Inter-Civilisation Conflict: A Critique of the Huntington Thesis

IR Working Paper 1994/1

Author/s (editor/s):

Jacinta O'Hagan

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Publication type:

Working paper

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IR Working Paper 1994/1 (PDF, 3.06MB)

Jacinta O'Hagan, 'Inter-Civilisation Conflict: A Critique of the Huntington Thesis', IR Working Paper 1994/1, Canberra: Department of International Relations, The Australian National University, May 1994.

Samuel Huntington's essay 'The Clash of Civilisations?', published in 1993, has stimulated a lively debate over the importance of civilisations and their cultures in world politics after the Cold War. This paper is a critique of Huntington's essay. It examines in detail his main thesis that civilisations will replace ideology as the fundamental source of conflict in a post-Cold War world, and overviews the various academic responses. It is critical of Huntington's continuing emphasis on conflict in the global arena, and his preoccupation with the relationship between Western and non-Western societies ('the West and the rest'). However, Huntington's essay should be welcomed for putting the issue of civilisation back onto the intellectual map of the discipline of international relations. The lasting benefit of Huntington's essay may be the broader debate it has generated, especially over the future of inter-civilisational relations in the study of world politics. This paper concludes by suggesting that the challenge ahead is for a greater understanding between different civilisations - whether we are able to accept the norms of others whilst maintaining our own, and of how to accommodate diverse views.

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