Saturday, December 27, 2008

Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard Dies at 81 - The Caucus Blog -

Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard Dies at 81 - The Caucus Blog -

Michael Ignatieff summarized the thrust of Mr. Huntington’s 1996 book in a Times book review:

In expanding the Foreign Affairs article into ”The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” Mr. Huntington has thickened out his argument, but it remains controversial. If there are seven or eight world civilizations, he says, the West had better shed the hubristic notion that its civilization is destined to spread its values across the globe. The West is ”unique” — but its values are not universal. Universalism, Mr. Huntington maintains, is just a leftover from imperialism. Western aid workers have no business telling the Afghan Taliban to allow their women to go to school. Washington has no business tying human rights conditions to its trade with China. It is a significant change of heart for a former architect of American policy in Vietnam to assert that ”Western intervention in the affairs of other civilizations is probably the single most dangerous source of instability and potential global conflict in a multicivilizational world.”

Edward Said's rebuttal:
The basic paradigm of West versus the rest (the cold war opposition reformulated) remained untouched, and this is what has persisted, often insidiously and implicitly, in discussion since the terrible events of September 11. The carefully planned and horrendous, pathologically motivated suicide attack and mass slaughter by a small group of deranged militants has been turned into proof of Huntington's thesis. Instead of seeing it for what it is--the capture of big ideas (I use the word loosely) by a tiny band of crazed fanatics for criminal purposes--international luminaries from former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi have pontificated about Islam's troubles, and in the latter's case have used Huntington's ideas to rant on about the West's superiority, how "we" have Mozart and Michelangelo and they don't. (Berlusconi has since made a halfhearted apology for his insult to "Islam.")

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