The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel Huntington [Book Summary – Review]

Have you ever read and been surprised by the omniscience of a book published years earlier? Well, of all the books which foretold the future, perhaps one of the most popular is the controversial The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. It influenced political outlook from the right of the Grand Old Party to the neoliberal left across the full spectrum. It’s fascinating to see how embryonic innovations that passed down to George W. Bush and Donald Trump are represented here.

What’s more impressive is that the novel was published before 9/11 and it feels as if it was released last month. 

Put it simply, even though we haven’t read it, it’s one of the books that shaped our western worldview. It correctly forecasts the function of identity politics in our present environment with a simple-sighted study. Yet it is still reductive, ignoring other civilizations and treating world affairs as a zero-sum game in which only the rich and imperialists can win.

Chapter 1 – In the last 500 years, the West has been ruling all other world cultures. 

For centuries, civilizations have developed. When people with similar traditions and lifestyles started living collectively, societies grew, and specific traditions, languages, and ideologies arose. 

The writer estimated that there were eight cultures in total at the end of the twentieth century: Western, Orthodox, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, African, Latin American, Chinese, and Japanese.

Yet it was not quite like this. Before 1500, in particular, the Chinese and Islamic empires were militarily, politically, and culturally more developed than Christian Western Europe. 

But this equilibrium was modified by the European Renaissance. By 1500, because of technological advancement, increasing economic development, and increased social pluralism, the West had started to rise to a place of global supremacy. 

For all of this, there are two concrete explanations.

Second, a multipolar global structure was established by the West. In other terms, nations that were similar to one another, such as Britain, France, and Germany, joined forces strategically and economically, while they also struggled against each other. This collaboration helped these nations to grow closer and stronger, which, in turn, allowed the rapid dissemination of Renaissance ideas. This ended in a technical revolution that quickly became commonplace with nearly impossible achievements, such as transatlantic ocean transport.

Also, the cultures of the Andes and Mesoamericans acted very differently. Before the Europeans came, they had virtually no interaction with one another. They lived vast distances apart and just didn’t have the technology to make those travels. 

Second, the West started invading and colonizing after 1500. To extend their economic powers, they had all the firepower and sophisticated navigation capabilities they wanted. The impact of Western ideas, politics, and religion can be experienced all over the world before long. Even to this day, the West still rules. 

Chapter 2 – Most control over the traditions of other nations is exercised by the dominant West. 

The planet feels like a little space when you think about it. And that’s how Western goods, innovations, and society have invaded the four corners of the world, due to economic imperialism motivated by Western business interests. 

It’s not without irony here. One might instantly envision a situation where a group of young people in the Middle East is planning a terror attack on the United States, drinking Coca-Cola, and wearing American-designed clothes. 

Such a theory does not seem highly improbable because, as more Western goods and innovations have flooded into other countries, the hearts of those countries have fostered more anti-Western feeling.

For example, non-Western politicians also use the denunciation of alleged Western cultural hegemony as a rallying call, reminding their supporters that they want to have their own local culture to be protected. This anger, like the fear that one’s civilization is under attack, is certainly reasonable. American mass culture, after all, is disproportionately influential. The statistics prove this: 88 of the world’s 100 most-attended movies were made in America in 1993.

The writer suggests, however, that Western economic and cultural domination does not suggest that the world is getting more “Western.” 

Post-Cold War world theorists including scholar Francis Fukuyama argued that the other countries would structure themselves after it so that they can exchange efficiently because the United States is the only powerhouse of the world. In Fukuyama’s opinion, the outcome would be a world replete with modern Western-style democracies. 

But the fallout will take place. This progress towards a global world culture could be seen by the West as a positive thing. Yet such systematic globalism, for many non-Westerners, reflects the deterioration of their societies. 

So, even though the non-Western world begins to modernize, Western civilization is more immune to the world as a whole. 

To recognize why the distinction between the two colliding developments is crucial: modernization and Westernization. Then let’s glance at those.

Chapter 3 – Steadily increasing modernization has led to power flowing out from the West. 

If you want to comprehend why the drive for modernization has not led to increased Westernization in non-Western countries, it is important to recognize these words precisely. Sometimes, they are puzzled. 

Modernization is the mechanism by which developed countries enter the industrialization, urbanization, and schooling standards of the West. It’s about growth in economic and social terms.

Westernization, on the other side, is the mechanism by which a common world society is transmitted and generated by Western cultural ideals of freedom, populism, and secularism. 

So, in technological innovation, military might, and economic power, the modernized West could dominate the nation. Yet it should not follow that, as a consequence, most cultures would become culturally Westernized.

Paradoxically, because the West has driven modernization so strongly, other cultures have progressed without Western ideals having to be embraced. Good examples include China, South Korea, and Japan. They have effectively modernized to Western ideals and this has made it possible for them, though rejecting those of the West, to encourage their local cultural traditions. 

Also, effective non-Western modernization will lead to a transfer of power away from the West. An instance of this is what the writer calls the “Islamic Resurgence”. 

Muslim-majority nations started to modernize beginning in the 1970s. Around the same period, in these states, Western-backed authoritarian governments started to crumble, giving power to a renaissance of religious thought, which is diametrically contrary, of course, to the ideals of the secular West. And due to modernization-induced urban development and burgeoning recognition of the community, all this occurred. A common collection of cultural rules and ideals that help a community identify itself may be defined as this group consciousness. 

The 1979 Iranian Revolution is the case par excellence. Shia Islamists ousted the Iranian Shah’s CIA-backed dictatorship. A new emperor, a Shia Muslim cleric called Ayatollah Khomeini, resulted in the emergence and soon became the most vocal opponents of the West in the Muslim world. 

Urbanization has played its role. 17 percent of Iran was metropolitan in 1953. By 1979, in towns, 47 percent of Iranians resided. Amid the will of its own modernized and urbanized citizens, the American military clearly could no more help boost the Shah. 

Chapter 4 – In the post-Cold War period, new subgroups are being formed within cultures. 

Realizing where you were standing was easy during the Cold War. Either you were pro-West, or you were pro-Soviet. Even so, nationality and identity have been much more nuanced following the breakup of the Soviet Union. 

People are currently looking for new connections to put their identity on, whether it be race, nationality, spiritual values, or faith. 

The society has readjusted itself, and with new faces, new communities and individuals have arisen. Civilizations themselves are, thus, grouped in numerous forms. 

These communities are based around central nations, such as Europe’s Germany and France, or North America’s the United States, even though they are theoretically also components of Western society. These states serve as hubs for other neighboring states, which are less strong. Both through strategic alliances such as the US-led NATO or political-economic collaboration such as the German and French-led European Union, they sustain stability and social harmony. 

The dilemma, though, is that there are no central states for certain cultures to develop around. And it can be toxic. To consider the obvious instance, the Islamic world has no central state, which has been a major obstacle to its growth and transformation, and remains to be. 

The condition resulting from the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Historically, much of the Middle East had been dominated by the Ottoman Empire, which for decades had acted as the central state of Sunni Islam. It had exercised the military, political and religious influence required to keep the country in order until World War I. 

That being said, tribal and local alliances soon replaced the loose devotion that had once unified all individuals in the region since the Ottoman Empire collapsed. The global Islamic revival in religious awareness that is currently occurring tells this context.

The writer is convinced that the societal understanding of the Islamic world and the absence of core states will certainly be a cause of potential problems and tensions in the country, what he calls awareness without continuity. 

Chapter 5 – Conflicts are unavoidable among civilizations. 

The writer envisions two strong challenges to the imperial dominance of the West: growing global Islamic understanding and economic growth in Asia. The opportunity for confrontation is high, no matter what ultimately happens.

The Islamic world, primarily due to its low economic progress and fast population increase, is of special interest to the writer. 

The high unemployment rate and youth frustration occur in the Islamic world. And the younger population is large; the number of people is increasing especially significantly between the ages of 15 and 25. There are plenty of volunteers ready to fight for Islamist causes, in other terms.

A flare of alleged Western cultural hegemony is all that’s required, and the timebomb of violence will be completely on fire. 

The issue is, why does it just begin now? There is a clear explanation: the West and the Islamists were unified during the Cold War by an ideology of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The Soviet Union was their mutual opponent, and they battled collectively, particularly in Afghanistan and Yemen, against it. Conflicts between the old allies are likely now that the Soviet Union is dead. 

In Asia, however, it’s strange. There will be very various kinds of conflicts there. 

The problem is not that of Taiwan and Japan, with their increasingly rising economies. China and its growing military potential are what is worrying. 

On top of that, Asia, particularly in the face of American cultural hegemony, has an increasing sense of its cultural significance. There would almost inevitably be heightened anger amongst Asian and Western nations. 

The writer is particularly concerned that the collapse of the mentality of the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” would have significant repercussions in Asia. He envisions a future in which Asian forces converge against the West with Islamists. This can already be seen in the developing axis of Iran-Pakistan-China.

There are, of course, traditional prejudices against the West, such as hostility to Western nuclear proliferation and Western conceptions of civil rights. These concerns will not take long to hit a boiling point and turn into an economic or military war, maybe little more than the military intervention of American interests in the Pacific by China. 

Chapter 6 – The United States’ foreign liberal system is under pressure and needs to adjust.

A great society has a propensity to persuade itself that it is the apex of modern social progress. This is regarded as the Immortality mirage. 

Such cultures have difficulty adjusting to evolving global orders because they believe they’re still too dominant. Yet it is exactly what the West would have to do to remain important, so we are not, as things currently stand, heading towards a world hegemony founded on Western values, such as free trade and democracy.

In the West’s domain, especially in the United States, the writer sees multiculturalism as the greatest challenge. He’s persuaded that this would lead to the end of global American leadership. Multiculturalism, he suggests, is a clear threat to the ideals of democracy, liberty, and justice of the West. It develops other sexual, racial, and alternative cultural classes and ideologies, in his opinion. It’s the initial step on the breakdown route.

It’s a reversal of the Islamic world’s condition. In the shape of a nation-state, the West will shortly have unity, but no awareness, — in other words the ideals that bind the people in a given society. 

The writer claims the West must remain loyal to its foundations to escape inner failure. If the majority of the world is built around religious and cultural values, so by encouraging multiculturalism, the United States must openly state its Western ideals and not split society. 

Additionally, given the evidence of shared financial interests, the writer suggests that Americans should ignore the advice of multiculturalists and avoid convergence with Asian cultures. We should rather double down on our obligations to our Western heritage and establish closer relations with our neighbors in the Atlantic. America is going to succeed only by fostering economic and political cooperation with these countries. 

The writer is unequivocal about it: the United States is in danger. Multiculturalism and accepting Asia must be opposed if the global liberal order is to be restored.

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel Huntington Book Review

The global liberal order of the West could be on the brink of failure. In the West, multiculturalism is in danger of breaking away any social harmony. In the meantime, in other cultures, the anti-Western feeling is on the increase. Global stability is now at stake, and the Islamic world presents a particularly major threat. To finish it all off, Asian cultures that fail to Westernize will eventually clash with the West for global supremacy by quickly modernizing them.

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Download Pdf

Download Epub


Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile:

Recent Posts