Samuel Huntington's Thesis on Global Terrorism: Critical Analysis

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The concept of civilization may be defined as a collective group, embedded into history and as a cultural entity. Villages, regions, ethnic groups, nationalities, and religious groups, all have distinct cultures at different levels of cultural heterogeneity. The culture of a village in southern Italy may be different from that of a village in northern Italy, but both will share a common Italian culture that distinguishes them from German villages, Huntington is Convince the concept of civilization is defined as a collective group, embedded into the history, the Clash of Civilizations is a hypothesis that people‘s Cultural and religious identity will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world.

Clashes of Civilizations was proposed by Samuel P. Huntington who is a political scientist in a 1992 lecture at the American Enterprise Institute, which was then developed in a 1993 foreign affair article titled “The Clash of Civilizations, in his response to his former student Francis Fukuyama‘s 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man. Huntington later expanded his thesis in a 1996 book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remarking of the world order.


The idea of civilization was developed by eighteen-century French thinkers as the opposite of the concept of barbarism. Civilized society differed from primitive society because it was settled, urban, and literate. To be civilized was good, to be uncivilized was bad. The concept of civilization provided a standard by which to judge societies, and during the nineteenth century, Europeans devoted much intellectual, diplomatic, and political energy to elaborating the criteria by which non-European societies might be judged sufficiently civilized to be accepted as members of the European-dominated international system.

Throughout history, civilizations have provided the broadest identifications for people. As a result, the causes, emergence, rise, interactions, achievements, decline, and fall of civilizations have been explored at length by distinguished historians, sociologists, and anthropologists including, among others. Civilization is 'the inevitable destiny of the Culture the most external and artificial states of which a species of developed humanity is capable a conclusion, the thing-become succeeding the thing-becoming.' Culture is the common theme in virtually every definition of civilization. The key cultural elements which define a civilization were set forth in classic form by the Athenians when they reassured the Spartans that they would not betray them to the Persians for there are many and powerful considerations that forbid us to do so, even if we were inclined. First and chief, the images and dwellings of the gods, burnt and laid ruins: this we must need to avenge to the utmost of our power, rather than make terms with the man who has perpetrated such deeds. Secondly, the Grecian race being of the same blood and the same language, and the temples of the gods and sacrifices in common; and our similar customs; for the Athenians to become betrayers of these would not be well

The usefulness of Huntington's clashes of civilization to challenges of international terrorism

Huntington did not provide a systematic explanation of why terrorism is a favorite weapon employed in these clashes. The reason given for the use of terrorism by other civilizations against the West did not go beyond the observation that ‘terrorism historically is the weapon of the weak’ His explanation of the extraordinary conflict intensity of Islam was not based on profound theoretical reasons either. He perceived Islam as a ‘religion of the sword’ with an absolutist ideology that makes cohabitation with other religions extremely difficult. However, many religions, not just Islam, can be and have historically been misused for the purpose of justifying terrorist violence.

Huntington also argued that geopolitically the Islamic civilization has no clear borders but overlaps with most other civilizations and is not dominated by a core state, causing conflict both with neighbors and within the Islamic world. However, according to Huntington, the Latin American and African civilizations similarly miss a core state. Finally, and in Huntington’s view most importantly, the large number of unemployed males between the age of 15 and 30 is a natural source of violence both within the Islamic civilization and between it and other civilizations.

Causes of Clash of civilization

First, differences among civilizations are basic because civilizations are differentiated from each other by history, language, culture, tradition, and religion. Second, the world is becoming a smaller place. Due to increasing interactions between people of various civilizations, civilizations' consciousness is being intensified. Third, processes of economic modernization and social change are separating people from their local identities.

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Fourth, the dual role of the West has enhanced the growth of civilization consciousness. On the one hand, the West is at a peak of power. At a similar time, perhaps as a reaction to it, attraction towards its roots is increasing among non-western civilizations. Fifth, cultural differences are less compromised and resolved than political and economic ones. Lastly, growing economic regionalism has two-fold impacts. On the one hand, successful economic regionalism will enhance civilization – consciousness while on the other hand, economic regionalism may succeed only when it has its foundation in common civilization.

Finally, economic regionalism is increasing. The proportions of total trade that are intra-regional rose between 1980 and 1989 from 51 percent to 59 percent in Europe, 33 percent to 37 percent in East Asia, and 32 percent to 36 percent in North America. The importance of regional economic blocs is likely to continue to increase in the future. On the one hand, successful economic regionalism will reinforce civilization consciousness. On the other hand, economic regionalism may succeed only when it is rooted in a common civilization. The European Community rests on the shared foundation of European culture and Western Christianity. The success of the North American Free Trade Area depends on the convergence now underway of Mexican, Canadian, and American cultures. Japan, in contrast, faces difficulties in creating a comparable economic entity in East Asia because Japan is a society and civilization unique to itself. However strong the trade and investment links Japan may develop with other East Asian countries, its cultural differences with those countries inhibit and perhaps preclude it's promoting regional economic integration like that in Europe and North America.

Clash of Civilizations in Western Universalism

In the emerging world, the relations between states and groups from different civilizations will not be close and will often be antagonistic. Yet some intercivilization relations are more conflict-prone than others. At the micro level, the most violent fault lines are between Islam and its Orthodox, Hindu, African, and Western Christian neighbors. At the macro level, the dominant division is between 'the West and the rest,' with the most intense conflicts occurring between Muslim and Asian societies on the one hand, and the West on the other. The dangerous clashes of the future are likely to arise from the interaction of Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance, and Sinic assertiveness. Alone among civilizations the West has had a major and at times devastating impact on every other civilization.

The relation between the power and culture of the West and the power and cultures of other civilizations is, as a result, the most pervasive characteristic of the world of civilizations. As the relative power of other civilizations increases, the appeal of Western culture fades and non-Western peoples have increasing confidence in and commitment to their indigenous cultures. The central problem in the relations between the West and the rest is, consequently, the discordance between the West's particularly America's efforts to promote a universal Western culture and its declining ability to do so.

Civilizational War and Order

A global war involving the core states of the world's major civilizations is highly improbable but not impossible. Such a war, we have suggested, could come about from the escalation of a fault line war between groups from different civilizations, most likely involving Muslims on one side and non-Muslims on the other. Escalation is made more likely if aspiring Muslim core states compete to provide assistance to their embattled coreligionists. It is made less likely by the interests that secondary and tertiary kin countries may have in not becoming deeply involved in the war themselves. A more dangerous source of global inter-civilizational war is the shifting balance of power among civilizations and their core states. If it continues, the rise of China and the increasing assertiveness of this 'biggest player in the history of man' will place tremendous stress on international stability in the early twenty-first century. The emergence of China as the dominant power in East and Southeast Asia would be contrary to American interests as they have been historically construed.

Huntington and Fukuyama's argument

Huntington begins by claiming that although certain cultural differences occur between varying communities within a state, and likewise between states within a civilization, common bonds within that civilization ultimately lead to civilizations being completely distinct from others. Huntington uses an example that two villages in Italy may be different culturally, however, these two villages will still maintain an overall Italian culture. This Italian culture is different from German culture, for example, but they both are part of a larger European culture, which is part of Western civilization’s culture. Western civilization, as Huntington argues, shares no commonality in cultural values with other civilizations such as the Islamic and Confucian civilizations. Since Western civilization is largely based on the principles of democracy and human rights while other civilizations are not; Huntington argues that this creates a divide between the “West and the rest”. Therefore, Huntington argues that the West and other civilizations will ultimately clash as they do not share a broader cultural identity, short of the human race.

Francis Fukuyama argues such obstacles may not necessarily be democratization in Confucian states as a causal link between Confucianism and democratization has not been made. Fukuyama explains that Confucianism is in fact compatible with democracy because of Confucianism’s strong emphasis on education being a strong foundation for democratic institutions and Confucianism’s history of tolerance and coexistence with other religions such as Christianity. However Stephan Haggard makes the argument that although economic globalization may fail to democratize Confucian states, it allows for a shift in the balance of power from state-centric domination to a more polycentric corporate domination. Thus although Huntington provides reasonable arguments in favor of cultural clashes between Confucianism’s fundamental basis and Western liberal democracy, there are a number of historical and economic factors that are at play that counter the notion that difference in culture or civilization is ultimately the source of conflict.

Impact of terrorism

Terrorism is also used as an instrument in achieving intermediate goals in the long struggle for the ultimate goal of violent political change. The first thing is that terror raises the costs of political stability. Terrorist attacks create a feeling of insecurity, which provokes the targeted government to invest more heavily in security policies. Secondly, terrorist attacks stimulate political responses that worsen the situation of the terrorist group’s actual and potential supporters, this can help in the recruitment of terrorists. Thirdly is that terrorist attacks generate media attention, which allows the terrorist leaders to gain a voice and spread their ideology. Again this will facilitate the recruitment of followers.

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Samuel Huntington’s Thesis on Global Terrorism: Critical Analysis. (2023, September 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from
“Samuel Huntington’s Thesis on Global Terrorism: Critical Analysis.” Edubirdie, 25 Sept. 2023,
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