab, Turkic, Persian and Malay are among the many distinct subdivisions within Islam.
  • Orthodox:  centered in Russia. Separate from Western Christendom.
  • Western:  centered in Europe and North America.
  • Latin American:  Central and South American countries with a past of a corporatist, authoritarian culture. Majority of countries are of a Catholic majority.
  • Africa:  while the continent lacks a sense of a pan-African identity, Huntington claims that Africans are also increasingly developing a sense of African Identity.

Following the explanations of the separate civilizations in the new paradigm, Huntington describes the relations among civilizations. Before 1500 A.D., civilizations were separated geographically and the spread of ideas and technology took centuries. Huntington argues that research and technology are the catalyst for civilization creation and development. By 1500 A.D., evolution in ocean navigation by Western cultures led to rapid expansion and eventual domination of ideas, values, and religion.

Twentieth century relations among civilizations have moved beyond the unidirectional influence of the west on the rest. Instead, "multidirectional interactions among all civilization" has been maintained (53). In other words, cultural influence is interdependent; western civilizations influence and are influenced by smaller, less powerful civilizations around the world.

Huntington then refutes the idea of a Western cultural hegemony and the concept of an established universal civilization. He states that "global communications are dominated by the West" and is "a major source of the resentment and hostility of non-Western peoples against the West" (59). The notion of a single, universal culture is not helpful creating an explanation or a description of global political order. However, Huntington also argues that as modernization increases cross-cultural communication, the similarities among cultures also increase. The key to this chapter is Huntington's severance of modernization from Westernization. While the world is becoming more modern, it is simultaneously becoming less Western, an idea he expands upon in part two of the book.

Part Two:  The Shifting Balance of Civilizations

Huntington starts this section by arguing that Western power and influence is fading. There are contrasting views on the West's hold on power. One side argues that the West sill has a monopoly on technological research and development, military strength, and economic consumption. The other side argues that the relative power and influence of Western countries is declining. Huntington adopts the latter view and describes three characteristics of the Western decline:

  • The current Western decline is a very slow process and is not an immediate threat to World powers today.
  • Decline of power does not occur in a straight line; it may reverse, speed up, or pause.
  • The power of a state is controlled and influenced by the behavior and decisions of those holding power.

Also in this section, Huntington asserts the increased role and importance of religion in world politics. Religion is the societal factor that has filled the vacuum created by a loss of political ideology. Major religions around the world "experienced new surges in commitment, relevance and practice by erstwhile casual believers" (96). Huntington goes on to say that replacing politics with religion was also the result of increased communication among societies and cultures. People "need new sources of identity, new forms of stable community, and new sets of moral precepts to provide them with a sense of meaning and purpose" (97). Religion is able to meet these needs.

Chapter five,  Economics, Demography and the Challenger Civilizations , discusses the relative rise in power and influence of non-Western countries. Huntington specifically focuses on Japan, the Four Tigers (Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore), and China as countries, which asserted cultural relevance through economic successes. "Asian societies are decreasingly responsive to United States demands and interests and [are] increasingly able to resist pressure from the U.S. or other Western countries" (104). The ability of Asian countries to successfully modernize and develop economically without adopting western values supports Huntington's assertion that the world is becoming more modernized, but less Westernized.

Muslim societies, unlike Asian societies, have asserted cultural identity through the reaffirmation and resurgence of religion. Huntington argues that the resurgence of Islam "embodies the acceptance of modernity, rejection of Western culture, and the recommitment to Islam as the guide to life in the modern world" (110). Religion is the primary factor that distinguishes Muslim politics and society from other countries. Huntington also argues that the failure of state economies, the large young population, and the authoritarian style of governance have all contributed to the resurgence of Islam in society.

Part III:  The Emerging Order of Civilizations

During the Cold War, the bipolar world order enabled countries to identify themselves as either aligned or non-aligned. In the post-Cold War world order, countries are no longer able to easily categorize themselves and have entered into an identity crisis. To cope with this crisis, countries started "rallying to those [cultures] with similar ancestry, religion, language, values, and institutions and distance themselves from those with different ones" (126). Regional organizations have formed that reflect political and economic alliances. These include Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Union (EU) and the North American Fair Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Huntington also describes the idea of "torn countries," or countries that have yet to entirely claim or create an identity. These countries include Russia, Turkey, Mexico, and Australia.

Huntington discusses the new structure of civilizations as centered around a small number of powerful core states. "Culture commonality legitimates the leadership and order-imposing role of the core states for both member state and core external powers and institutions" (156). Examples of core states are France and Germany for the EU. Their sphere of influence ends where Western Christendom ends. In other words, civilizations are strictly bound to religious affiliation. Huntington argues that the Islamic civilization, which he identified earlier in the book, lacks a core state and is the factor that disallows these societies to successfully develop and modernize. The remainder of this section goes into great detail to explain the different divisions of core states throughout the world.

Part IV:  Clashes of Civilizations

Huntington predicts and describes the great clashes that will occur among civilizations. First, he anticipates a coalition or cooperation between Islamic and Sinic cultures to work against a common enemy, the West. Three issues that separate the West from the rest are identified by Huntington as:

  • The West's ability to maintain military superiority through the nonproliferation of emerging powers.
  • The promotion of Western political values such as human rights and democracy.
  • The Restriction of non-Western immigrants and refugees into Western societies.

Non-Western countries see all three aspects as the Western countries attempt to enforce and maintain their status as the cultural hegemony.

In the chapter  The Global Politics of Civilizations , Huntington predicts the conflict between Islam and the West to be a "small, fault line war," and the conflict between the America and China having the potential to be an "intercivilizational war of core states" (207).

Islam and the West

Huntington goes into a brief historical explanation of the conflictual nature of Islam and Christianity and then lists five factors that have exacerbated conflict between the two religions in the late twentieth century. These factors are:

  • the Muslim population growth has generated large numbers of unemployed and dissatisfied youth that become recruits to Islamic causes,
  • the recent resurgence of Islam has given Muslims a reaffirmation of the relevance of Islam compared to other religions,
  • the West's attempt to universalize values and institutions, and maintain military superiority has generated intense resentment within Muslim communities,
  • without the common threat of communism, the West and Islam now perceive each other as enemies, and
  • increased communication and interaction between Islam and the West has exaggerated the perceived differences between the two societies (211).

Asia, China, and America

Economic development in Asia and China has resulted in an antagonistic relationship with America. As discussed in previous sections, economic success in Asia and China has created an increased sense of cultural relevancy. Huntington predicts that the combination of economic success of the East Asian countries and the heightened military power of China could result in a major world conflict. This conflict would be intensified even more by alignments between Islamic and Sinic civilizations. The end of chapter nine provides a detailed diagram (The Global Politics of Civilizations: Emerging Alliances) which helps explain the complexity of the political relationships in the post-Cold War era (245).

Huntington defines the Soviet-Afghan war and the First Gulf War as the emergence of civilization wars. Huntington interprets the Afghan War as a civilization war because it was seen as the first successful resistance to a foreign power, which boosted the self-confidence, and power of many fighters in the Islamic world. The war also "left behind an uneasy coalition of Islamic organizations intent on promoting Islam against all non-Muslim forces" (247). In other words, the war created a generation of fighters that perceived the West to be a major threat to their way of life.

The First Gulf War was a Muslim conflict in which the West intervened; the war was widely opposed by non-Westerners and widely supported by Westerners. Huntington states that "Islamic fundamentalist groups…denounced [the war] as a war against 'Islam and its civilization' by an alliance of 'Crusaders and Zionists' and proclaimed their backing of Iraq in the face of 'military and economic aggression against its people" (249). The war was interpreted as a war of us vs. them; Islam v. Christianity.

To better understand the definition of the fault line between civilizations, Huntington provides a description of characteristics and dynamics of fault line conflicts. They can be described by the following:

  • Communal conflicts between states or groups from different civilizations
  • Almost always between people of different religions
  • Prolonged duration
  • Violent in nature
  • Identity wars (us vs. them), eventually breaks down to religious identity
  • Encouraged and financed by Diaspora communities
  • Violence rarely ends permanently
  • Propensity for peace is increased with third party intervention

Part V:  The Future of Civilizations

In the concluding sections of his book, Huntington discusses the challengers of the West, and whether or not external and internal challenges will erode the West's power. External challenges include the emerging cultural identities in the non-Western world. Internal challenges include the erosion of principle values, morals, and beliefs within Western culture. He also contributes to the debate between multiculturalists and monoculturalists and states that, "A multicultural world is unavoidable because global empire is impossible. The preservation of the United States and the West requires the renewal of Western identity" (318). The ability for the West to remain a global political power, it needs to adapt to increasing power and influence of different civilizations. Without adapting, the West is destined to decline in power and influence, or it will clash with other powerful civilizations. According to Huntington, the West clashing with another civilization is "the greatest threat to world peace, and an international order" (321).

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Huntington’s Clash Revisited

David Brooks

By David Brooks

  • March 3, 2011

Samuel Huntington was one of America’s greatest political scientists. In 1993, he published a sensational essay in Foreign Affairs called “The Clash of Civilizations?” The essay, which became a book, argued that the post-cold war would be marked by civilizational conflict.

Human beings, Huntington wrote, are divided along cultural lines — Western, Islamic, Hindu and so on. There is no universal civilization. Instead, there are these cultural blocks, each within its own distinct set of values.

The Islamic civilization, he wrote, is the most troublesome. People in the Arab world do not share the general suppositions of the Western world. Their primary attachment is to their religion, not to their nation-state. Their culture is inhospitable to certain liberal ideals, like pluralism, individualism and democracy.

Huntington correctly foresaw that the Arab strongman regimes were fragile and were threatened by the masses of unemployed young men. He thought these regimes could fall, but he did not believe that the nations would modernize in a Western direction. Amid the tumult of regime change, the rebels would selectively borrow tools from the West, but their borrowing would be refracted through their own beliefs. They would follow their own trajectory and not become more Western.

The Muslim world has bloody borders, he continued. There are wars and tensions where the Muslim world comes into conflict with other civilizations. Even if decrepit regimes fell, he suggested, there would still be a fundamental clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. The Western nations would do well to keep their distance from Muslim affairs. The more the two civilizations intermingle, the worse the tensions will be.

Huntington’s thesis set off a furious debate. But with the historic changes sweeping through the Arab world, it’s illuminating to go back and read his argument today.

In retrospect, I’d say that Huntington committed the Fundamental Attribution Error. That is, he ascribed to traits qualities that are actually determined by context.

clash of civilizations thesis summary

He argued that people in Arab lands are intrinsically not nationalistic. He argued that they do not hunger for pluralism and democracy in the way these things are understood in the West. But it now appears as though they were simply living in circumstances that did not allow that patriotism or those spiritual hungers to come to the surface.

It now appears that people in these nations, like people in all nations, have multiple authentic selves. In some circumstances, one set of identities manifests itself, but when those circumstances change, other equally authentic identities and desires get activated.

For most of the past few decades, people in Arab nations were living under regimes that rule by fear. In these circumstances, most people shared the conspiracy mongering and the political passivity that these regimes encouraged. But when the fear lessened, and the opportunity for change arose, different aspirations were energized. Over the past weeks, we’ve seen Arab people ferociously attached to their national identities. We’ve seen them willing to risk their lives for pluralism, openness and democracy.

I’d say Huntington was also wrong in the way he defined culture.

In some ways, each of us is like every person on earth; in some ways, each of us is like the members of our culture and group; and, in some ways, each of us is unique. Huntington minimized the power of universal political values and exaggerated the influence of distinct cultural values. It’s easy to see why he did this. He was arguing against global elites who sometimes refuse to acknowledge the power of culture at all.

But it seems clear that many people in Arab nations do share a universal hunger for liberty. They feel the presence of universal human rights and feel insulted when they are not accorded them.

Culture is important, but underneath cultural differences there are these universal aspirations for dignity, for political systems that listen to, respond to and respect the will of the people.

Finally, I’d say Huntington misunderstood the nature of historical change. In his book, he describes transformations that move along linear, projectable trajectories. But that’s not how things work in times of tumult. Instead, one person moves a step. Then the next person moves a step. Pretty soon, millions are caught up in a contagion, activating passions they had but dimly perceived just weeks before. They get swept up in momentums that have no central authority and that, nonetheless, exercise a sweeping influence on those caught up in their tides.

I write all this not to denigrate the great Huntington. He may still be proved right. The Arab world may modernize on its own separate path. But his mistakes illuminate useful truths: that all people share certain aspirations and that history is wide open. The tumult of events can transform the traits and qualities that seemed, even to great experts, etched in stone.

Theory of Civilizational Clash

  • First Online: 10 November 2019

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clash of civilizations thesis summary

  • Takashi Inoguchi 9 &
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This chapter examines the politics of civilizational clash focusing on Samuel Huntington (The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order. Simon and Schuster, New York, 1997). It has been given enormous attention after the Cold War once capitalist democracy prevailed over communist dictatorship. ‘Democracy is the only game in town’ has become a cliche and in turn civilizational clash has seemingly replaced democracy as the zeigeist of the post-Cold War global politics. Religiously flavored and adversarially toned, the theory of civilizational clash was propounded by Huntington. Collet and Inoguchi (Jpn J Polit Sci 13(Part 4):553–585, 2012) has tested its four hypotheses against AsiaBarometer Survey data and shown that overall they are not empirically and theoretically valid. Perhaps most importantly, the subtlety, complexity and the context-dependency of culture are not very well understood and skillfully handled as Foucault and Bagehot advise.

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Inoguchi, T., Le, L.T.Q. (2020). Theory of Civilizational Clash. In: The Development of Global Legislative Politics. Trust, vol 3. Springer, Singapore.

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clash of civilizations thesis summary


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The study of civilizations was one such late and recent entry into the study of International Politics. Civilizations received increasing attention from scholars of International Politics after Samuel P. Huntington published an article entitled, “Clash of Civilizations?” in Foreign Affairs journal in 1993.The major contention in the Huntington’s thesis is the assumption that in the emerging era, the greatest threat to world peace would be the clash of civilizations and the surest safeguard against world war would be an international order based on civilizations. 1 But before we delve into the details and arguments presented in that article it is imperative that there should be some discussion on what constitutes a civilization ? How many civilizations are there? How can they be classified? Were there and are there any differences in these civilizations? And do these civilizations have to necessarily clash?

Zohaib Arshad

International Studies Review

Gregorio Bettiza

Deepshikha Shahi

The tension between theory and the ‘real world’ can produce a tendency to see the development of theory as a response to events in the world, with seemingly new phenomena requiring fresh theories – the most recent phenomena involving the end of the Cold War, the demise of bipolarity, and questions about the status of American hegemony. The academic discipline of International Relations (IR) awaited a new paradigm which could provide an outlook to delineate the picture of the newly emerging world politics after the end of the Cold War. Interestingly, various contending paradigms cropped up, most of these originating in the West – particularly in the US. The linkage is in fact significant as it demonstrates the knowledge-power relationship in international relations. If the US could disguise its empire building project and legitimise its aggressive foreign policy behaviour as a necessary defensive posture to contain the threat of communism and the USSR during the Cold War, it could no...

Silvia Paolucci

Third Concept : An International Journal of Ideas

Keerthiraj Keerthiraj

Since the end of the Cold War, strategists, political thinkers have spent a great deal of their time on the nature of emerging world order. When the Cold War ended at the beginning of the 1990s, some critical questions preoccupied many experts as to what would be the nature of the world politics and the source of conflict in the new world. Francis Fukuyama's 'End of History', Paul Kennedy's 'The Rise and Fall of Great Powers', Mearsheimer's 'The Tragedy of power politics' have attracted the attention of scholars, each presenting a bold and sweeping vision.

Rahul Aryan

Scientific Research

samih salah

his research explores the concept of civilization as an analytical tool in the field of international relations, aiming to provide a macro analysis of the international system. Recognizing the complexity of international dynamics, the study seeks to reformulate epistemological and ontological considerations at three levels: historical, epistemological (Islamic and Western), and ontological. By delving into these dimensions, the research aims to guide a comprehensive understanding of the various explanations that are necessary to provide sufficient scientific insights into international conflicts. The study acknowledges the absence of a singular methodological approach to solve the complexities of international relations. It recognizes different perspectives, such as internationalism, the international system (including classical and neo-realism), and the constructivist theory focusing on groups and institutions as units of analysis. Given the primary objective of reducing international conflict and violence, the study emphasizes the importance of conflict resolution and analysis. To achieve this, an initial distinction is made between internal/local analysis and global/external analysis, enabling a holistic and adequate examination of conflicts. The descriptive approach is adopted to comprehensively analyze existing conflicts and delve into their root causes. The research posits several hypotheses at each level of analysis. Historically, it suggests that the transformation in the nature of conflicts in the post-Cold War period led to the emergence of a cultural value perspective, highlighting the failure of traditional materialist interpretations. Additionally, it argues that the growing interest in the cultural dimension stems from the decline in economic, ideological, and military interpretations, granting precedence to cultural dynamics in understanding contemporary conflicts. The study also asserts the prominence of cultural and civilizational conflicts in present-day global conflicts. It emphasizes the need for strategic and civilized solutions, advocating for the resolution of intellectual and ideological conflicts before addressing physical armed conflicts. Moreover, hypotheses are formulated concerning the impact of poverty and addiction on state failures from psychological and political perspectives. 1 Examining the diffusion of civilizations in the current era, characterized by rapid change and information flow, the research investigates how cultural characteristics spread based on prevailing civilizational traits within societies. Furthermore, it explores the relationship between heritage and modernity, particularly in Western and Islamic civilizations, examining the philosophies of history from Plato to Hegel and the ideas of scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Khaldun. Regarding ontological considerations, the study builds an ontological framework for understanding civilization's role in establishing sustainable international peace. It differentiates between philosophical metaphysics and religion, highlighting religion's significance in shaping individuals' perceptions of the material and moral world. The concept of religion is examined, acknowledging its fixed nature while recognizing that religious thought evolves and is influenced by science and history. This research contributes to the understanding of civilization as an analytical tool in international relations, offering valuable insights into historical, epistemological, and ontological dimensions. By shedding light on the complexities of international conflicts and the importance of cultural dynamics, it paves the way for strategic and civilized approaches to conflict resolution and the promotion of global peace 2 .

Anna Khakee

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 1993, 24). Huntington’s hypothesis was that ‘the fault lines between civilizations’ would replace Cold War ideological boundaries as the ‘flash points for crisis and bloodshed’ (Huntington 1993, 29; Huntington 1996, 125).


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The ‘Clash of Civilizations’ 25 Years On: A Multidisciplinary Appraisal

The ‘Clash of Civilizations’ 25 Years On: A Multidisciplinary Appraisal

The purpose of this collection is to present Samuel P. Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ thesis, and to appraise its validity and shortcomings 25 years after the publication of his landmark article . The notion of a ‘clash of civilizations’ is examined from a multidisciplinary perspective. First, the volume examines Huntington’s contribution from a theoretical perspective, focusing on his ideas about politics and the concept of civilization. Second, the individual articles also consider Huntington’s thesis in the light of recent events, including the conflict in Ukraine, the rise of ISIS, China–India relations, the electoral success of far-right movements in Europe, the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean and the activity of the International Criminal Court in Africa. In sum, this book offers a vibrant and multifaceted conversation among established and emerging scholars on one of the most important paradigms for the understanding of international politics.

Edited by: Davide Orsi

Contributors: Ravi Dutt Bajpai, Gregorio Bettiza, Glen M.E. Duerr, Ian Hall, Jeffrey Haynes, Anna Khakee, Jan Lüdert, Kim Richard Nossal, Fabio Petito, Erik Ringmar, Anna Tiido, Wouter Werner and Ana Isabel Xavier.

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Islamic Culture and Democracy: Testing the 'Clash of Civilizations' Thesis


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The Purpose of the Crusades: a Historical Analysis

This essay about the Crusades explores the multifaceted purposes behind these medieval military campaigns. It examines the religious fervor, political ambitions, and economic interests that drove Europeans to take up the cross, highlighting the complex interplay of faith, power, and commerce. The essay also reflects on the darker aspects of the Crusades, acknowledging the violence and suffering they caused, while underscoring their lasting impact on history and human nature.

How it works

In the grand tapestry of human history, few chapters command as much intrigue and controversy as the Crusades. These medieval military campaigns, shrouded in religious zeal and political ambition, continue to captivate scholars and laypersons alike. Yet, amidst the clash of swords and the fervor of holy fervor, lies a deeper inquiry into the purpose of these tumultuous events – a purpose as multifaceted as the era from which they emerged.

The Crusades, often portrayed as a singular quest for religious redemption, are a mosaic of motivations that defy easy categorization.

Yes, religious fervor undeniably stirred the hearts of many who took up the cross, driven by the promise of spiritual salvation and the sanctity of reclaiming Jerusalem from Muslim rule. The impassioned sermons of Pope Urban II, rallying knights and peasants alike to the cause, echo through the corridors of history, emblematic of the fervent faith that propelled the Crusades forward.

Yet, to view the Crusades solely through a religious lens would be a disservice to the intricate web of political intrigue and economic ambition that underpinned these endeavors. The Byzantine Empire, beset by the encroaching Seljuk Turks, sought aid from the West, presenting European powers with an opportunity to expand their influence into the fertile lands of the Near East. The establishment of the Crusader States following the First Crusade speaks to the geopolitical aspirations that drove Western powers to intervene in distant lands.

Economic factors, too, played a pivotal role in the Crusades. The allure of trade routes to the East, long monopolized by Islamic powers, tantalized the burgeoning commercial interests of Italian city-states such as Venice and Genoa. The Crusades provided a convenient pretext for these maritime powers to assert their dominance in the Mediterranean, forging alliances and carving out lucrative trade concessions in the wake of military conquests.

Moreover, the Crusades served as a pressure valve for the simmering tensions and feudal rivalries that characterized medieval Europe. Knights and nobles, accustomed to waging war amongst themselves, found a new sense of purpose in the call to arms against a common enemy. The Crusades offered an opportunity for martial glory and territorial expansion, drawing ambitious men from across Europe to the banner of the cross.

Yet, for all their lofty aspirations, the Crusades were not without their dark shadows. The brutal sack of Jerusalem during the First Crusade stands as a stark reminder of the atrocities committed in the name of religious fervor. The clash of civilizations between Christian and Muslim forces left a legacy of bloodshed and suffering that lingers in the collective memory to this day.

In the annals of history, the purpose of the Crusades remains a subject of debate and interpretation. They were a product of their time – a time of faith and fanaticism, ambition and aggression. To understand the Crusades is to grapple with the complexities of human nature itself – the capacity for both noble idealism and ruthless violence.

As we look back on this tumultuous chapter in history, we are reminded that the true purpose of the Crusades defies easy categorization. They were a reflection of the hopes and fears, the aspirations and contradictions, of an age long past. In seeking to understand the Crusades, we are confronted not only with the distant echoes of the past but with the enduring complexities of the human experience.


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