For the first time in history global politics is both multipolar
and multicivilizational; modernization is distinct from Westernization
and is producing neither a universal civilization in any meaningful
sense nor the Westernization of non-Western societies."
In this section, the author devotes a great deal of print
dispelling notions that sensible people don’t hold anyway. The
emergence of multipolar and multicivilizational global politics is not
in contention, nor should it be other than welcomed. US policies since
World War II have been commendably focused upon increasing the economic
status and political development of other nations through foreign
assistance and influence in multinational bodies. It is true that since
1980, our national interest has
become more narrowly defined, but to some extent that reflects the
perceived growth of economic and political capacities in other parts of
The modernization vs. Westernization issue is more complex.
Huntington recognizes that the attitudes, values, knowledge, and culture
of people in a modern society differ greatly form those in a traditional
society. As the first
civilization to modernize, it is natural for some to assume that Western
culture will become universal. Yet it is obvious that this is not the
case. Japan, which received closer tutelage in modern institution
building than any other country in history, retains a very strong and
distinctive culture, as Huntington recognizes. The strength and
distinctiveness of that culture is applauded, not just by Japanese
nationalists, but by virtually anyone who values cultural diversity. The
Japanese have devised their own management techniques, combining their
culture with the experience of the West, and in so doing have taught us
a few things about quality control and economies of the timely arrival
of components of manufactures.
In fact, it could be argued that the strength of traditional
Japanese culture is the main factor in the extraordinary pace of
modernization of Japan. Some elements of a traditional culture will
always resist modernization, so there is a constant tension between
traditional and modern values in Japan and elsewhere, but this is very
healthy. Out of this disparity can emerge a synthesis that is more
efficacious than either of the contending forces.
The conflict between traditional and modern values doesn’t
always have a favorable outcome, of course. In Egypt, Iran and Algeria,
violent conflict continues between these forces. Japan may have been in
some ways fortunate to have such an occupying power as tutor during much
of this conflict of values. Turkey continues to struggle with the
aftermath of the Ataturk reforms, having adopted the trappings of
modernity before achieving the personal and institutional
transformations of the modern state.
How are such transformations achieved? Professor Alex Inkeles, in
Becoming Modern [Inkeles,
1974], identified a number of values, attitudes and beliefs that he
found to change with modernization. His research in Pakistan and
elsewhere found that factory employment, formal education, and exposure
to mass media (the transistor radio), all had profound effects on the
selected variables. His work of 30 years ago is seldom cited now, and
the trail he blazed has fizzled out, but I believe we could learn a
great deal about modernization in different cultural settings if we
pursued further research along these lines.
The balance of power among civilizations is shifting: the West is
declining in relative influence; Asian civilizations are expanding their
economic, military, and political strength; Islam is exploding
demographically with destabilizing consequences for Muslim countries and
their neighbors; and non-Western civilizations generally are reaffirming
the value of their own cultures."
Goodness; Huntington sounds like the burghers of Vienna fearing
the approach of Sulieman the Magnificent. Evidence of the fading of the
West is found in statistics showing a decline in the territory under the
political control of the West from 1900 to 1993 (what? We regret the end
of colonialism?), the declining minority of the world’s population
living in the West (open the frontiers; that would remedy that!), the
improved health, income, and education of non-Westerners (all objectives
of our foreign assistance program, whether or not it can claim the
credit), and increasing shares of world manufacturing taking place in
non-Western countries (Pat Buchanan laments the loss of industry; most
of us prefer working in services such as the professions), and a
diffusion of modern armaments throughout the world lessens the military
advantage of the West (ask Saddam about that).
Huntington also cites a rise in indigenous cultures and the
decline in the culture of the West, as evidenced by increasing rates of
crime, single parent families, illegitimacy, teen-age pregnancy, drugs,
etc.). These are separate issues. The increased pride in one’s own
culture is surely to be applauded. The growth of indigenous universities
and the consequent decline in the proportion of advanced education
acquired abroad naturally leads to more vibrant local cultures.
An increase in the pride a society takes in its culture and
traditions need not, as Huntington suggests, lead to militancy and
aggressive behavior. Pride in culture took a devastating blow in Japan
following the war, but its resurgence has not led to the militancy of
the past. There may be a juvenile age where imperialism and aggression
are likely to arise, such as America went through in its Manifest
Destiny period. When a population reaches a certain level of maturity,
it becomes more difficult to sell it on the glory of warfare and
The increase in social maladies in the West, particularly in the
United States, is indeed deplorable. Our society is placing increasing
responsibilities and demands on people, and not everyone can meet the
challenge, especially if they start off in an unhealthy environment in
their infancy and childhood. Some of the ills cited by Huntington seem
at the moment to be in decline, e.g. violent crime, but in general the
social remedies we have sought to apply ignore the quality of the home
environment of the infant, and the environmental requirements of the
childhood and adolescent years when most basic human development
normally takes place. Building more prisons is hardly likely to deal
with the problems of people who are, as Kegan says, in over their heads.
But that is the domestic policy side of the human development issue, and
we are here focusing on the global.
Huntington notes that a religious revival is occurring in
virtually each of his civilizations, but he seems particularly concerned
about Islam. The Islamic Resurgence (his capitalization) he believes to
be at least as significant as the American Revolution, French Revolution
or Russian Revolution, and to be similar to and comparable to the
Protestant Reformation. He suggests that the Islamic Resurgence is a
product of and an effort to come to grips with modernization, and is
characterized by urbanization, social mobilization, higher levels of
literacy and education, intensified communication and media consumption,
and expanded interaction with other cultures.
I have no problem with the notion that a revival of interest in
Islam is underway, and that it is in response to the modernization
process. There is, however, a distinction to be made between a
revitalized Islam and the fundamentalist groups active in Algeria, Egypt
and Iran. Like fundamentalists in the Christian religion, Islamic
fundamentalists tend to believe in the literal truth of their holy book,
a trait of people at the concrete operations level of development. The
Protestant Reformation, and the Enlightenment that followed, involved
acceptance by society of the symbolic but not the literal truth of the
Bible. Although I once had a Lutheran minister attempt to explain to me
how Jonah could have survived in the belly of a whale, most Western
Christians, and most followers of Islam, no longer subscribe to such
literal beliefs. The struggle between literal believers and symbolic
believers can be viewed in human development terms. Literal belief in
scriptures is typical at the concrete operational stage or below
(magic/mythic). Belief in the symbolic value of scriptures is more
characteristic of people at the late mythic and rational stages. (Some
theologians also believe there are stages in the development of mature
faith. [Fowler, 1976])
This could account for the fact that the most ferocious conflicts
of a religious nature are not between but within civilizations. Algeria
and Egypt. Oklahoma City and Waco.
A civilization-based world order is emerging: societies sharing
cultural affinities cooperate with each other; efforts to shift
societies from one civilization to another are unsuccessful; and
countries group themselves around the lead or core states of their
Although it is demonstrably true that it is easier to cooperate
with – visit, trade with, exchange students, confer – societies
whose language and religion are close to one’s own, it is less certain
that cultural kinship is strong enough to be the basis for a “world
order,” or that the difficulties experienced by countries attempting
to change alignments are primarily due to cultural issues.
Huntington’s own examples, Bosnia, Turkey, and NAFTA are ambiguous. An
alternative explanation may be found in stage theory.
In Bosnia, Huntington notes that Russia is sympathetic to
fellow-Orthodox Serbs, Germany favors Christian Croat, and the Muslim
states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia support the Muslim Bosnians. It is
true that much popular sentiment flows along these lines, but in fact
the Russians have supported UN efforts in Bosnia, the Germans have
provided little material support to their co-religionists, and Muslim
support for Bosnian Muslims has been mainly talk. It was largely the
efforts of the United States that has so far prevented the dismemberment
of Bosnia, and US backing of the Muslims in resisting the aggressions of
the Serbs in particular has been crucial to the survival of the Bosnian
Huntington considers NATO to be a civilization-based alliance,
and finds membership of Muslim Turkey and Orthodox Greece to be
anomalies He claims the
European states are reluctant to have a Muslim state in the alliance,
and especially hesitant to admit Turkey to the European Community. He
fails to address, however, the reasons the Turks want
to join the EC. It seems more likely that Turkish desire to join the EC
is based upon their economic aspirations, and European reluctance is
based upon a concern for the practice of human rights and observance of
the rule of law in Turkey. Turkey is trying to make the transition into
modern statehood, and the Europeans aren’t sure it has reached an
acceptable level of institutional development. It is doubtful that
religion enters into the calculations of either side, except at the
NAFTA is anathema to Huntington. He believes it to be a misguided
attempt to bring a country from another civilization, the
Spanish/Portuguese speaking Latin American, into the West as represented
by the US and Canada. He doubts that it will work. It is an agreement
favored by the political, economic and intellectual elites of the three
countries, but it is neither understood nor welcomed by the common
people in any of them.
Huntington’s view of NAFTA is quite defensible, but again there
are alternative explanations, one of which can be based upon the notion
of stages. The Mexican elites are very comfortable in their relations
with the US and Canada, and they hope through closer association to reap
economic gains which will benefit themselves and their people. US and
Canadian elites similarly see economic and political gains to be made
from NAFTA. The non-elites in all three countries are more likely to
think of possible short-term disadvantages of the arrangement and be
more reluctant to form a close association. The circle of empathy at the
concrete operations stage is much narrower than at later stages.
Not everyone who opposes NAFTA is, of course, doing so out of
ignorance or inadequate personal development. Pat Buchanan finds NAFTA a
convenient target in rallying blue-collar political support. Labor
unions and other workers fear the loss of jobs, and intellectuals in
support of workers share that fear. They may be right about the adverse
effects of NAFTA, but their reservations have more to do with ideology
and class interests than with cultural animosity.
In this section Huntington also discusses the role of core states
in civilizations. It is, he admits, sphere-of-influence politics warmed
over. This is a particularly weak section in his argument because of the
absence of core states in Africa, Islam, and Latin America. The core
state issue does not seem to me one worth examining in more detail.
The West’s universalist pretensions increasingly bring it into
conflict with other civilizations, most seriously with Islam and China;
at the local level fault line wars, largely between Muslims and
non-Muslims, generate “kin-country rallying,” the threat of broader
escalation, and hence efforts by core states to halt these wars."
Professor Huntington says the central problem in the relations
between the West and other civilizations is “the West’s –
particularly America’s – efforts to promote a universal Western
culture and its declining ability to do so.” Three issues are cited
for particular attention:
The efforts of the West to maintain military superiority through
policies of nonproliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical
weapons and the means to deliver them;
Efforts to promote Western political values and institutions by
pressing other societies to respect human rights as conceived in the
West and to adopt Western-style democracy; and
Efforts to protect the cultural, social, and ethnic integrity of
Western societies by restricting immigration from non-Western countries.
On these issues, I find myself in almost complete agreement with
the author, although I’m sure I took a different road to get there.
Agreement that these policies and postures on the part of the United
States are irritating to non-Western countries does not necessarily mean
that the policies are wrong. A strong stance against the proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction would be admirable, if it were applied
fairly and evenly around the world. When, however, the US takes military
action against Iraq for violating UN resolutions concerning such
weapons, and ignores Israel's defiance of UN resolutions and refusal to
sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, our stance becomes
self-serving and hypocritical.
US attempts to promote democracy and our version of human rights
in non-Western countries is a more complicated issue, even if the
policies were applied indiscriminately. Two important considerations tend to
be ignored: stage of development and cultural traditions. In
many countries of the world, it would be disastrous to introduce
democracy and the freedoms incorporated in the Bill of Rights. The
average person in these countries is not prepared by tradition or by
individual maturation to exercise the franchise effectively. Voting
becomes an expression of sectarian, religious, or tribal identity, tends
to exacerbate social divisions, often is corrupted, and not infrequently
leads to violence. Some means are needed to prevent oppression,
particularly by one group over another, but the simplistic application
of the one-person one-vote type of democracy is often not the answer.
The Lebanese, despite their sorry recent experience, devised a form of
democracy in which all sixteen major sects were proportionately
represented. The system was carefully balanced, and could not adjust to
the large influx of armed Palestinian refugees from Israel and Jordan in
the early 1970s, but worked admirably before becoming unbalanced [Smock,
Other countries, such as Singapore and Indonesia, have made
remarkable progress in per capita income, education and health status,
and popular participation in national affairs under the control of
strong national leaders. Suharto and Lee Kuan Yew may by now have stayed
around too long, but their historic accomplishments in raising the
educational and income levels of their people will, I think, one day be
recognized here as well as in their own countries. Singapore started
from a higher base of human development than Indonesia, largely due to
British rule, but the accomplishment of the economic and social policies
in place there during the short two generations of independence should
be the marvel of the world. Instead, we are more likely to carp about
the absence of the freedom to spit on the sidewalk.
attempts to impose a Western definition of human rights is also
problematic. Asian countries often have the peculiar notion that an
adequate diet and access to education are more important rights than the
freedom of intellectuals to express their diverse opinions. In contrast
to the individualism of the Western culture, Asian are typically more
group-oriented. They do not admire our freedoms when they see them
accompanied by a decline in the family unit and the rise in social ills
such as crime and drug use. Incidentally, our vaunted individualism has
come under questions by some of our own intellectuals. They question
whether individualism, when carried to the point of disregard for the
welfare of others, is a trait of which we should be quite so proud.
United States was once much more admired than it is today. Immediately
following World War II, the US was in a pre-eminent position
economically and militarily, much as it is today. US leadership in that
era produced the Marshall Plan, NATO, the US-Japan security treaty, the
IMF, the World Bank, GATT, an historical attempt to end colonialism and
assist Third World countries to develop, and, to a large extent, the
agencies of the United Nations. In contrast, the US now finds itself
dragging its feet on global environmental issues, refusing to sign the
Law of the Sea treaty, and neglecting even its financial obligations to
causes of this decline in stature and respect internationally are
doubtless multiple. One may observe, however, that the relative increase
in the power of Congress in foreign affairs is an important factor.
Congress typically reverses the Sierra Club’s slogan and thinks
locally while acting globally. The distortions congressional actions
produce in our foreign policy, from Cuba to the Middle East and beyond,
are monstrous. On many issues, Congress is not merely responding to
powerful lobbies, it is also framing international issues in such a way
as to appeal to those of their constituents whose grasp of international
issues can be expressed on bumper stickers.
The survival of the West depends on Americans reaffirming their
Western identity and Westerners accepting their civilization as unique,
not universal, and uniting to renew and preserve it against challenges
from non-Western societies. Avoidance of a global war of civilizations
depends on world leaders accepting and cooperating to maintain the
multicivilizational character of global politics."
we come to Huntington’s conclusions and recommendations, and begin to
realize why he went to such lengths to make reality conform to his
theory. He is a firm believer in the biological model of civilizations;
i.e., that they begin, grow, flower, decline and disappear. He cites
Carroll Quigley’s seven phases of the evolution of civilizations –
mixture, gestation, expansion, age of conflict, universal empire, decay,
and invasion, in Evolution of
Civilization [Quigley, 1979];Melko’s Nature of Civilization [Melko, 1979]; and Toynbee’s Study
of History [Toynbee, 1969]; all of which see civilizations
evolving through a time of troubles or conflict to a universal state to
decay and disintegration. Further, Huntington believes that signs of
decay are already evident in the West, and particularly in America.
find the signs of decay largely in manifestations of moral decline, such
increasing antisocial behavior such as crime, drug use and
family decay: increasing divorce rates, illegitimacy, teen
pregnancy, and single parent families;
decline in voluntary associations promoting general welfare;
weakening of the work ethic; and decreasing commitment to
learning and intellectual activity.
Huntington decries efforts by what he calls a small but influential
minority to dilute American identity by weakening ties to Europe and
strengthening other ties to Asia and other civilizations economically,
politically and culturally. He believes the West, without the United
States as leading member, will inevitably decline, and the United
States, without firm sense of European kinship, cannot survive as a
In short, Professor Huntington abhors multiculturalism and moral
relativism. He believes the Clinton administration policy of celebrating
diversity rather than stressing unity is defying the wishes of the
founding fathers. The result can only be a democracy of groups rather
than one of individuals, a sort of quota democracy. Similarly, he fears
active US engagement in Pacific Rim activities will lead to a dilution
of our Western identity to the detriment of Europe as well as the US.
These policies are, he believes, based upon the mistaken belief that a
universal culture, not unlike our own, is emerging in the world.
Some of the policy mistakes, for which he blames both the Bush
and the Clinton administrations, are the following:
Support for the unity of the multicivilizational Soviet Union,
Yugoslavia, Bosnia, and Russia, in vain efforts to halt the powerful
ethnic and cultural forces pushing for disunion;
Promotion of multicivilizational economic integration plans which
are meaningless, as with APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), or
involve major unanticipated economic and political costs, as with NAFTA
Attempts to develop “global partnerships” with Russia or
“constructive engagement” with China, despite natural conflicts of
interest between the US and those states;
Supported the subjection of Muslims (in Chechnya) to Orthodox
Refusal to recognize the fundamental divide between Western
Christendom and the Orthodox and Muslim areas in Eastern Europe; and
Pursuing outdated and unrealizable goals with respect to trade,
human rights, nuclear proliferation, and other multicivilizational
I think a case can be made for each of these points, although he
should recognize that power relationships often determine policy. For
example, the Administration had nothing to gain and a lot to lose if it
were to back the Chechnyans against Russia. I don’t agree with him on
many of these points, such as attempts to formalize relations with
Russia and China, and the NAFTA and APEC initiatives, but these
disagreements are not at the core of my differences with the author;
differences I will try to elucidate in the next section.
The crux of my differences with Huntington lies in his adherence
to a biological model of civilizations and my belief in the possibility
of progress. Historically, the evidence is heavily on his side as his
citation of the heavies in the field demonstrates. My belief in the
possibility, but not the inevitability, of progress is based upon the
evidence that human beings can and do improve in a measurable sense;
that the modal individuals in modern societies have improved markedly in
the last century; that this unparalleled improvement is made sustainable
by technological advance; and that organizations and societies can and
do improve in association with individual and technological advances.
people would accept the idea of human improvement, and of organizational
improvement, but many would still deny the notion of progress. Progress
implies improvement towards a goal or a more desirable state. Not very
long ago, perhaps through the decade of the 1960’s, the notion of
progress was quite widely accepted. Then doubts began to emerge,
heralded by books like Limits to
Growth [Meadows, 1974], which pointed out that continuing in the
directions we were headed would lead to environmental catastrophe and
resource depletion. Food shortages were thought to be inevitable,
pollution would foul the habitat. Most of the “limits” cited by the
authors have been expanded by technological advance or policy changes,
but the Malthusian threat to our existence, or at least to our quality
of life, remains.
the present time, probably more people believe that a biological model
of birth, development, maturity and decline better represents the course
of civilizations than believe in a progress model. Only an extreme
optimist could believe in a linear and inevitable progress for the human
condition. Yet without a vision of where we are or should be heading, we
wander about in pursuit of the trivial, or drop into the comforting arms
of some antiquated religion.
The observation that individuals and groups can, and do, improve
would seem a commonplace, but in fact it is consistently denied by many
of our cherished beliefs. The founding national belief that all men are
created equal has come to mean that they remain in that happy state.
Democracy is based upon individual rights without regard to achievement,
status, education or wisdom. Some multiculturalists now deny even the
relevance of standards, citing differences of race, national origin, and
culture as leveling factors. Comparisons among societies, as among
people, run the risk of exceeding the boundaries of politically correct
opinion. (There are, of course, sound reasons for being intolerant of
intolerance. Previous practices of identifying the good with one’s own
particular attributes fragmented our society into hierarchical groupings
that denied our egalitarian notions and our preference for meritocracy.)
Given widespread skepticism about the concept of progress, it is
necessary not only to demonstrate its possibility, but to suggest the
sort of goals we might aspire to progress towards. Accepting that no one
can know, at my personal stage of development at least, precisely what
goal we as a species should seek, it is still possible to hazard some
modest guesses as to desirable directions. At this point in the history
of humankind it seems that the short-term goal, for at least the next
century, should be to find a way to reach an acceptable equilibrium with
our habitat. That means finding ways to limit the destruction or
degradation of the earth’s environment, and of limiting our rate of
reproduction. We are, it seems to me, in a long-term species crisis that
threatens not only the quality of our lives, but our very existence.
If that is the case, we must move beyond the sort of motivations
of power and influence in the conduct of foreign policy that Huntington
is using in his paradigm. The threat to our societies comes not from
petty aggressors, or even mega-destroyers like Hitler and Stalin, but
from our own habits of reproduction, consumption and production.
Soedjatmoko, the late Indonesian sage who for a time headed the
UN University, once said that rich nations and poor nations are equally,
though in different ways, unprepared for the future [Soedjatmoko, 1980]. I believe he is right in this, in that both rich and poor are, in
different ways, damaging the habitat.
I also believe that to counter current trends successfully, we
and others will need to advance as individuals and as societies to the
point where we can comprehend the danger to our species and cooperate in
combating it effectively. That implies that the pursuit of comparative
advantage will need to give way to the pursuit of species advantage. We
have a larger enemy than each other, and we will need to cooperate to
The transformation into a cooperative world will not, of course,
happen overnight. But rather than set forth measures of the amount of
territory we control and the abundance of our riches and military might
with other civilizations, we need to be thinking of what we need to do
to prepare for the future, what global institutions may be needed, what
policies we should pursue, and what technologies we should seek to
develop. With a clearer vision of the task ahead than we currently
possess, our position as the world’s only superpower could be used to
benefit our species, rather than our interest groups.
Kuhn, T. S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Second ed. Foundations of the Unity of Science, ed. O. Neurath. Vol. II,
Number 2. 1962, 1970, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 210.
Huntington, S. P., The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking
of World Order. 1996, New York: Touchstone. 367.
Piaget, J., The Essential Piaget, ed. H. Gruber and J.
Voneche. 1977, New York: Basic Books.
Kohlberg, L., Essays on Moral Development: The Psychology of
Moral Development. Vol. II. 1984, San Francisco: Harper & Row.
Loevinger, J., Ego Development. The Jossey-Bass Behavioral
Science Series. 1976, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 503.
Kegan, R., The Evolving Self. 1985, New York: Norton.
Fisher, D. and Torbert, Wm. R., Personal and Organizational
Transformation: The true challenge of continual quality improvement,
1995, New York, McGraw Hill.
Kegan, R., In Over Our Heads: The mental demands of modern
life. 1995, Cambridge: Harvard. 396.
Goleman, D., Emotional Intelligence. 1995, New York:
Servan-Schreiber, J., Le Defie Americaine,
Wilber, K., Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The spirit of
evolution. 1995, Boston: Shambala. 831.
Inkeles, A. and D. Smith, Becoming Modern: Individual change
in six developing countries. 1974, Cambridge: Harvard. 437.
Fowler, J.W., Stages of Faith: the psychology of human
development and the quest for meaning. 1976, San Francisco: Harper.
Smock, D.R. and A.C. Smock, The Politics of Pluralism: A comparative
study of Lebanon and Ghana. 1975, New York: Elsevier. 369.
Bellah, R., Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in
Quigley, C., Evolution of Civilizations: An introduction to
historical analysis. 2nd ed. 1979, Indianapolis: Liberty Press. 442.
Melko, M., The Nature of Civilization. Extending Horizons.
1969, Boston: Porter Sargent. 204.
Toynbee, A., A Study of History. 1969, London: Thames
& Hudson. 576.
Meadows, D., The Limits to Growth: a report to the Club of
Rome's project on the predicament of mankind. 1974, New York:
Soedjatmoko. The United Nations University's Next Stage. Sixteenth Session of the Council of the UN University on
December 1, 1980. 1980. Tokyo, Japan: UNU manuscript.
Maslow, A. Future Visions: A journal. 1965, Homewood Ill:
Irwin and the Dorsey Press.
Maslow, A., Eupsychian Management. 1971, New York:
Maslow, A., Motivation and Personality, 1954, New York:
Harper & Row.