Sunday, August 17, 2008

Huntington's Clash of Civilizations considered

Hajji faults Huntington for not developing (in his Clash of Civilization) arguments Hajji is interested in. When I assert that Huntington develops points sufficient to his project, Hajji sees this as an "excuse for superficiality." I would suggest, then, that Hajji read Huntington=s book. As I’ve indicated before, the level of argument is similar to Fukuyama=s in The End of History and the Last Man. There are references in both books that one can go to for greater detail. Surely there is a place for a philosopher of history to grasp seemingly disparate strands of information and draw them together in hypotheses such as these. One doesn’t read Fukuyama or Huntington and conclude that he has completely proved his case. They are predicting the future and future predictions cannot be considered proved until after the event. But one can keep their arguments in mind as one moves forward in time and as one reads and learns other information that bears upon their theses. But Huntington is provocative and has caused me, at least, to look less favorably upon Fukuyama=s prediction that the entire world is heading toward Liberal Democracy.

I see that in another note, Hajji has written, "I have never promised that a lot will be gained from this exchange. My main objective here is to destroy Huntington's thesis, which seems to me to be a monument to sweeping generalization and biased analysis. Everyone is free to read on, or not." Pretty ambitious for someone who hasn’t read Huntington=s book. How would Hajji know whether he=s truly destroyed Huntington=s thesis and not just my understanding of it B should he succeed.

What is one expected to do if one agrees with Huntington, Norton asks? If we agreed with Fukuyama we might adjust our foreign policies to the assumption that every nation must eventually come around to the same position, i.e., Liberal Democracy. If we agreed with Huntington, we would be more pessimistic about the future, more on guard, more inclined to look at matters pertaining to our particular culture to see what is in its best interest, more inclined to recognize that there must be a "core state" if each culture is to reduce intracivilizational and intercivilizational conflicts. The US is the Core state for the West, Russia for the Orthodox and China for the Sinic. Huntington discusses at some length the implications of the Muslim civilization’s not having a Core state at present.

Here are two theories about the future, Fukuyama=s and Huntington=s. The latter has been accused of superficiality by Hajji, so I would be interested in learning about his view of the future. Will it be a Fukuyama future where war is abandoned after everyone settles down to their Liberal Democracies? Or will it be a future where Clashes of Civilizations continue into the foreseeable future, and where such phenomena as birth rates influence the frequency of these clashes whether we will or no? Or will it be some other theory? Perhaps he has in mind Sayyid Qutb’s theory.

Hajji faults Huntington for relying upon the period of 1993-4 for data on civilizations engaged in conflicts. And yet Huntington is focusing on the post Cold War situation and he wrote his book in 1996. If we assume that the Cold War ended in 1989 that doesn’t leave him much leeway.

Hajji writes "And by the way, let=s not forget that the West was indirectly involved in most of the conflicts mentioned above in one way or the other. (Indeed, it would be hard to find a recent conflict in which it was not in any way involved.)"

There isn’t enough detail in Hajji’s statement to determine what he means. Did the West cause the wars engaged in by Muslims? Was the CIA behind all the Muslim Wars? Did the West sell the Muslims weapons? Did the West try to stop the wars? Another of Huntington=s charts shows how the Civilizations relate to one another, and the West is vitally related to all the other Civilizations. It could be considered the Core Civilization of the present age, and yet other Civilizations are do not engage in War with the same frequency as the Muslim. Is the West choosing to cause Muslims to engage in more wars than other civilizations? You’ve got to create a major conspiracy theory to allege that.

Hajji says about certain of Huntington=s statistics "The category of >Christian countries= is, after all, bogus since the populations of most (Western and Eastern) European countries these days are predominantly secular." Huntington discusses at some length the world-wide turn back toward religion since about the 1970s. This was when the Islamists surged, but there were also surges in the other major religions. The world might not be as secular as Hajji thinks . . . or is it only the West and Eastern (does he mean Orthodox) that he thinks are secular?

Hajji also thinks "Payne=s conclusion that >there is a connection between Islam and militarism= . . . ridiculous since most >Muslim= countries do not have Islamic governments." As far as I know all Muslim countries have Islamic governments. I=m sure Hajji means something else. I just don't know what it is.

Hajji thinks it "crude to identify the policies of some or even many Muslim states with >Muslim bellicosity and violence." Perhaps, but it was Payne, the person working with the data and Huntington someone reviewing the data who painted this description. No doubt they meant it to be relative, that is, that the Muslim civilization is relatively more bellicose than other cvilizations. And the data would support such a conclusion. What is wrong with calling someone or some group engaging in a lot of wars warlike? I rather doubt that warlike groups would object to being so termed.

I listed Huntington=s Nine Civilizations: 1) Western, 2) Latin American, 3) Africa, 4) Islamic, 5) Sinic, 6) Hindu, 7) Orthodox, 8) Buddhist, and 9) Japanese. Hajji responds, "yet it seems that he lumps all >Christian countries= together when this is convenient, and pitches them primarily against Islam." Ah, the mind boggles at attempting to explain this book that he hasn’t read to Hajji so he can better "destroy Huntington's thesis.” Does Huntington truly lump things against Islam, or perhaps Lawrence, being primarily interested in Islamism has done the lumping. Perhaps Lawrence is at fault for neglected to quote Huntington=s entire book?

In regard to the Yugoslavian data, Hajji writes, "It is strange indeed that political factors are invoked to explain the conflict between the Orthodox Christians and Catholics in Croatia, while the conflict in the neighboring Bosnia will be caused by civilizational differences. Nope, I am afraid that I'm not buying your reassurances as to Huntington not picking on the Muslims."

I'm not sure what Hajji means. Orthodox is one Civilization and Christians (insofar as Huntington considers them as a cohesive group) are included in another Civilization, i.e., the West. Huntington described the reawakening of cultural differences after the Cold War. Is Hajji saying that Huntington doesn’t treat the Orthodox and the West as though they were different Civilizations? Or is he saying that he doesn’t fit the Serbs neatly into the Orthodox and the Croatians neatly into the West?

But Hajji is wrong in thinking Huntington is "picking on the Muslims". Huntington is much more worried about the Sinic. I on the other hand am more worried about the Muslims. No doubt my emphases have misled Hajji about Huntington's emphases. I would, for example (to borrow a page from Hajji’s book), like further data on what Huntington thinks about the Muslim nations with their "high propensity to resort to violence in international crises."

Lawrence Helm

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