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Clash of Civilizations

            Civilization is a complex and intertwined system of social grouping based on profound separating factors such as geographical location, religion, culture, race, and common events. Civilization has continued to shape human interactions on personal, economic, political, and social levels. Huntington (1993) argues that the conflicts of the new world will be cultural, meaning that they will be characterized by a clash of civilizations. Huntington’s article provides a valid argument regarding the clash of civilizations, and the ongoing American war on terror is an embodiment of such a clash.


Summary of Huntington’s Thesis

The article begins by explaining the evolution of world politics from ideological and economic conflicts to cultural conflicts. In Huntington’s (1993) view, civilizations will fight along cultural lines which will, in turn, offset global politics being centered on civilization-related conflicts. The article sequences the progression of conflict between kings, then nations, conflicts of ideologies and finally conflict between civilizations, for example, between West and the non-West nations.


            Moreover, Huntington (1993) describes the reasons for the clash of civilizations. The basic nature of cultural differences is such that it is guaranteed to create conflict on simple differing points. The globalization of the world will also participate in enhancing cultural consciousness and awareness on these points of difference. Additionally, the impact of economic modernization and social change is blurring the lines of identity and filling this gap with religion or fundamentalism. Finally, there is a struggle between the dominance of the West and the desire by the non-West to carve out their own place and identity.

            The article then continues to identify common fault lines between civilizations that are replacing political and ideological boundaries. Europe’s fault lines separate between Western Christianity, Orthodox Christianity, and Islam. Arguably, most of Europe’s conflicts have developed along these lines in recent years especially after the Second World War.

            Finally, these religious lines have created wars and conflicts along religious and cultural lines that have led to the adoption of a West-East conflict. Countries that were previously unaligned are now aligning themselves with the East-West schisms in an attempt to remap their civilization and make more progress. Huntington (1993) clearly states that the ideas in the article are the only hypothesis based on common knowledge and analysis, and should not be taken as a declaration on global conflicts pitting civilizations against each other.

Comparison Between Huntington’s and Jonathan’s Fox Arguments

            Huntington’s theory of civilization has sparked great debate particularly in the wake of September 11. Many critics of his views have emerged, among them, Fox (2002) rejects his views. The main shortcoming he identifies in Huntington’s theory is the difficulty in operationalizing classifications of civilizations. According to Fox (2002), today’s ethnic conflicts well as the antagonism between the West and Islamic civilizations constitute a minority of the world’s conflicts. However, this may not be true particularly in the war on terror, which has turned out to be a dominant cause of conflict among nations. Fox (2002) disputes the reasons Huntington (1993) gives for the explanation of the post-Cold War era as being characterized by a clash of civilizations. In Fox’s view, Huntingdon and most of his critics use anecdotal evidence to propound the clash of civilizations theory.

The views of Fox and Huntington differ in terms of the validity of culture as the main basis for conflict in the new world. They, however, both value the contribution of culture and civilization on ethnic conflicts though to greatly differing extents. Nevertheless, Huntington’s theory provides a valid explanation for the current American war on terror. The war has brought Western civilization into conflict with the Islamic civilization. Fox’s theory suggests that these religious and civilization-oriented conflicts constitute a few among many other conflicts, and can, therefore, be minimized. However, both theories carry great weight in explaining the nature of global conflicts today. At the same time, the American war on terror provides compelling evidence in support of Huntington’s theory. 


Huntington’s view on the role of culture on the conflict in the new world is valid. This phenomenon is best demonstrated by America’s struggle to fight terror in the aftermath of September 11. Fox agrees with the role of culture in the current global conflicts but disputes Huntington’s claim regarding their dominance of those conflicts. In this case, the ongoing U.S.-led war on terror provides a justification for the growing relevance of the clash of civilizations theory.


Fox, J. (2002). Ethnic minorities and the clash of civilizations: A quantitative analysis of Huntington’s thesis. British Journal of Political Science, 32, 415-434.

Huntnington, S. (1993). The clash of civilizations. Foreign Affairs, 72,  22-49.       

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