The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order | Study Guide

Samuel P. Huntington

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The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order | Part 2, Chapter 5 : The Shifting Balance of Civilizations (Economics, Demography, and the Challenger Civilizations) | Summary



The Asian Affirmation

Asian cultural assertiveness is rooted in its economic growth, which allows it to become more demanding in its dealings with other countries. The economic development of East Asia is one of the 20th century's most significant developments. The Chinese economy will likely become the world's largest in the 21st century. This development is altering the balance of power between Asia and the West. As it becomes more successful economically, East Asian society grows more confident and assertive in emphasizing how it is distinct from and superior to the West. It is also increasingly able to resist economic and political pressure from the West. An increasing embrace of historical Chinese culture and influences also emerged, rather than a look toward Western concepts for guidance. Asians also increasingly believe they will sustain their rapid economic growth. They gain confidence in the power they wield in world affairs and in the ability to stand up to the West. Other countries, inspired by East Asia's rapid growth, have begun to emulate its model rather than the West's.

The Islamic Resurgence

Asians have become increasingly assertive because of their economic advances. But Muslims have increasingly turned toward an embrace of Islam as a source of their identity and development. While Islam accepts modernity, it rejects Western culture. The Islamic Resurgence resembles Marxism and the Protestant Reformation in its vision of a perfect society and rejection of "the powers that be." Fundamental reform on all counts is key to its ideals.

Islam's impact on Eastern Hemisphere politics is pervasive. By 1995 every country with a predominantly Muslim population (excluding Iran) had become more Islamic. These countries had changed on a cultural, social, and political level more than they had 15 years prior. Islam became embedded in Muslim societies through its ability to provide school, health care, and community support. The governments of these countries were not able to do these things, and Islam filled the void. Islamization also spread through students in universities as well as the urban middle class. It also spread through recent migrants to cities looking for the social services that Islamist organizations were the first to provide. In almost every country in the mid-1990s, the likely successor to any failing government regime was an Islamist one. Islamist movements also positioned themselves as the only viable alternative to old regimes and political systems.

Any secular opposition to Islamism suffered. The opposition did not have religious institutions to operate from, such as the welfare organizations that mosques provide—an advantage the government cannot suppress. In return, government and law became increasingly Islamicized. The Resurgence of Islam has also been fueled by population growth, rather than the economic independence demonstrated by East Asia. This means that younger people will be the ones making their mark in the Resurgence—they are the recruits for Islamist organizations and politics. At the same time, this explosion in population combined with an economic stagnation in many Muslim countries means that Muslim migration to Western societies expands.

Changing Challenges

Both the Asian economic boom and the Islamic religious revival will level off and subside at a certain point since neither can last indefinitely. The economic development in Asia will likely lead to more democratic politics, although not necessarily pro-Western. The development of China will produce a massive shift in power among civilizations. The beginning of the 21st century will see an ongoing resurgence of non-Western power.


Alongside religious belief, economic power is the other biggest factor in determining a civilization's identity, power, and influence. In "The Asian Affirmation," Huntington lays out just how "successful economic development generates self-confidence and assertiveness." This self-confidence and assertiveness goes a long way in dominating the economy and reaping the benefits of reverberating power that come with it. Huntington points out East Asia's growing economy as an example. He particularly shows how alongside their growing power they have insisted on emphasizing "the distinctiveness of their culture and ... the superiority of their values." The less a civilization needs to rely on the West for economic reasons, the more it feels emboldened to claim its own civilizational economic success.

This, however, creates an uneasy tension between civilizations such as East Asia and the West. They must deal with each other intimately on economic, business, and market levels. Asians, for their part, are increasingly emboldened by their economic successes. They believe that as they surpass the West in economic product, so too will their power in world affairs increase proportionally. This growing confidence also emboldens their belief in their ability to stand up to the West's dictates and influence. This shifts the dynamics on a global scale. It's significant that Asians believe their economic success is owed to the uniqueness of their Asian culture. This implies a belief that their culture is superior to that of the West.

Huntington continues to affirm his argument of how closely linked culture and power are. This link is important in factoring which civilization emerges (or believes itself to be emerging) as the most dominant and influential. One substantial cultural difference between East Asia and the West is that of the collective versus the individual. The West has long prized individualism and liberty over the group. But East Asian culture is steeped in placing the group's interest above the individual. Therefore, East Asia considers its economic successes to be the result of their emphasis on the collective rather than the individual. Likewise, they see their economic prosperity as "proof of moral superiority." Huntington implies that a civilization's belief in its own identity and success cannot be divorced from its belief in values and morals.

In "The Islamic Resurgence," Huntington points out another factor in shaping a civilization's identity and belief in its own power: its demographics. Asian assertiveness and identity came about because of its economic successes. But Muslim assertiveness and identity have come about through its booming population's embrace of Islam. They see Islam as a "source of identity, meaning, stability, legitimacy, development, power, and hope." This shift has been so profound as to have been dubbed "The Islamic Resurgence." It has completely reconstructed modern Islamic society from top to bottom. This reshaping contributed to a profound shift on every level of the Islamic civilization. It was unique in that its growth continued despite lacking a core state in which commands and dictates were centered. Islamist organizations were able to take advantage of the gaps left by the government to provide social services, meaning, and community. Islam is "a return" to an older religion. But it has also provided for Muslims "the compass and motor of modernization" that doesn't come from a Western dominating power. This is just as significant as East Asia's being able to claim their own economic success without Western influence.

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