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The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.

In the summer of 1993, an article by Samuel P. Huntington in Foreign Affairs entitled "The Clash of Civilizations?" posed the question of whether conflicts between civilizations would dominate the future of world politics. That article garnered the largest response that Foreign Affairs has had since the even more famous article of 1948 in which "X" (actually George F. Kennan) advanced the containment doctrine to deal with the Soviet Union.

Huntington, a Harvard University professor, has expanded his article into a complex and well-reasoned book which analyzes key issues and presents significant information. It includes:

* a discussion of the nature, identity and dynamics of civilization throughout history. He also categorizes and describes the major contemporary civilizations that make up the post-Cold War world: Sinic (Chinese), Japanese, Hindu, Islam, Western, Latin American, and African (possibly).

* A critique of the concept of "universal civilization." Huntington focuses on the role of modernization and westernization and shows how they do not necessarily go together, and that non-Western societies increasingly want to become modern but not Western.

* The dominance and decline of Western power. Huntington writes, "The West is overwhelmingly dominant now and will remain number one in terms of power and influence well into the twenty-first century. Gradual, inexorable, and fundamental changes, however, are also occurring in the balances of power among civilizations and the power of the West relative to that of other civilizations will continue to decline."

* The resurgence of non-Western cultures, particularly those that have come from Asia and from Islam. Huntington explains how the population explosion in Muslim countries and the economic rise of East Asia challenges Western dominance, promotes opposition to supposedly "universal" Western ideals, and intensifies intercivilizational conflict over such issues as nuclear proliferation, immigration, human fights and democracy.

* A look at why the most dangerous clashes of the future are likely to arise "from the interaction of Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance, and Sinic assertiveness." Huntington revisits the Persian Gulf War, and the Soviet Afghan War of 1979-89, which he describes as "transition wars" - heralding an era dominated by ethnic conflict.

All the above notions and others in the book are subject to debate. I recommend reading this book before you take sides.
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Author:Levinson, Martin H.
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1997
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