Question Markus Politics & International Relations

The Clash of Civilisations

What is the significance of Huntingdon's text 'The Clash of Civilisations and the remaking of world order' for our understanding of international relations Post Cold War?

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Samuel Huntingdon’s 1996 book ‘The Clash of Civilisations and the remaking of world order’ provides an analysis of global conflict in asserting that since the end of the Cold war, global politics have been ‘reconfigured along cultural lines’ (Huntingdon, 1996:19). He suggests that due to the end of the Cold War and the forces of globalisation, new patterns of conflict and cooperation will emerge based on similarities and differences between cultures and ultimately, civilisation. Huntingdon suggests that this therefore constitutes a new international order in which, ‘non-Westerners are no longer hapless recipients of Western power but now counted among the movers of history’ (Murden, 2008:425).

For Huntingdon, this will result in the emergence of 7 or 8 new civilisations named as ‘Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and possibly African’ (Huntingdon, 1996:25). It must be noted however, that Huntingdon notes that the state will remain the key actors but that civilisation politics would result in states and peoples ultimately identifying with one core state.

The significance of this text is widely debated. The focus on culture is commendable as this issue and the broader notion of identity politics plays an important role of understanding the modern international environment. However, Huntingdon has been criticised for underestimating the importance of the relationship between global economics and culture, for simplifying the idea of civilisation to a non-coherent unit and for asserting such a pessimistic view the future of international politics (Murden, 2008).


Huntingdon, S. (1996) The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order, New York: Simon and Schuster

Murden, S. (2005) ‘Culture in World Affairs’ In J. Baylis, S. Smith and P. Owens (ed) The Globalization of World Politics: An introduction to international relations, 4th edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press pp.420-431