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Analytical Reviews. Part One: Conflicts of Civilization. One way of looking at the contemporary world is to examine how each tiny state relates to its neighbours, and how international relations are formed and broken across the different regions of the globe…
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Download file to see previous pages Samuel Huntigdon’s article on “The Clash of Civilizations1 is one of these later studies, and it presents an attempt at a framework for analysis of world history. Instead of focussing on individual nation states, as classical history does, or looking for geographical features and crises as global history does, Huntingdon focuses on human culture. This means that his study fits into the genre of world history. The main point of the article is that historians should trace human history through the civilizations which rise and fall in various regions and over longer periods of time. He identifies a civilization as “a cultural entity”2 and explains that civilizations may be very large, like contemporary China, or very small, like the Anglophone Caribbean.3 These entities distinguish themselves by their particular mix of dominant religion, ideology and traditions. According to Huntingdon’s analysis, these civilizations are divided from each other by “fault lines” which in due course are likely to become lines of battle. This is a contentious theory, since it conflicts with other views, such as those based on economics, for example, which predict that advancing globalization will cause resource shortages and that this will be the source of future conflict. Huntingdon cites the conflict between Arab culture and Western culture, which has incidentally been going on for the last 1300 years, as an example of exactly this kind of major fault line.4 Following this line of reasoning, conflicts between countries which are broadly western are likely to be expressed in terms of economic competition, while conflicts between some other civilizations, like the Muslim and Hindu conflicts in Asia, are more likely to result in military action and bouts of ethnic cleansing. These differences can be traced in the prevailing world views of the respective cultures, some being predominantly industrialized and capitalist, while others are predominantly rural and feudal. He notes rather chillingly that “Islam has bloody borders,”5 by which he means that this particular civilization resorts to military tactics in order to maintain control over affiliated countries. The examples that Huntingdon cites can all be used to reinforce his idea that civilizations are the largest unit of human grouping, and his description of how countries rally around one another when incidents of violence erupt can be plainly seen in the modern world. He concedes, however, that conflicts also emerge within civilizations, which rather weakens his world based theory, but he shrugs this off saying that these conflicts are “likely to be less intense and less likely to expand than conflicts between civilizations.”6 The logical conclusion of Huntingdon’s approach is that the next world war will be a war between civilizations, and the most likely candidate will be a war between “The West and the Rest.”7 Part Two: Nationalism and the Frontier. The reflections of Frederick Jackson Turner on the nature of America in the early twentieth century8 is an important work of history, even though it reflects many attitudes and ideals which would nowadays be regarded as out-dated. The first chapter9, especially, which is entitled “The Significance of the Frontier in American History” presents a logically argued thesis explaining some of the features of modern America which we can still see at work today. Turner sees the ever-receding western frontier of the new continent in the last three hundred years ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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