Culture and Civilization Matters

October 24, 2009

Huntington Revisited: The Western/Islamic Fault Line

CULTURAL CONFLICT

The primary course reading that deals with the topic of Civilization is Samuel P. Huntington’s 1993 Foreign Affairs article entitled, “The Clash of Civilizations?

In this article, Huntington’s central thesis is that “The fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural…..The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.”

Huntington defines the following world regions as Civilizations: Western, Orthodox, Islamic, African, Latin American, Sinic, Hindu, Buddhist, Japanese:

cocivs

In this article, Huntington suggests that, “A civilization is thus the highest cultural grouping of of people and the broadest level of cultural identity people have short of that which distinguishes humans from other species. It is defined by both the common objective elements such as language, history, religion, customs, institutions, and by the subjective self-identification of people.” (p. 24)

THE WESTERN/ISLAMIC FAULT LINE

Huntington asserts that “Conflict along the fault line between Western and Islamic civilizations has been going on for 1,300 Years.”

Here is a very brief summary of the conflicts outlined by Huntington:

    After the founding of Islam in 627 AD, the Arab and Moorish surge West and North ended at the Battle of Tours in 732

    From the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade attempted with temporary success to bring Christianity and Christian Rule to the Holy Land.

    From the fourteenth to the seventeenth century, the Ottoman Turks reversed the balance and extended their way over the Middle East and the Balkans, captured Constantinople and twice laid siege on Vienna.

    In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as Ottoman power declined, Britain, France, and Italy established Western Control over most of North Africa and the Middle East.

    After World War II, the West, in turn, began to retreat: the Colonial Empires disappeared and Arab Nationalism and Islamic Fundamentalism manifested themselves.

    The West became increasingly dependent on the Persian Gulf countries for its energy and several wars between the Western and Islamic regions ensued: From the numerous conflicts between Arabs and Israelis, France’s war with Algeria in the 1950s, The French and British invasion of Egypt in 1956, and the Lebanon Crisis in 1958.

    This was followed by numerous terrorist activities prior to the Gulf War in 1990, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States, March 11, 2004 in Madrid and July 11, 2005 In London.

    Ultimately culminating in the current conflicts that are ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

WESTERN/ISLAM FAULT LINE CONFLICT DETAILS

Much of this tumultuous history of the struggles along the Western/Islamic Fault Line can be explored in greater detail by using the BBC tCivilizations tool that, “uses web technology to reveal the sweep of historical forces and the rise and fall of great empires and ideas over 5000 years in a way that no book could ever do.”

bbcciv

You can access the tool by clicking HERE. We encourage you to explore in greater depth the contentious history between Christianity and Islam.

ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES OF THE WESTERN/ISLAMIC FAULT LINE

Huntington suggests that the “Velvet Cloak of Culture” represents the historic boundary between the Habsburg and Ottoman empires. Those North and West of this fault line were primarily Protestant or Catholic and shared the common experiences of European History: Feudalism, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.

Meanwhile, those peoples to the East and South of the Fault Line are Orthodox or Muslim and were only lightly touched by the shaping events to the North and West. According to Huntington, these regions are “less advanced economically and they seem much less likely to develop stable democratic political systems.” However, as we shall see in the Islamic Banking section of this blog, Dubai is playing a significant global role in the Financial, Tourism and Real-Estate sectors.

TOWARDS A UNIFYING PROGRESS CULTURE

Lawrence Harrison, Director of the Culture Change Institute at Tufts University cites his own research in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations that aligns with Huntington’s point of view with regards to Islamic economic development.

cltruth

In his most recent book, The Critical Liberal Truth, Harrison examined 117 countries against ten indicators of prosperity. In describing this research he mentions that “Islam has fallen far behind economically” and that there is a Universal Progress Culture that emphasizes: Education, Merit, Achievement, Frugalitiy and Community. It should be noted here that Harrison is quick to point out the danger of generalizations across regions in his discussion.

Dr. Harrison ends in saying that these five Progress Culture values that are largely shared among Protestants, Jews, Confucians and Sikhs.

REVISITING DUBAI’S TENSION

Given the historical backdrop of the Fault Line between Western Civilization and Islam, the ensuing economic retrograde of the Islamic region and the fact that this Islam does not align with a Universal Progress Culture, the central tension that Dubai has been dealing with: Remaining true to its Arabic and Islamic roots while striving to become a leading hub in the 21st century market economy is becoming more acute.

DUBAI TRANSITION

The next seven years in Dubai will be fascinating to study as this central tension unfolds through time:

    Will the Dubai’s leaders continue in their quest to accomplish Vision 2015?

    Or will Dubai’s leadership revise its goals and seek refuge in its Arabic and Islamic heritage?

    Or will Dubai’s leaders find a “third way” to ensure that the region continues to prosper?

Click HERE to return to CCL Dubai Main Page.

July 7, 2009

The Clash of Civilizations

This blog entry provides pointers to some of the core concepts surrounding civilization.

The primary course reading that deals with the topic of Civilization is Samuel P. Huntington’s 1993 Foreign Affairs article entitled, “The Clash of Civilizations?

In this article, Huntington’s central thesis is that “The fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural…..The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.”

Huntington defines the following world regions as Civilizations: Western, Orthodox, Islamic, African, Latin American, Sinic, Hindu, Buddhist, Japanese:

cocivs

In this article, Huntington suggests that, “A civilization is thus the highest cultural grouping of of people and the broadest level of cultural identity people have short of that which distinguishes humans from other species. It is defined by both the common objective elements such as language, history, religion, customs, institutions, and by the subjective self-identification of people.” (p. 24)

Take this quick POLL based on this map:

Huntington closes his article by suggesting that the West will have to, “develop a more profound understanding of the basic religious and philosophical assumptions underlying other civilizations and the ways in which people see their interests. It will require an effort to identify the commonality between Western and other civilizations. For the relevant Future, there will be no universal civilization, but instead a world of different civilizations, each of which will have to learn to coexist with others.”

One of the design points for this course calls for the examination of differing points of view on a given topic. This type of analysis creates the tension required for personal sensemaking to occur.

While very influential, Huntington’s arguments in this article have not gone without criticism. Most notably, Edward Said of Columbia in his article, “The Clash of Ignorance” suggests that Huntington’s static categorization of the worlds civilizations omits the dynamic nature culture.

For a more detailed account of Said’s response to Huntington you can view his address at University of Massachusetts entitled “The Myth of the Clash of Civilizations” below:

Edward Said’s Response to Huntington (58:18):

[blip.tv ?posts_id=864714&dest=-1]

Some Questions to Ponder:

    Do you agree with Huntington that we have progressed from Wars of Kings(e.g. Royalty) to Wars of Peoples (e.g. Nation States) to Wars of Ideas (e.g. Culture)? Why or Why Not?

    What are Said’s arguments against Huntington’s position? Do his arguments have merit?

    Based on reviewing this posting, what are your own perspectives on how culture and civilization will influence and impact the future of enterprise?

Click HERE to return to Main Course Page.

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