Huntington’s “Clash of the Civilization?” article (1993) which became a book in 1996 is an important thesis in our modern history. It was criticized heavily by a lot of other scholars, but do also have it’s supporters. Three different works will be briefly discussed here, and all of them are trying to describe the world after the end of The Cold War.
For Huntington, our modern history is about collection of unique identities group themselves as civilizations and how these civilization will be the reason for future wars to happen. He noted 8 different civilization, namely, Western, Latin American, Orthodox-Slavic, Muslim, Confucian-Sinic, Hindu, Japan and possibly African.
The problem with these 8 civilization is, it over-generalized the group of people living within those “borders”. Thinking every human are a single minded entity identifying themselves as a part of that particular civilization in the modern world. Huntington too admitted that in a civilization there will be multiple identities, religion, races and ideologies, but it will go down with the strongest identification. In Huntington’s words, a man can be half-French and half-Arab, but can’t be half-Christian and half-Muslim. Continuing in his own example, the Muslim civilization, where there are African nations, Arab nations, Central Asia nations, and South East Asia (Malay) nation which all differs with one another. He admits that they are different but at the same time calling them the same?
Or let’s visit the Ukraine-Crimea-Russia issue, where Ukraine again was in a revolution, now the state of Crimea wants to go back into Russia. Ukraine have been a nation of different allegiances between their leaders, some are pro-EU, and some pro-Russia. Since the revolution is about bringing down a pro-Russia leader and establishing a pro-EU government, can it be said that Ukraine is now Western rather than Orthodox civilization? Or are they a civilization on their own?
Adding on to Japan which was classified as a whole different civilization and not included with the Sinic civilization due to being the only nation that have become modern without being western. Which is kind of ethnocentric, but this is not what I am focusing on.
Let’s put South Korea in the picture, now becoming one of the strongest country in terms of economy, politics and cultural transmission. Everywhere you go there are the K-pop phenomena everywhere, not unlike Japan’s own J-pop 10 years back. Thus, can it be inferred from Huntington’s idea of civilization, South Korea too will break out from the Sinic civilization and become a civilization of its own?
Does this mean every nation from non-western country will become a civilization of its own once they established themselves as modern and starts to become “different” than the civilization they were in? Will civilizations become smaller and smaller when each nation becomes their own civilization?
Fukuyama’s End of History
Huntingtonwrote his article in response to Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History?” (1989) article, which also became a book (1992), who was also his student. Huntington was actually criticizing Fukuyama’s idea that we are at the end of our history (as homo sapiens), and suggests that there are still a long way to go with all the civilization clashing.
A simplification of Fukuyama’s End of History is simple, all nation will soon accept liberal-democracy politics and economy, and live in a homogenous world order. Before criticizing this, we need to understand that USA won the Cold War, where USSR was abolished and Russia starts to use a democratic system. So it is not a leap of imagination, when he claims that liberal-democracy political and economic system are the best we have, since all other alternatives, communism, monarchy etc. have clearly failed. His evidences include the increase of GNP of the Asian Tigers and Russia after using the liberal system.
That’s why it is called End of History, there are no more new system and philosophies as the best one have already here, just waiting for the rest of the world to realize it and follow it. How technology and urbanization causes reformations and in a way globalized (homogenize) the world.Some scholars heavily criticized Fukuyama, calling it juvenile as assuming the USA’s politics and economy can be generalized to the whole world.
Going deeper in Fukuyama’s philosophy, the main idea is his Master-Slave dialectic, of Hegel. For Fukuyama, the Master is clearly liberal-democracy. Fukuyama also recognizes the tension between megalothymia (desire for unequal recognition) and isothymia (desire for equal recognition) is yet to be solved. But rather than war and colonizing others, we use professional sports instead, which is healthier and for the better. Fukuyama also contemplates about the paradox of liberty and equality, where when the government helps some group of people, it will cause another group to lose some of their liberty. And for him when the balance between liberty and equality is achieve, the End will happen, again, as homo sapiens.
I have highlighted homo sapiens a few times here, and how we as homo sapiens will End. From Fukuyama’s perspective, as a Futurist, he predicts that in the future, human as a being will change, using technology to improve one’s body. In a way, from my understanding, for Fukuyama, homo sapiens will not evolve anymore, and this is our final form, and only with technology we can more further. And with that, a new history will begin, as humans are will be a new being.
Some argue that when 9/11 happens, Huntington won, but there are also some other who says Huntington and Fukuyama’s ideas are compatible as “democracy” was ”bombed” by the US in Afghanistan an Iraq in response. Fukuyama himself prefers the EU approach (through multi-national agreements) rather than the US approach in this manner.
To bring closer to home, take Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations and Fukuyama’s End of History, change liberal-democracy into the utopian “Khilafah” that our Islamist here loves to mention, you’ll get a clash of civilization, in terms of Muslim civilization against the world, in attempt to create a homogeneity, where the world accepts the “Khilafah” systemand Islam. Which again, it is foolish to think all Muslims will become a single consciousness under a single rule.
Barber’s Jihad vs McWorld
Moving into my argument against Huntington through Benjamin Barber’s “Jihad vs McWorld” first written in 1992, and a book in 1995. If we look at the timeline, Fukuyama (1989), Barber (1992) and Huntington (1993), shows that Barber published before Huntington, but ideas are compatibly arguing against an article written a year later. We could also infer that Barber in a way was answering to Fukuyama, but it fits Huntington’s thesis better.
Again a simplified version of his idea is, tribalization vs globalization. Barber argues, rather than civilizations warring against each other, and in a way also against Fukuyama’s futuristic liberal-democracy, says that the dualistic nature of tribalization or Jihad and globalization or McWorld is a more appropriate representation of the current history. Jihad here means different from the Islamic jihad, but Barber did took the term as how Muslim fundamentalist uses it, which is anything from “outside” (ie the West) is wrong and must be warred against. McWorld is a play of word from McDonalds.
In terms of Democracy, for Barber, both extreme Jihad and McWorld undermines it, Jihad abolishes state, rejects democracy to form dictatorship or autocratic rule. While McWorld is a world rule by capitalist corporation promoting consumerism for profits.
Jihad doesn’t only represents (some) Muslim nations (but many Muslims believes in the Jihad presented by Barber), but also any nation which is against the idea of globalization, including North Korea and China.
Tribalization here, wants to establish micro-communities. For football fans, a good example of the Catalan race who wants independence from Spain, which translates deeply in the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Or the breakup of former Yugoslavia and the Balkan war. McWorld on the other hand promotes consumer culture and globalized the world through consumerism and economic exploitation. A world where IPhone 5 is seen obsolete in the presence of IPhone 5S, where overpriced coffee of Starbucks is seen as better than coffee bought in normal restaurants.
But the most important thing about this idea is, they both exist in at the same time. How? In Barbers own words, rephrased, imagine a Serbian sniper, wearing Reebok shoes, hearing to American music, shooting Muslim Bosnians. This is to show, globalization exist even ina tribalistic war and vice versa. For Barber, both sides have their own extremist and will cause clashes, not because of different civilization. McWorld too are responsible for unleashing Jihad, as attempt to “liberate” some countries where their economy is exploited, making the citizens poor, causes a Jihadic uprising is at hand, as in Afghanistan and Iran.
Again, Jihad and McWorld is on a spectrum and both can exist at the same time, both have their own pros and cons. Barber also mentions that the struggle between Jihad and McWorld is not something new, in the past some other forms of globalization also happened. Barber focuses on religious missionaries of the past as how similar the monuments in Thailand and India. And how this religious sites were the center of that form of globalization. What is this era’s center of globalization or “a place of worship”? Stadiums, McDonalds, Apple Center and many more.
The clash with Huntington is clear, for Huntington, his idea of civilization is quite weak and was criticized by many. And the clash happens as a way to conform and strengthen one civilizations own identity. But for Barber, it is not about civilization. Wars will happen when a Jihadic movement wants to create their own nation by rejecting all forms of outside influence, and McWorld, looking at their investments and interest in that particular nation or state, will impose their will to ensure that doesn’t happen. Or vice versa, a McWorldian movement want to exploit and profit in a nation, where it will cause instability and the gap between elites and the people widen, causes resurgence from the people, and with that experience doesn’t trust any outside influences.
Barber in a way solves Huntington’s little mystery about Japan, and as mentioned in the Huntington’s section in this article, one can be tribal but also globalized at the same time, they fight for nationalism and promotes the Japanese culture, but also allow global cultures to enter their borders. A balance between nationalism and globalization.
China too on the other hand, have their own government monitored internet so that the citizens won’t be influenced by the outside world, but at the same time allows corporations such as Apple to build factories assembling their products.
Huntington’s idea of civilization and it’s problems were simply solved by a simple logic written a year earlier. Yes, clashes will continue to happen, but rather than civilizations, it’s between the struggles of Jihad and McWorld.
To conclude, both movements, in an extreme form is dangerous and causes instability. In Malaysia, seeing that we are a multi-racial country, we do see Jihadic-like movements from time to time in various groups. And also the worry of McWorldian corporations using Malaysia for their own profits and exploits us if Malaysia agrees to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). It is hard to do anything if we keep being pessimistic, but in a way, being aware of these issues through Jihad vs McWorld “dialectic” is important so that we could react appropriately to events in the future rather than thinking it’s a conspiracy, and blaming others
by: Abdul Rahman Shah