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Clash of Civilisation

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Clash of Civilisation

POLITICS is entering a new phase, and intellectuals have

not hesitated to proliferate visions of what it will be—the end of history,

the return of traditional rivalries between nation states, and the

decline of the nation state from the conflicting pulls of tribalism and

globalism, among others. Each of these visions catches aspects of the

emerging reality. Yet they all miss a crucial, indeed a central, aspect

of what global politics is likely to be in the coming years.

It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this

new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic.

The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of

conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful

actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will

occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash

of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between

civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.

Conflict between civilizations will be the latest phase in the evolution

of conflict in the modern world. For a century and a half after

the emergence of the modern international system with the Peace of

Westphalia, the conflicts of the Western world were largely among

SAMUEL P. HUNTINGTON is the Eaton Professor of the Science of

Government and Director of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic

Studies at Harvard University. This article is the product of the Olin

Institute's project on "The Changing Security Environment and

American National Interests."


The Clash of Civilizations?

princes—emperors, absolute monarchs and constitutional monarchs

attempting to expand their bureaucracies, their armies, their mercantilist

economic strength and, most important, the territory they

ruled. In the process they created nation states, and beginning with

the French Revolution the principal lines of conflict were between

nations rather than princes. In 1793, as R. R. Palmer put it, "The wars

of kings were over; the wars of peoples had begun." This nineteenthcentury

pattern lasted until the end of World War I. Then, as a result

of the Russian Revolution and the reaction against it, the conflict of

nations yielded to the conflict of ideologies, first among communism,

fascism-Nazism and liberal democracy, and then between communism

and liberal democracy. During the Cold War, this latter conflict

became embodied in the struggle between the two superpowers, neither

of which was a nation state in the classical European sense and

each of which defined its identity in terms of its ideology.

These conflicts between princes, nation states and ideologies were

primarily conflicts within Western civilization, "Western civil wars,"

as William Lind has labeled them. This was as true of the Cold War

as it was of the world wars and the earlier wars of the seventeenth,

eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. With the end of the Cold War,

international politics moves out of its Western phase, and its centerpiece

becomes the interaction between the West and non-Western

civilizations and among non-Western civilizations.

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