The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order

By Samuel P. Huntington

(1997, London: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd.)


The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order is an extremely insightful review of global dynamics by Harvard professor of Political Science, Samuel P. Huntington. This summary provides significant direct references from the text.

During the Cold War, the worldview of an us and them model that included the free world, the Communist Bloc, and the unaligned nations. With the end of the Cold War, Huntington outlines how the world dynamics can best be viewed now in terms of civilizations. His analysis includes eight civilizations: (p. 45-47)

The common culture of China and Chinese communities in Southeast Asia and elsewhere outside of China. Confucianism is a major component of Chinese civilization.
Japan is a distinct civilization that was an offspring of the Chinese.
Hinduism is the core of Indian civilization.
Many distinct cultures or subcivilizations exist within Islam, including Arab, Turkic, Persian, and Malay.
Centered in Russia as a result of its Byzantine parentage, distinct religion, with limited exposure to other central Western experiences.
Generally viewed as having three major components in Europe, North America, and Latin America.
Although an offspring of European civilization, Latin America has evolved along a very different path from Europe and North America.
Throughout Africa tribal identities are pervasive, but Africans are also increasingly developing a sense of African identity.


  • 400 Years of subordination of other societies to Western Civilization.
  • 1500-1650 - Great Religious Schism – Religious & Dynastic Wars
  • 1500-1750 - First truly global empires.
  • 1650-1750 - Conflicts among princes-emperors, monarchs – Created nation states. French Revolution – Conflicts between nations. Depended on improvements in ability to wage war – “Military Revolution.” Superiority in organization, discipline, and training of its troups. Superior weapons, transport, logistics, medical services. Leadership in Industrial Revolution. NOT by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion. Rather by superiority in applying organized violence.
  • 1800 - Europeans controlled 35% of earth’s land.
  • 1878 - Europeans controlled 67% of earth’s land.
  • 1914 - Europeans controlled 84% of earth’s land.
  • 1920 - Europeans controlled more than 84% of earth’s land.
  • 1800 - British Empire 1.5 MM Sq. Miles - 20 MM People
  • 1900 - British Empire 11 MM Sq. Miles - 390 MM People
  • 1920 - Global Political Geography – 1 World (Global empires)
  • 1960’s - 3 Worlds - “Free World,” Communist Bloc, Unaligned Nations.
  • 1990’s - Half-dozen Worlds – Use of civilization term “the West.” Only Russia, Japan, & Ethiopia were able to resist the onslaught of the West.


  • Humanity is divided into subgroups – tribes, nations, and broader cultural entities normally called civilizations. (p. 56)
  • Beneath the global concept of civilization, there are an immense variety of cultures, peoples, religious worlds, historical traditions and historically formed attitudes. (p. 57)
  • Term “universal civilization” may refer to the assumptions, values, and doctrines currently held by many people in Western civilization and by some people in other civilizations. (p. 57)
  • Concept of a universal civilization is a distinctive product of Western civilization. (p. 66)
  • Davos Culture – Businessmen, bankers, government officials, intellectuals, and journalists from scores of countries meet in the World Economic Form. (p. 57)
  • Davos people control virtually all international institutions, many of the world’s governments, and the bulk of the world’s economic and military capabilities. (p. 57)
  • Davos culture generally shares beliefs in individualism, market economies, and political democracy, which are also common among people in Western Civilization. (p. 57)
  • Davos Culture is far from a universal culture. (p. 57)
  • Fallacy in the Cold War perspective that the only alternative to communism is liberal democracy, and the demise of the first produces the universality of the second. (p. 66)
  • There are many forms of authoritarianism, nationalism, corporatism, and market communism that are alive and well in today’s world. (p. 66)
  • More significantly, there are all the religious alternatives that lie outside the world of secular ideologies. (p. 66)
  • The non-Westserns see as Western what the West sees as universal, and non-Westerners denounce what the West sees as universal as Western imperialism. (p. 66)
  • The West, and especially the United States, which has always been a missionary nation, believe that the non-Western peoples should commit themselves to the Western values of democracy, free markets, limited government, human rights, individualism, the rule of law, and should embody these values in their institutions. (p. 184)
  • The West is attempting and will continue to attempt to sustain its preeminent position and defend its interests by defining those interests as the interests of the “world community.” This gives global legitimacy to actions reflecting the interests of the United States and Western powers. (p. 184)
  • The West is attempting to integrate the economies of non-Western societies into a global economic system, which it dominates. (p. 184)
  • Having achieved political independence, non-Western societies wish to free themselves from Western economic, military, and cultural domination. (p. 184)
  • “It is sheer hubris to think that because Soviet communism has collapsed, the West has won the world for all time and that Muslims, Chinese, Indians, and others are going to rush to embrace Western liberalism as the only alternative.” (p. 66)


  • Gradual, inexorable, and fundamental changes are occurring in the balances of power among civilizations. (p. 82)
  • The West is a civilization in decline, its share of world political, economic, and military power going down relative to that of other civilizations (p. 82)
  • The West is increasingly concerned with its internal problems and needs, as it confronts slow economic growth, stagnating population, unemployment, huge government deficits, a declining work ethic, low savings rates, and in many countries including the United States social disintegration, drugs, and crime. (p. 82)
  • The power of the West relative to that of other civilizations will continue to decline. (p. 82)
  • Western power in the form of European colonialism in the 19th century and American hegemony in the 20th century extended Western culture throughout much of the contemporary world. European colonialism is over; American hegemony is receding. (p. 91)
  • The erosion of Western culture follows, as indigenous, historically rooted mores, languages, beliefs, and institutions reassert themselves. (p. 91)
  • As Western power declines, the ability of the West to impose Western concepts of human rights, liberalism, and democracy on other civilizations also declines, and so does the attractiveness of those values to other civilizations. (p. 92)
  • In the 2020’s, the West will probably control about 24% of the world’s territory (down from 48%) and perhaps 15-20% of the socially mobilized population, about 30% of the world’s economic product (down from a peak of probably 70%), perhaps 25 percent of manufacturing output (down from a peak of 84%), and less than 10% of global military manpower (down from 45%). (P. 91)


  • The growing power of non-Western societies produced by modernization is generating the revival of non-Western cultures throughout the world. (p. 92)
  • The fading of the West and the rise of other power centers is promoting the global processes of indigenization and the resurgence of non-Western cultures. (p. 91)
  • As non-Western societies enhance their economic, military, and political capacity, they increasingly trumpet the virtues of their own values, institutions, and culture. (p. 92)
  • Economic power is rapidly shifting to East Asia, and military power and political influence are starting to follow. (p. 82)
  • India is on the verge of economic takeoff, and the Islamic world is increasingly hostile toward the West. (p. 82)
  • East Asian societies are well on their way to equaling the West economically. (p. 184)
  • Asian and Islamic countries are looking to balance the West militarily. (p. 184)
  • The most significant increases in power are accruing and will accrue to Asian civilizations, with China gradually emerging as the society most likely to challenge the West for global influence. (p. 83)
  • These shifts in power among civilizations are leading and will lead to the revival and increased cultural assertiveness of non-Western societies and to their increasing rejection of Western culture. (p. 83)


  • Modernization involves industrialization, urbanization, increasing levels of literacy, education, wealth, and social mobilization, and more complex and diversified occupational structures. It is a product of the tremendous expansion of scientific and engineering knowledge. (p. 68)
  • The attitudes, values, knowledge, and culture of people in a modern society differ greatly from those in a traditional society. (p. 68)
  • Increased interaction among modern societies may not generate a common culture, but it does facilitate the transfer of techniques, inventions, and practices from one society to another with a speed and to a degree that were impossible in the traditional world. (p. 69)
  • Traditional society was based on agriculture; modern society is based on industry. (p. 69)
  • Modernization does not necessarily mean Westernization. (p. 78)
  • Non-Western societies can modernize and have modernized without abandoning their own cultures and adopting wholesale Western values, institutions, and practices. (p. 78)
  • Modernization strengthens cultures and reduces the relative power of the West. (p. 78)
  • The world is becoming more modern and less Western. (p. 78)
  • If non-Western societies are to modernize, they must do it their own way, not the Western way, and, emulating Japan, build upon and employ their own traditions, institutions, and values. (p. 154)


  • The idea is irrelevant that the spread of Western consumption patterns and popular culture around the world is creating a universal civilization. (p. 58)
  • The argument that the spread of pop culture and consumer goods around the world represent the triumph of Western civilization trivializes Western culture. (p. 58)
  • “Only naïve arrogance can lead Westerners to assume that non-Westerners will become Westernized by acquiring Western goods.”
    “What does it tell the world about the West when Westerners identify their civilization with fizzy liquids, faded pants, and fatty foods?” (p. 58)
  • Eighty-eight of the hundred films most attended throughout the world in 1993 were American. This situation reflects the universality of human interest in love, sex, violence, mystery, heroism, and wealth, and the ability of profit-motivated companies, primarily American, to exploit those interests to their own advantage. “Entertainment does not equate to cultural conversion.” (p. 58-59).
  • Little or no evidence exists to support the assumption that the emergence of pervasive global communications is producing significant convergence in attitudes and beliefs. (p. 59)
  • Global communications are one of the most important contemporary manifestations of Western power. The extent to which global communications are dominated by the West is, thus, a major source of the resentment and hostility of non-Western peoples against the West. (p. 59)


  • Individualism remains a distinguishing mark of the West among 20th Century civilizations. (p. 71)
  • Both Westerners and non-Westerners point to individualism as the central distinguishing mark of the West. (p. 72)
  • Top 20 countries scoring highest on the individualism index included all the Western countries except Portugal plus Israel. (p. 71)
  • The dominance of individualism in the West compared to the prevalence of collectivism elsewhere. (p. 71)
  • “The values that are most important in the West are least important worldwide.”


  • Language is second only to religion as a factor distinguishing people of one culture from those of another. (p. 70)
  • The West differs from most other civilizations in its multiplicity of languages. (English, Spanish, Portugese, German, French) (p. 70)
  • Japanese, Hindi, Mandarin, Russian, and even Arabic are recognized as the core languages of their civilizations. (p. 70)
  • Throughout history the distribution of languages in the world has reflected the distribution of power in the world. The most widely spoken languages—English, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian—are or were the languages of imperial states which actively promoted use of their languages by other peoples. (p. 62)
  • Shifts in the distribution of power produce shifts in the use of languages. (p. 62)
  • A language is more likely to be accepted as a lingua franca if it is not identified with a particular ethnic group, religion, or ideology. (p. 62)
  • The use of English for intercultural communication helps to maintain and reinforces peoples’ separate cultural identities. (p. 62)
  • As the power of the West gradually declines relative to that of other civilizations, the use of English and other Western languages in other societies and for communications between societies will also slowly erode. (p. 63)
  • If at some point in the distant future China displaces the West as the dominant civilization of the world, English will give way to mandarin as the worlds’ lingua franca. (p. 63)


  • Religion is a central defining characteristic of civilizations, and the great religions are the foundations on which the great civilizations rest. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Confucianism are associated with major civilizations. (p. 47)
  • In the modern world, religion is a central, perhaps the central, force that motivates and mobilizes people. (p. 66)
  • The religious resurgence throughout the world is a reaction against secularism, moral relativism, and self-indulgence, and a reaffirmation of the values of order, discipline, work, mutual help, and human solidarity. (p. 98)
  • The breakdown of order and of civil society creates vacuums that are filled by religious, often fundamentalist, groups. (p. 98)
  • Fundamentalist movements are a way of coping with the experience of chaos, the loss of identity, meaning and secure social structures created by the rapid introduction of modern social and political patterns, secularism, scientific culture and economic development. (p. 98)
  • Western Christianity, first Catholicism and then Catholicism and Protestantism, is historically the single most important characteristic of Western civilization. During most of its first millennium, what is no known as Western civilization was called Western Christiandom. There existed a well-developed sense of community among Western Christian peoples that they were distinct from Turks, Moors, Byzantines, and others. It was for God as well as gold that Westerners went out to conquer the world in the 16th century. (p. 70)
  • The movements for religious revival are antisecular, antiuniversal, and, except in their Christian manifestations, anti-Western. (p. 100)
  • Movements for religious revival are opposed to the relativism, egotism, and consumerism associated with modernism. They do not reject urbanization, industrialization, development, capitalism, science, and technology, and what these imply for the organization of society. In this sense, they are not antimodern. (p. 100)
  • Movements for religious revival accept modernization and the inevitability of science and technology and the change in life-styles they bring, but they are unreceptive to the idea that they we Westernized. (p. 100)
  • Islamic fundamentalist movements have been strong in the more advanced and seemingly more secular Muslin societies, such as Algeria, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, and Tunisia, and they are highly adept at using modern communications and organizational techniques to spread their message. (p. 101)
  • The level of violent conflict between Islam and Christianity over time has been influenced by demographic growth and decline, economic developments, technological change, and the intensity of religious commitment. (p. 211)
  • The Islamic Resurgence has given Muslims renewed confidence in the distinctive character and work of their civilization and values compared to those of the West. (p. 211)
  • The West’s efforts to universalize its values and institutions, to maintain its military and economic superiority, and to intervene in conflicts in the Muslim world generate intense resentment among Muslims. (P. 211)
  • The increasing contact between and intermingling of Muslims and Westerners stimulate in each a new sense of their own identity and how it differs from that of the other. (p. 211)
  • Within both Muslim and Christian societies, tolerance for the other declined sharply in the l980’s and l990’s. (p. 211)


  • In the emerging global politics, the core states of the major civilizations are supplanting the two Cold War superpowers as the principal poles of attraction and repulsion for other countries. (p. 154)
  • These changes are most clearly visible with respect to Western, Orthodox, and Sinic civilizations. (p. 155)
  • States in these civilizational blocs often tend to be distributed in concentric circles around the core state or states. (p. 155)
  • Lacking a recognized core state, Islam is intensifying its common consciousness, but so far has developed only a rudimentary common political structure. (p. 155)
  • The core states of the European Union, France and Germany, are circled first by an inner grouping of Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg, and then other member countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Britain, Ireland, and Greece. (p. 157)
  • Countries tend to bandwagon with countries of similar culture and to balance against countries with which they lack cultural commonality. (p. 155)
  • The power of core states attracts those who are culturally similar and repels those who are culturally different. (p. 155)
  • In this world, the core states of civilizations are sources of order within civilizations and, through negotiations with other core states, between civilizations. (p. 156)


  • The universal aspirations of Western civilization, the declining relative power of the West, and the increasing cultural assertiveness of other civilizations ensure generally difficult relations between the West and the rest. (p. 184)
  • Asian assertiveness is rooted in economic growth. The economic development of China and other Asian societies provides their governments with both the incentives and resources to become more demanding in their dealing with other countries. (p. 102)
  • Muslin assertiveness stems in considerable measure from social mobilization and population growth. Population growth in Muslim countries, and particularly the expansion of the fifteen-to-twenty-four-year-old cohort, provides recruits for fundamentalism, terrorism, insurgency, and migration. Demographic growth threatens Muslim governments and non-Muslim societies. (p. 102-103)
  • Mexicans pose a problem for the United States. The American populations will change dramatically in the first half of the twenty-first century, becoming almost 50 percent white and 25 percent Hispanic. The central issue will remain the degree to which Hispanics are assimilated into American society. Some evidence suggests resistance to assimilation is stronger among Mexican migrants, as Mexicans tend to retain their Mexican identity. (p. 205-206)
  • Westerners see their civilization in a position of unparalleled dominance, while at the same time weaker Asian, Muslim, and other societies are beginning to gain strength.
  • Western universalism is dangerous to the world because it could lead to a major intercivilizational war between core states, and it is dangerous to the West because it could lead to defeat of the West. (p. 311)
  • The principal responsibility of Western leaders is not to attempt to reshape other civilizations in the image of the West, which is beyond their declining power, but to preserve, protect, and renew the unique qualities of Western civilization. Because it is the most powerful Western country, that responsibility falls overwhelmingly on the United States. (p. 311)


Western Sinic Islamic Hindu
1993 805,400 M 1,340,900 M 927,600 M 915,800 M
Western Sinic Islamic
1900 20,290 M 4,317 M 3,592 M
1993 12,711 M 3,923 M 11,054 M
Percent 1900 38.7% 8.2% 6.8%
Percent 1993 24.2% 7.5% 21.1%
Christian Buddhist Muslim Hindu
1900 26.9% 7.8% 12.4% 12.5%
2000 29.9% 5.7% 19.2% 13.7%
LANGUAGE (p. 60-61)
English Mandarin Arabic Hindi
1958 9.8% 15.6% 2.7% 5.2%
1992 7.6% 15.2% 3.5% 6.4%
Western Sinic Islamic Orthodox
1900 43.7% 10.0% 16.7% 16.6%
1991 21.1% 25.7% 20.0% 14.3%
U.S. POPULATION (p. 206)
White Hispanic Black Asian
1995 74% 10% 12% 3%
Projected 2020 64% 16% 13% 6%
Projected 2050 53% 25% 14% 8%