Ethnic minorities and the clash of civilizations: A quantitative analysis of Huntington's thesis

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Samuel Huntington's 'clash of civilizations' thesis has sparked considerable debate. Huntington argues that post-Cold War conflicts will revolve primarily around civilizations. This article uses the Minorities at Risk dataset to provide a quantitative element to the civilizations debate, which, thus far, has been based mostly on anecdotal arguments. The article focuses on whether there has been a rise in both the quantity and intensity of ethnic conflicts between groups belonging to different civilizations since the end of the Cold War. Overall, the analysis reveals several problems with Huntington's argument. First, Huntington's classification of civilizations is difficult to operationalize. Secondly, civilizational conflicts constitute a minority of ethnic conflicts. Thirdly, conflicts between the West and both the Sinic/Confucian and Islamic civilizations, which Huntington predicts will be the major conflicts in the post-Cold War era, constitute a small minority of civilizational conflicts. Finally, there is no statistically significant evidence that the intensity of civilizational ethnic conflicts have risen relative to other types of ethnic conflicts since the end of the Cold War.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-434
Number of pages20
JournalBritish Journal of Political Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002


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