Sunday, April 08, 2007

Huntingtonian Conflict in "The Rise of Asia and Its Future"?

Huntington's Flashy Clash
Civilizations or Religions?
(Image from Wikipedia)

This coming Thursday and Friday, I'll be attending an international conference on "The Rise of Asia and Its Future: Global, Regional and National Implications," sponsored by the Korean Political Science Association (KPSA).

My friend Kim Myongsob and I will be talking about "When Asia Matters: What Asia, Why and How?"

That's the title of our paper, at any rate. We won't be reading it directly but will be riffing off of it a bit. Myongsob will be speaking in Korean, with simultaneous interpretation for the benefit of the international audience. I'll be speaking in English, of course, with the interpretation going the other way.

I had considered talking about the Western image of Asia since "Asia" is a Western concept, and I could show that the concept "Asian," albeit a Western concept, has not always and everywhere been a Eurocentric one. As evidence, I could show the T/O Maps discussed in an earlier blog entry.

Myongsob, however, has suggested that I talk about the 'clash of civilizations' in Asia. Perhaps he's right, for the focus of Huntington's perspective -- namely, violence between civilizations -- has more significance for the current rise of Asia today than would the long-surpassed, Ancient and Medieval images of Asia in the West.

Huntington, in his Foreign Affairs article for the Summer 1993 issue, "The Clash of Civilizations?", certainly provides matter for serious consideration on conflict in Asia:
The conflict of civilizations is deeply rooted elsewhere in Asia. The historic clash between Muslim and Hindu in the subcontinent manifests itself now not only in the rivalry between Pakistan and India but also in intensifying religious strife within India between increasingly militant Hindu groups and India's substantial Muslim minority. The destruction of the Ayodhya mosque in December 1992 brought to the fore the issue of whether India will remain a secular democratic state or become a Hindu one. In East Asia, China has outstanding territorial disputes with most of its neighbors. It has pursued a ruthless policy toward the Buddhist people of Tibet, and it is pursuing an increasingly ruthless policy toward its Turkic-Muslim minority.
I could add to this the conflict in the Philippines between the Catholic majority and the Muslim minority. But this raises a question. Has Huntington correctly identified the major civilizations? Huntington identifies seven or eight:
Civilizational identity will be increasingly important in the future, and the world will be shaped in large measure by the interactions among seven or eight major civilizations. These include Western, Confucian, Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American and possibly African civilization.
Huntington then adds his crucial point that "The most important conflicts of the future will occur along the cultural fault lines separating these civilizations from one another." But what do these fault lines separate? Don't they separate not so much civilizations as religions? Sometimes, Huntington talks as if they do:
[T]he processes of economic modernization and social change throughout the world are separating people from longstanding local identities. They also weaken the nation state as a source of identity. In much of the world religion has moved in to fill this gap, often in the form of movements that are labeled "fundamentalist." Such movements are found in Western Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as in Islam. In most countries and most religions the people active in fundamentalist movements are young, college-educated, middle-class technicians, professionals and business persons. The "unsecularization of the world," George Weigel has remarked, "is one of the dominant social factors of life in the late twentieth century." The revival of religion, "la revanche de Dieu," as Gilles Kepel labeled it, provides a basis for identity and commitment that transcends national boundaries and unites civilizations.
Religion, then, seems to be basic to a civilization. Huntington elsewhere appears to think so:
Differences in culture and religion create differences over policy issues, ranging from human rights to immigration to trade and commerce to the environment. Geographical propinquity gives rise to conflicting territorial claims from Bosnia to Mindanao.
The expression "from Bosnia to Mindanao" implies an conflict between Islam and Christianity, which we do see in the southeastern European region around Bosnia and in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao. This returns us to my question about "the conflict in the Philippines between the Catholic majority and the Muslim minority." Since Huntington alludes to it, he would seem to be including this conflict as a fault-line conflict between civilizations. But which civilizations? The Islamic one, to be sure, due to the presence of a Muslim minority in the southern Philippines. But the Catholic majority -- is it part of Western Civilization? It's certainly not part of the other six or seven civilizations, but would Catholic Filipinos see themselves as Western? Wouldn't their larger identity be Christian?

And this returns me to my question: "Has Huntington correctly identified the major civilizations?" If Islam, despite its own 'inner' fault-line distinction between Sunni and Shi'ite, can be conceived as one single civilization, then shouldn't Christianity also have this privilege? Why split Christian 'civilization' -- if I may use the expression -- into two civilizations, Western and Orthodox? Conversely, if Huntington is right to split Christian 'civilization' into two, then why not split Islamic civilization into a Sunni 'civilization' and a Shi'ite 'civilization'? And for that matter, why stop at two Christian civilizations? Why not three: Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant?

Sometimes, I think that Huntington is talking not about civilizational conflict but simply about religious conflict.



At 9:05 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

I thought that civilization applied to people who lived in cities and was usually defined by region or sometimes a group of people if monolithic. It is not culture, religion or morality. I would not define as many as you have.
I see that term "clash of civilizations" used to discuss multiculturalism, assimilation, transmission of culture and cultural relativism. This being applied to all non European peoples, implying that its the ideal. Sometimes Christianity substitutes for Western Civilization.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger A.H. said...

I have just been reading a study of the English Civil War, as background to Milton, but it turned out more as a background to human rights. If there ever was a clash that proved your point: the civilisation fault-line was entirely religious. (Hope you are settled in your new home...see, you can still sense earthquakes!)

At 3:03 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, I think that you're correct about a particular definition of civilization, i.e., that it is associated with urbanization.

But there a sense of the word, as used among historians, that refers to something larger, much larger, e.g., Islamic civilization, Confucian civilization, or the other ones noted in the blog entry.

The 'clash' interpretation does -- as you noted -- get applied to multiculturalism by critics of multiculturalism because the critics believe that the immigrants from different civilizations will likely clash with one another due to their fundamental civilizational differences.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:15 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well ... on the other hand, Eshuneutics, there's a civilizational fault-line conflict every day in my home despite the same religion.

Speaking of human rights, there's a new book out by Lynn Hunt on the 'invention' of human rights. I haven't read it, but it looks interesting. I have just today read a review by Gordon S. Wood in the International Herald Tribune:

Hunt says that "human rights require three interlocking qualities: rights must be natural (inherent in human beings), equal (the same for everyone) and universal (applicable everywhere)."
How did these men, living in societies built on slavery, subordination and seemingly natural subservience, ever come to imagine men not at all like them and, in some cases, women too, as equals?"
The short answer is that 18th-century individuals developed a new and profound sense of sympathy, or to use a more exact 20th-century term, "empathy," for the autonomy and well-being of other human beings.

The link will take you to the entire article.

By the way, it's good to hear from you again.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:17 AM, Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

Happy Easter, HJH.

At 4:08 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, CIV. Same to you.

Jeffery Hodges

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