The term „clash of civilizations“ originates from an article by the U.S. political scientist and sociologist Samuel P. Huntington. In 1993, the article with the questioning title The Clash of Civilizations? appeared in the journal Foreign Affairs. Three years later, the eponymous work Clash of Civilizations. Reshaping World Politics in the 21st Century was published and subsequently sparked controversial debates internationally. Huntington believes that the cause of future conflicts will no longer be ideological or economic, but will be found in the clash of civilizations (cf. Caglar 1997).
8 Cultural Circles
The identification context here is formed by cultural circles or civilizations, which Huntington describes as follows: „defined both by common objective elements such as language, history, religion, customs, institutions, and by people’s subjective identification with it.“ (Huntington 1996, 28) Through research by historians and ethnologists, Huntington divides the world into eight cultural areas or civilizations (see Huntington 1996, 28). The identified cultural circles are: the Western, Confucian, Japanese, Hindu, Islamic, Slavic Orthodox, Latin American and the African (cf. Huntington 1996, 40).
The Clash of Civilizations
Referring to the fact that cultural differences have led to the longest and bloodiest conflicts in history (cf. Metzinger 2000, 18), Huntington presents his central thesis: „Nation-states will remain the most powerful actors on the globe, but the fundamental conflicts of world politics will occur between nations and groupings from different cultures. The clash of civilizations, of cultures (civilizations), will dominate world politics.“ (Huntington 1993, 1)
According to Huntington, the survival of the West in this defined multipolar and multicultural world order depends on America becoming aware again of its Western identity. It is also essential, he argues, for members of Western civilizations to realize that their culture is unique but not universal (cf. Metzinger 2000, 18). The West is still one of the strongest cultural groups, but its power is declining in comparison to other cultural groups (cf. Huntington 1996, 28).
World order and conflicts
The West had to struggle with internal problems such as government deficits or low economic growth, so economic power was shifting to East Asia (cf. Huntington 1996, 128). The balance of cultures was changing, the Indian economy was in the starting blocks and the Islamic world was hostile to the West (cf. Huntington 1996, 118).
Huntington underscores his theses by not seeing modernization as synonymous with Westernization (cf. Huntington 1996, 113). The modernization of non-Western states resists Westernization by putting their own cultural values in the foreground (cf. Metzinger 2000, 17).
The future world order, he argues, will be shaped by various development trends in world politics because it has become multipolar and multicultural (cf. Metzinger 2000, 17). Link contradicts Huntington by stating that differences do not necessarily have to lead to wars. Nevertheless, a great deal of conflict is to be expected (cf. Link 2001, 38).
Gazi, Caglar (1997): The Myth of the War of Civilizations. The West against the rest of the world. Munich: Marino.
Huntington, Samuel Philips (1996): Clash of civilizations. Reshaping world politics in the 21st century. 5th ed. Munich/ Vienna: Europe.
Huntington, Samuel Philips (1993): In the Clash of Civilizations. https://www.zeit.de/1993/33/im-kampf-der-kulturen [14.06.2018].
Link, Werner (2001): The reordering of world politics. Basic problems of global politics on the threshold of the 21st century. 3rd ed. Munich: Beck.
Metzinger, Udo M. (2000): The Huntington debate. The confrontation with Huntington’s „clash of civilizations“ in journalism. Cologne: SH.