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Clash of Civilizations?

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Clash of Civilizations?

The Next Pattern of Conflict

Foreign Affairs,

5 min read
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A “clash of civilizations” will be the central feature of future global politics.

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Political scientist Samuel P. Huntington’s controversial 1993 essay “The Clash of Civilizations?” claimed that conflicts among civilizations would define post–Cold War global politics. Decades later, scholars continue to debate the merits of Huntington’s argument. While some credit him with correctly predicting the cultural and religious context of transnational Islamic terrorism, others point out that more traditional interstate rivalries and geopolitics continue to dominate international relations. Huntington’s thesis, however, remains a useful theoretical framework within which to study conflict in a globalized world.


Civilizations are “the broadest level of cultural identity people have, short of that which distinguishes humans from other species.” In the post–Cold War world, politics is becoming increasingly civilization based, and future global conflicts will take place largely among civilizations. The most important groupings of states no longer form along ideological or economic lines but on the strength of shared cultural values. With economic modernization eroding nation-states, people have come to identify increasingly with members of their civilization...

About the Author

Samuel P. Huntington (1927–2008) was a political scientist and professor at Harvard University. 

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