Clash of civilizations or clash of religions: Which is a more important determinant of ethnic conflict?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Samuel Huntington's 'clash of civilizations' argument that in the future most conflicts will be between civilizations has been the source of considerable debate within international relations. Among the criticisms of this argument is the fact that there is a considerable overlap between Huntington's concept of civilizations and religion. In fact, only one of Huntington's eight civilizations has no obvious religious component. This raises the question of whether the concept of civilizations is really a surrogate for religion. Accordingly, this study examines the influence of both religion and Huntington's concept of civilizations on ethnic conflict using data from the Minorities at Risk Phase 3 dataset as well as data on religion and civilizations collected independently. The results show that while there is considerable overlap between religion and civilization, the two are not the same. Also, while it is not clear whether religious or civilizational differences have a greater impact on ethnic conflict, it is clear that neither are they its primary cause. These results cast serious doubt on the validity of Huntington's hypothesis, at least as far as it concerns ethnic conflict.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-320
Number of pages26
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Clash of civilizations
  • Conflict
  • Ethnic conflict
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Samuel Huntington


Dive into the research topics of 'Clash of civilizations or clash of religions: Which is a more important determinant of ethnic conflict?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this