Saturday, September 16, 2017

Clash of Civilizations explained

 Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" (1996, based on a lecture from 1992) argues that after the age of big ideologies (Liberalism, Marxism, Fascism etc.) contemporary international relations will be determined by cultural and religious identities. Huntington argues (in the mid 90's) that future great wars will be fought not between countries but cultures or civilizations, starting with the clash between The western civilization and the Islamic world.

Huntington's Clash of Civilizations is a response to Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History" where he argued, based on Hegel, that the fall of the Berlin Wall marks the last stage of human development and conflict with the victory of western liberalism. Huntington agrees that ideology indeed reached its end as the power that drives global politics but argues that it is only replaced by the cultural, not ideological, aspects of identity. This, according to Huntington, will make civilizations the most important factor in analyzing contemporary historical events and processes.       

In "The Clash of Civilizations" Huntington divides the world into several civilizations:

The Western civilization. Christian Europe, North America and Australia.

The Muslim civilization. The Islamic Middle east, North Africa, parts of Asia, parts of the Balkans, Malaysia and Indonesia. 

Latin American civilization. Central and South America and the Caribbean.

The Orthodox civilization. Former Soviet union and parts of Eastern Europe.

The Eastern civilization. Southeast Asia including China, India and Japan.

The Sub-Saharan civilization. Most of Africa south of the Sahara.

(Note that this is a summary, Huntington goes into greater detail and specification of the regions and countries that belong to each civilization.

According to Huntington these civilizations differ fundamentally in almost every aspect of life and culture, with religion being a key factor. People in the modern era are uprooted from their local, even national, communities and this is why civilizations plays a bigger role in identity.  

According to Huntington globalization is bringing these civilizations into closer contact, a process that will result in clashes. The Western civilization is pivotal here, since its power is actually what drives other civilizations (and the western civilization itself) to seek ways to consolidate their identity against globalization pressures originating in the west.  Huntington  therefore thought that the next big global clash will be between the Western and Islamic civilizations, making "Clash of Civilizations" a prophecy fulfilled only 5 year after it was given.          

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

End of History vs. Clash of Civilizations debate - analysis

"The End of History and the Last Man" by Francis Fukuyama (1992) and  "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" by Samuel Huntington (1996) famously differ not only in their interpretation of the historical event of the end of the Cold-War, but also in their interpretation of history itself.
Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union Fukuyama claimed that the "end of history" has arrived not in the sense of no more events but in the sense of no more opposing historical forces which drive history forward through conflict. Fukuyama utilizes Hegel's philosophy which saw human progress as driven my its internal ideological contradictions. Following Kojeve's interpretation of Hegel, Fukuyama thought that the final victory of the West in the Cold-War marks the final victory of liberal democracy which will remain as the one universal ideology.
Shortly after Fukuyama published his "The End of History and the Last Man" he was criticized by Samuel Huntington who argued that the ideological conflicts which characterized the 20th Century will be replaced by cultural ones. In "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" Huntington held that culture in its broad sense of religion, language, heritage and tradition is becoming the most important factor in human identity. He therefore offered an analysis of global politics as comprised by several civilizations (like the Western, Islamic, Latin American, Orthodox, Eastern Asian and the Sub-Saharan civilization) which clash between one another.
The theoretical debate between "The End of History" and "The Clash of Civilization" was eventually decided by history itself which shows no intention of ending in the near future. Fukuyama was definitely over-optimistic in thinking that the end of the Cold-War marks the end of human conflict. Huntington on the other hand has been so far proved correct in his prediction of the next big battle being fought between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.
But there is still a deeper philosophical sense to the Huntington/Fukuyama debate since it demonstrates the problematic nature of our understanding of historical dialectics. Fukuyama proclaimed "The End of History" since, like many before him, he was unable to see past the constrains of his own position in History, unable to imagine a different meaning to politics. Huntington, very much within the lines of the Hegelian thesis, was only able to see a different current directing history by means of his critique on Fukuyama. In that sense "The Clash of Civilizations" is born out of "The End of History" in perfect line with Hegelian dialectics.                 

Some related books to consider:   

Short summary: The End of History by Fukuyama - explanation

"The End of History and the Last Man" by Francis Fukuyama is a book published in 1992 (expanding on an essay published in 1989) arguing that the end of the Cold-War marks the endpoint of the development of human history.
Fukuyama draws heavily on the Philosophy of Hegel and its interpretation by Kojeve. Hegel, to summarize, saw history as evolving through conflict between opposing ideas (Hegelian dialectics of thesis, antithesis and synthesis). Kojeve translated this highly influential line of thought into an argument holding that the final condition of humanity's socio-political order is a homogeneous state ruled by a single victorious ideology. This will mark the end of ideology (and therefore of history) since such a society will be, according to Kojeve, a "post-political" society which won't be divided by ideological differences.  
In "The End of History and the Last Man" Fukuyama sees the end of the Cold-War and the fall of the Berlin Wall as marking the end of ideological conflict with the unchallenged establishment of Western liberal democracy as the final ideological stage of human evolution. After the opposition between the liberal West and the communist world was resolved Fukuyama sees no further direction in which history can go. Hence the end of history is not to be understood as no more events happening and no more people born of die, but rather as the final resolution of the tensions which drive history forwards. The end of history for Fukuyama is the end of the making of history and human progress in its Hegelian understanding (and by that denying Marx's view of history which saw the endpoint of history in a global communist society, see for example The Communist Manifesto).  
Fukuyama's thesis in "The End of History and the Last Man" was heavily criticized by both other historical thinkers and history itself. Most notable among Fukuyama's critiques is Samuel Huntington in his book "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order"  (1996) where he explains that cultural forces will take over ideological forces in shaping global history. Since September 11th 2001 Huntington's critique of Fukuyama's "The End of History" is proved painfully right, history did not come to its end (see End of History vs. Clash of Civilizations debate

Related summaries:

The End of History and the Last Man / Francis Fukuyama

Some related books to consider:   

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Short summary of The Clash of Civilizations by S. Huntington

"The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" (1996) by Samuel Huntington sets forth a hypothesis regarding the nature of global politics in the post Cold-War era. According to Huntington, wars in the 21st century will not be thought between countries (nationalism) not between ideologies (such as Liberalism, Marxism, Fascism etc.) as they did in the 20th century but rather between civilizations. In the "The Clash of Civilizations" Huntington listed several different civilizations comprising the world today (see detail below), and argued that after the end of the Cold-War the next battles will be thought between the Western civilization and the Islamic world (and it took history only 5 years to prove him right).

The philosophical backdrop to Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations" is the Hegel inspired thought (like Fukuyama's "End of History") that the fall of the Berlin Wall marks the end of human conflict with the eventual victory of Western Liberalism, Huntington opposes this by suggesting that conflicts are only about to take on a different shape, a cultural one. According to his hypothesis, when local and even national identities are being eroded by globalization culture in its broadest sense is becoming more and more important in defining who people are. A common religion, language, history, heritage and traditions is what groups people into sects that oppose one another.

Huntington's analysis also holds that globalization brings civilizations into closer interaction, resulting in higher tensions. The victory won by the West in the Cold-War and the global spread of its Capitalism actually prompted these processes and pitted the West against "the rest". The spread of Western ideology and economy actually drives other cultures into fundamentalism in an attempt to protect their cultural identity.

Huntington lists several civilizations and sub-civilizations including: the Western civilization, the Muslim world, Latin American civilization, the Eastern civilization, the Orthodox civilization and the Sub-Saharan African civilization. These civilizations are the tectonic plates of humanity, and when the clash earthquakes happen. Huntington further maps out the relations between the civilizations and their potential for conflict. For Huntington the most acute potential for conflict is along the fault lines of the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds (remember he first suggested "The Clash of Civilizations" in 1992 and published the book in 1996).       


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Jihad vs. McWorld / Barber - summary

"Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and Tribalism Are Reshaping the World" by Benjamin Barber (1995) describes two mutually opposing historical forces that together threaten modern democracy. Both Jihad and "McWorld" are the result of neoliberal economy which creates pressure of identity and community. In "Jihad vs. McWorld" Berber holds that these forces cannot be avoided. He therefore proposes a way (he calls the confederal option) to satisfy them both while still keeping the freedom democracy has to offer.  

On the one hand of Barber's "Jihad vs. McWorld " stands the Islamic Jihad (literally: struggle) which offers strong social connections and a sense of identity at the cost of a closed off and intolerant society. Jihad according to Barber relies on a holy war waged against and external threat (modern democracy and globalization). This type of fundamentalism can lead to various types of non-democratic forms of government. Jihad, according to Barber, seeks to retribalize the world into mutually exclusive sects.

On the other hand of the equation we have "McWorld" which is a form of non-democratic corporate globalization. "McWorld" is a force that breaks down any form of boarder between cultures and regions. Its ideology is opposed to the tribalizing Jihad, Open markets and modern communication technology play and important part in "McWorld". This is a much safer and economically rewarding option compared to what Jihad has to offer, but "McWorld" also has its costs such as limiting people's freedom.

Barber does not think that democracy can fend off Jihad of McWorld completely. Barber argues that it (democracy) can save itself by satisfying some of its adversaries' needs., this is what he calls the "confederal option". The idea is to withdraw from the idea of the large nation state into smaller communities that maintain a market that extends the size of that of the nation state (that is, a global market between local communities). 

Related summaries:


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Kierkegaard's leap of Faith - explanation

In order to understand Søren Kierkegaard's famous concept of "leap of faith" we need to first explain what he means in the general notion of "leap" and its place in Kierkegaard's existential philosophy. Kierkegaard offered the term "leap" to replace the Hegelian notion of mediation between two opposing elements. Kierkegaard's concept of leap points to a state in which a person is faced with a choice that cannot be justified rationally and he therefore has to leap into it. The leap of faith is, therefore, a leap into faith which is allowed by it, stemming from a Paradoxical contradiction between the ethical and the religious. 

Kierkegaard's classic and most important example of such a leap is Abraham's Leap of faith. In Fear and Trembling Kierkegaard suggests that the ethical is incommensurable with the religious, killing your own child cannot be mediated with obeying God. This is why Abraham had to perform a leap of faith when he obeyed God but still maintained faith that Isaac would live. 

The leap of faith is named by Kierkegaard that way since it is a leap towards faith, moving from the aesthetic sphere of life to the religious one (see Kierkegaard's three spheres of existence) . It is also a leap of faith since faith, not reason, is the only thing that can enable it. Abraham could not have found a rational justification for his actions, it is only the leap that made him father of faith or as Kierkegaard puts it: knight of faith

In the concept of leap of faith Kierkegaard rejects a great part of rationalist philosophy such as Rene Descartes and up to Hegel who believed that God can be rationally proven and that faith can rely on sound logic. For Kierkegaard there is no reason in faith, and that is what makes it a leap. The concept of leap of faith is closely tied to Kierkegaard's concept of the individual and the concept of paradox or absurd

Kierkegaard's Concept of the Individual

Kierkegaard regarded the religious-ethical catagory of the individual as his greatest philosophic discovery. Kierkegaard's emphasis on the individual countered the "mass" moral of his contemporary philosophy which did not see the private conscience as a fundamental principle of ethics. The subjective individual in philosophy was opposed to the objective truth. But for Kierkegaard the crucial thing in faith (which it tied to truth) is the individual relation to the absolute, to God.

In Fear and Trembling Kierkegaard opposed the individual with the universal. While the universal is ethical, the individual can be either aesthetic (living for himself) or religious (living for God).