Monday, August 08, 2005

The Clash of Civilizations


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The Clash of Civilization & the Remaking of World Order

Author: Samuel P. Huntington

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 1996

"Civilization is a cultural entity. It involved mechanics, technology, and material factors which encompasses values, ideals and the higher intellectual artistic, moral qualities of a society. Civilization and culture both refers to the overall way of life of the people."

Civilization have no clear-cut boundaries and no precise beginning and endings. People can and do redefine their identities and, as a result, the composition and shapes of civilizations changes over time. The cultures of people interact and overlap. Civilizations are mortals as they evolve, adapt, and are the most enduring of human associations, 'realities of the extreme longue duree.'

In social psychology, distinctiveness theory holds that people defines themselves by what makes them different from others in a particular context: "one perceives oneself in terms of characteristic that distinguishes oneself from the other humans, especially from people in one's usual social milieu... People defines their identity by what they are not ... people increasingly accord greater relevance to their civilizational identity.

In an increasing globalized world - characterized by soceital interdependence, there is an exacerbation of civilizational self-consciousness. Modern science and technology requires the absorption of the thought processes, as the content must be emulated no less than form. Only when we explicitly accept modernization will we be able to be in a position to technicalize and then to develop. Modernization does not mean Westernization. Non-Western societies can modernize without abandoning their own cultures and adopting wholesale Western values, institutions and practices.

These rational illustration of civilization are expounded by Samuel Huntington in his thesis. Sam is a political scientist and his writing presents a challenging framework for diagnosing the realities of global politics. Samuel P. Huntington is the professor at Harvard University and the chairman of Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. He had served as the director of security planning for the National Security Council in the Carter Administration.

The book was written based on his seminal article published in the journal 'Foreign Affairs', entitled "The Clash of Civilizations?" in 1993. That article apparently stirred up more discussion and debates. People were variously impressed, intrigued, outraged, frightened, and perplexed by his argument that the most potent global conflicts are between groups from differeing civilizations. It struck the nerves in people of every civilization.

In this book, Sam attempt to elaborate, refine, and develop many new ideas. It include the concept of civilizations; the question of universal civilization; the relation between power and culture; the shifting balance of power; conflicts generated by Western societies, Muslim militancy, Chinese assertion and the balancing responses to the rise of Chinese power; and the future of the West and a world of civilizations.

According to Sam, this book was not intended to be a work of social science. It is instead meant to serve as a hypothesis with his aspiration that it will present a framework, a paradigm, for viewing global politics that will be meaningful to scholars and useful to policymakers. It is Sam's desire that this book will provide a more meaningful and useful lens through which to view international developments and not an attempt to develop any alternative paradigm. He does not pretend to account for everything that is happening in global politics.

In his concluding chapter, Sam envisage that "A global war involving the core states of the world's major civilizations is highly improbable, but not impossible. He suggested that such a war could come about from the escalation of a fault line war between groups from different civilizations, most likely involving Muslims on one side and non-Muslims on the other. In his opinion, the escalation is made more likely if aspiring Muslim core states compete to provide assistance to their embattled coreligionists.
According to Sam, a far more dangerous and potential source of a global intercivilizational war is the shifting balance of power among civilizations and their core states. Sam believes the rise of China and the growing assertiveness of this "biggest player in the history of mankind" will place tremendous stress on international stability in the 21st. Century as the emergence of China as the dominant power in East Asia and South East Asia would be contrary to American interests as construed. This is further exacerbated by the discovery and development of the oil resources in the South China Sea, which is largely under Chinese auspices and of which China intends to take full control of the entire sea and claim sovereignty. Control of and access to oil is the central importance to all potential combatants and the attack of Iraq is a clear positive confirmation of the hypothesis.

As known to the Americans, China do possess missiles which are capable of delivering nuclear weapons to other's territory. Fear of such conflicts exists in both societies. Impounding America's fear is the fact that Japan has bandwagon with China, shifting its position from normal neutrality to pro-Chinese positive neutrality and yielding to China's demands and becoming cobelligent.

In conclusion, Sam is of the opinion that whatever the immediate outcome of this global civilizational war, the broader long-term result would almost inevitably be the drastic decline in the economic, demographic and military power of all the major participants in the war. There are clear signs that global power, which had shifted over the centuries from the East to the West, are now shifting from the North to the South.

In Sam's view, to avoid such intercivilized wars, it require core states to refrain from intervening in conflicts in other civilizations of which he belief, it would be hard for America to accept. This is because, the acceptance of these rules and of a world with greater equality among civilizations will not be easy for the West or for those civilizations which may aim to supplement or supplant the West in its dominant role.
Many may not agree with Sam, but his hypothesis is good and eruditing. It is a definite must read book. It draws critical thinking and a better understanding of civilization.