The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P. Huntington

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In The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Samuel P. Huntington attempts to define the post-Cold War world. His conclusion is that, instead of an “us” and “them” approach to world politics, we must view the world as that of many civilizations, including mainly the West (generally Christian), Sinic (Chinese), Islamic, Hindu (Indian), and Japanese civilizations. Observing the world and predicting future encounters, therefore, revolves around the dynamic political relationships among these civilizations.

While this was an incredibly challenging book for me to get through*, I am incredibly glad I persevered. While I of course was familiar with the Cold War relations between USSR and the USA, I hadn’t seriously considered the state of the world after the Cold War. Huntington’s book is quite interesting, although it is dated. Because it was written in 1995, I found myself wondering many times how 9/11 changed the face of the world in terms of his philosophies.

In some respects, I think 9/11 may have been a direct result of exactly the issues Huntington addresses. Western civilizations like the USA did not comprehend the significance of Islam and/or expected Islamic countries to both modernize and Westernize. Also, Western civilizations assume “Western” ways of thinking are superior to other civilization traditions. This simply adds to the conflict between the civilizations, and it makes sense that the rising generations of the civilizations grow up relatively “anti-Western.”

On the other hand, Huntington does not address terrorism and terrorist states much at all. I kept thinking something was missing in his picture of the world: where do terrorists fit in the picture of world civilizations and developing states? Is the world really just a collection of civilizations and states surrounding those civilizations? What about the rouges?

I’ve read the book, and there is a lot in it. I don’t feel qualified to say whether or not I agree with Huntington, or whether or not his arguments are sound. As an amateur (i.e., not a political science academic), I found it very interesting, albeit overwhelming. I also don’t want to start a political debate: I really don’t know what I’m talking about. I was interested in this book and I still am interested in the concepts.

I now wish to learn, for comparison purposes, what the other political theories are in this post-Cold War era.  Huntington wrote his book in the 1990s, just between the Cold War and this new age, whatever it has become. Even more, I want to know what the post-9/11 theories are. Can anyone suggest a book that might help me on that endeavor? While I’m not sure I’m up to it this month, I certainly want to learn at some point in the future. I hope that reading more political theory might make political theory in general less overwhelming.

I read this for the World Citizen Challenge. It certainly helped me appreciate my place in terms of world politics! The parts I most appreciated were his exploration of the difference between Westernization and modernization. It was important for me to see how my way of life is starkly different from that of many other civilizations simply because I’m Western, and Western is not necessarily better. I also appreciated the history Huntington discussed because it helped me understand his arguments a little better; I’m not familiar with political theory, but history I enjoy.

*My husband studied politics and economics as an undergraduate; he says this is actually a very easy book of this type to read. Nonetheless, I struggled.

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About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. Nice job! I also like to read political books, but I don’t feel qualified to substantially comment on them. I’ll be very interested to see the books your readers recommend!

    Lezlie

  2. Two of the more high-profile IR theorists right now are Francis Fukuyama and Michael Mandelbaum. They have different approaches, too. I’m not sure how readable they are; I didn’t find them dull like some other theorists, but I’m used to that kind of writing! 🙂 For less academic stuff, post 9/11 seems to focus on globalisation, terrorism, and the legitimacy of democracy, so any books that discuss that will probably be very relevent!

    As far as states go, that’s been a big discussion in IR since the end of the Cold War, especially in the late 90s (I’d say). With the increase of multinational corporations, non-governmental organisations (like the Red Cross), and inter-governmental organisations (like the EU), there’s debate now about whether the state should be the default unit of analysis. I could totally ramble on about that for days, so if you want you can always e-mail me! 🙂

  3. Lezlie, thanks. I really wasn’t sure what to say. I’m afraid some actual political person will tell me how dumb I sound.

    Eva, I think my husband is reading Fukuyama. I may have to look into him and Mandelbaum. But I think I may go with some looking at legitimacy of democracy nonacademic first!

    Thanks for the ideas. I really did like how reading this book helped me to see the world differently. I guess that’s the point of the entire challenge, huh?

  4. Hi Rebecca, thanks for an interesting and insightful review of this one. I’m doing the World Citizen challenge too and this book is one that I’m considering. I’m definitely considering it more having read your review!

  5. Heather, I’m glad this review helped! I did find it challenging to read, but I think that’s because I’m just not familiar with the writing style of political theory. It was very interesting overall!

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