Huntingdon’s *Clash of Civilizations*

I should have picked up Huntingdon’s work earlier. It is awesome. He argues (or at least the structure of his thought necessarily suggests such) that the utopian vision of liberal democracy (whether right or left-wing) has failed miserably and that societies will revert back to their original civilizational paradigms.

By that he doesn’t mean that societies will simply turn back the clock. Rather, the civilizations from which nation-states emerged have a stronger pull upon the states that some post-Enlightenment view of “democratic capitalism.” In short, “people and culture” trump artificial ideology.

Huntingdon lists several civilizations:

  • Sinic/Hindu: China, Southeast Asia, and India. I realize that India could legitimately be a separate civilization (and I believe it is), but I’m listing it under China for several reasons: to keep the list from multiplying unnecessarily and because India will probably ally itself with China in the near future.
  • Islamic: Most of the Middle East and all of northern Africa. Malaysia and Indonesia are also Islamic, but they will be subsumed under China in terms of influence. One caveat: I do not believe the Islamic civilization can be delineated the way Huntingdon portrays it.
  • African: Subcontinent; northern Africa is distinct from area below Sudan.
  • Western: originating from Western Christendom (post AD 800-1204), but largely trashing that heritage today. Nevertheless, maintains the skeleton of Charlemagne and Christendom, especially seen in the form of the European Union and NATO.
  • Orthodox/Slavic: Russia is the de facto leader of this civilization, given her wealth, size, and influence. Includes eastern Ukraine, Belarus, most of the Balkans. Interestingly, I would identify much of Western Europe pre 600 AD as “Orthodox.” Inheritor of Byzantium. Religious differences notwithstanding, this civilization is able to make strong ties/alliances with Middle East. Syria is 30% Orthodox anyway. Likely to form some kind of coalition with Middle Eastern countries and China to offset NATO/EU’s march of mutual destruction.
  • Latin America

However, I disagree with Huntingdon on the Middle East. I think the Middle East is in an identity crisis between Fundamentalism and Nationalism. Islamic countries like Syria and Turkey, for all of their problems, lean closer to nationalism than “jihadism.” Likewise, I maintain that Iran is more nationalist than fundamentalist, though it is very much the latter, too.

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12 comments on “Huntingdon’s *Clash of Civilizations*

  1. I agree with you on the Middle East. When I worked in Iraq in the 80s, it was Nationalistic first, secular second (as in the city-folks treasured American classics like the TV show “Dallas” and Levi blue jeans–and the country folks mostly wanted new tractors). Fundamentalism was way down the list. When times are relatively prosperous, it’s hard to be into jihad, and, Iraq, even though it was at war, was fairly prosperous in those days.As for the notion of people pulling their government back to their culture, I’d add Western America as a distinct one. It may be a subculture of Western, but it has its roots in being connected to being fugitives of some sort, and that shows in their strong desire for privacy. This is something that European style culture has trouble understanding.There is a certain crusty populism that plain ignores and repels Big Brother. That is probably as big a counter against the utopians of whatever stripe as any sort of ideology or political system.

  2. I agree with you on the Middle East. When I worked in Iraq in the 80s, it was Nationalistic first, secular second (as in the city-folks treasured American classics like the TV show "Dallas" and Levi blue jeans–and the country folks mostly wanted new tractors). Fundamentalism was way down the list. When times are relatively prosperous, it's hard to be into jihad, and, Iraq, even though it was at war, was fairly prosperous in those days.As for the notion of people pulling their government back to their culture, I'd add Western America as a distinct one. It may be a subculture of Western, but it has its roots in being connected to being fugitives of some sort, and that shows in their strong desire for privacy. This is something that European style culture has trouble understanding.There is a certain crusty populism that plain ignores and repels Big Brother. That is probably as big a counter against the utopians of whatever stripe as any sort of ideology or political system.

  3. Hey Vic,This is Jacob A, btw. It’s good to hear from you.

  4. Hey Vic,This is Jacob A, btw. It's good to hear from you.

  5. I knew it was you when I stumbled across this blog! Good to see you are still thinking hard and not bogged down in the mundane like I’ve been lately. 😉

  6. I knew it was you when I stumbled across this blog! Good to see you are still thinking hard and not bogged down in the mundane like I've been lately. 😉

  7. Am I that transparent? LOL. This blog is sort of an interaction between church fathers and modern politics (I suppose there is some great unifying theme. Haven’t found it yet).I’ve dropped the theonomic label, though I still revere Bahnsen. Politically, I hold to some form of Christian monarchy. I update fairly regularly.

  8. Am I that transparent? LOL. This blog is sort of an interaction between church fathers and modern politics (I suppose there is some great unifying theme. Haven't found it yet).I've dropped the theonomic label, though I still revere Bahnsen. Politically, I hold to some form of Christian monarchy. I update fairly regularly.

  9. John says:

    Huntington is a great favorite of mine. I’ve bought a number of copies since 1995 and have given them to friends. My current copy is dog-eared and underlined throughout. I believe Huntington was greatly misunderstood and misappropriated after 9/11 by both neo-cons and liberals. I think his thesis holds, however, and like him or not (and I do,) at least for present, “Clash of Civilizations” still frames the issue. And I think I agree with you about the Middle East, though there has been no reason to revise Huntington’s “bloody borders of Islam” appraisal.

  10. John says:

    Huntington is a great favorite of mine. I've bought a number of copies since 1995 and have given them to friends. My current copy is dog-eared and underlined throughout. I believe Huntington was greatly misunderstood and misappropriated after 9/11 by both neo-cons and liberals. I think his thesis holds, however, and like him or not (and I do,) at least for present, "Clash of Civilizations" still frames the issue. And I think I agree with you about the Middle East, though there has been no reason to revise Huntington's "bloody borders of Islam" appraisal.

  11. I agree. I read his “Core states” section yesterday and was stunned by just how prescient he was. The part on Islam is fair enough; i just think it can be qualified in different ways. I do think it’s funny in that neocns and neolibs think that the world is waiting to be one big democracy and american colony, and then Huntingdon suggests that they would rather revert back to more ancient civilizational ties.

  12. I agree. I read his "Core states" section yesterday and was stunned by just how prescient he was. The part on Islam is fair enough; i just think it can be qualified in different ways. I do think it's funny in that neocns and neolibs think that the world is waiting to be one big democracy and american colony, and then Huntingdon suggests that they would rather revert back to more ancient civilizational ties.

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