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 | Quotes


The years after the Cold War witnessed the beginnings of dramatic changes in peoples' identities and the symbols of those identities.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

This claim is central to Huntington's thesis. The ending of the Cold War marked a major shift in terms of how civilizations began to see both themselves and one another. As two superpowers declined, an existential question arose surrounding civilizational identity and how people viewed both their own civilizational identity and the identity of others.


We know who we are only when we know who we are not and often only when we know whom we are against.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

This points to the fact that in the emerging shifting identities of civilizations, proximity to one another only serves to highlight cultural similarities and differences. By seeing different civilizations as the "Other," people are therefore more able to solidify their own civilizational identity by contrast and comparison. This recognition both strengthens alliances between similar identities and deepens divisions between different identities.


Throughout history civilizations have provided the broadest identifications for people.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 2

This claim supports the argument that current and emerging global conflicts are caused by clashes between civilizations that are based on civilizational identity. This also supports the assertion that fault line conflicts, which begin at the community level, reverberate outward and upward along the lines of civilizational identities.


Throughout history the distribution of languages in the world has reflected the distribution of power.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 3

Huntington highlights the fact that dominant languages tend to reflect dominant power. The most powerful civilizations have the most dominant languages, such as Russian, Chinese, and English. English has been the primary language different civilizations use to communicate. However, Chinese, reflecting the shifting power dynamics of both civilizations, is usurping it.


The non-Wests see as Western what the West sees as universal.

Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 3

Huntington points out that Western civilization has long seen its influence as beneficial to the rest of the world. The West believes that its way of life—such as democracy and human rights—should be universal. Yet he highlights that this is naïveté on the part of the West. The West does not acknowledge that non-Western civilizations, rather than seeing these Western values as universal, instead resent the imposition and arrogance.


The distribution of cultures in the world reflects the distribution of power.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 4

One can follow the shifting boundaries and lines of power by examining the ways in which different cultures are distributed globally. An example of this is the burgeoning rise of Islam as a religious culture. Islam has exploded in the last few decades and has begun to wield much more influence and power with its spread.


For East Asians, East Asian success is particularly the result of the East Asian cultural stress on the collectivity rather than the individual.

Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 5

Huntington highlights this point as a key difference between East Asia and the West. The West prioritizes—and therefore pushes—the belief that the individual is the most important factor in society. East Asians place the collective good before individual good. This disparity in ideals leads to conflict and misunderstanding between the two civilizations.


The question 'Which side are you on?' has been replaced with 'Who are you?'

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 6

Huntington poses these questions to point out that at one time identities involved choosing a power to align with. Now people view themselves and one another along civilizational and cultural lines—which don't necessarily adhere to the boundaries of countries. "Who are you?" can also be a much more difficult and diffuse question to answer, since people can have multiple identities. Huntington's argument, therefore, is that civilizational identities are identities at the broadest level.


In the emerging world, global power is obsolete, global community a distant dream.

Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 7

Huntington addresses at various points the theory that a universal civilization and community are possible. He refutes that theory with the notion that different civilizations are allocating power based on their different identities. In this light, there can be no one global power, since that would rely on the eradication of multiple civilizational identities. By that logic, if there can be no one dominant global power, there can be no global community, since one cannot exist without the other.


The dangerous clashes of the future are likely to arise from the interaction of Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance, and Sinic assertiveness.

Narrator, Part 4, Chapter 8

Huntington warns that the fault lines between these three civilizations are too great to find compromise, particularly since they all come from such varied values and ideals. Since identities are so closely linked to these civilizational ideals, to challenge one is to challenge the core of its very identity. When presented in this light, the possibility of compromise and mutual understanding seems unlikely, while the potential for mutual intolerance and fear seems probable.


The parallel concepts of 'jihad' and 'crusade' not only resemble each other but distinguish these two faiths from other major world religions.

Narrator, Part 4, Chapter 9

Huntington points out that although Christianity and Islam clash at many levels and eye each other as religious "others," they are more alike than meets the eye. Both religions believe that their faith is the correct faith, and both have terms to describe the importance of spreading their faiths. Yet rather than bring them closer to any kind of mutual understanding or respect, this very similarity is what pits them against each other. The fact that they are only two faiths among world religions that have this concept sets them both together and apart from each other.


Saddam was wrong to invade, the West was more wrong to intervene, hence Saddam is right to fight the West.

Narrator, Part 4, Chapter 10

Huntington uses this example of the Gulf War to show how Western influence can have extremely detrimental effects on how non-Western civilizations view it. Although the West believed it was doing a good thing by taking Saddam Hussein out of power, Muslims saw it as Western arrogance and interference in something that was not its problem to solve. The West's actions only served to spark a backlash of anti-Western sentiment amongst Muslims, laying the groundwork for a deepening civilizational divide.


In contrast to the Cold War, conflict does not flow down from above, it bubbles up from below.

Narrator, Part 4, Chapter 11

Huntington makes this claim when describing the ways in which fault line wars function between civilizations. At one time conflicts began between superpowers and flowed down to affect allied civilizations and cultures. Now conflicts start at the state or group level and bubble up to draw in larger powers and kin countries. This changes the ways in which civilizations fight wars and usually means that resolution is hard to find.


Fault line wars are intermittent; fault line conflicts are interminable.

Narrator, Part 4, Chapter 11

Huntington makes the key distinction between fault line wars and fault line conflicts. He emphasizes the fact that fault line wars can halt because of exhaustion on both sides. But because of their deep-rooted divisions, they are nearly impossible to solve since it would require one civilization compromising on the very source of its identity. While wars over territories and politics are more easily solved, fault line conflicts strike at the very heart of a civilization's values and identity.


The central issue for the West is whether [...] it is capable of stopping and reversing the internal processes of decay.

Narrator, Part 5, Chapter 12

Huntington posits what it would take for the West to halt and reverse its current decline. He cautions that the West's biggest threat is not necessarily the rise of other powerful civilizations but rather not preserving its own culture, values, and influence. For Huntington, this "decay," includes the idea of multiculturalism, which he sees as the death knell of Western society. It will replace society, causing an even more dramatic diffusion of power—and the opportunity for more conflicts to arise between civilizational differences.

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