Paradigm lost: Huntington's unfulfilled clash of civilizations prediction into the 21st century

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Abstract

This study addresses a gap in the quantitative literature which tests Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilization theory (CoC). Nearly all of the quantitative studies which directly address the theory and most of those which indirectly test it find Huntington's theory lacking. However, few of these studies include data more recent than the mid-1990s. As the CoC theory posits that its predictions apply to the post-Cold War era (1990 onward) and will become increasingly apparent as time goes on, these predictions need to be examined for time periods more recent than the mid-1990s; however, some studies do not even have data as recent as 1990. Accordingly, this study examines domestic conflict using the Minorities at Risk data set (1945-2000) and the State Failure data set (1955-2001). The findings of this study are consistent with previous ones in that there is no sufficient evidence to support Huntington's paradigmatical claims. Civilizational conflicts were less common than non-civilizational ones for the entire time period tested. Also, civilizational conflicts did not become more violent relative to non-civilizational conflicts in the post-Cold War era. While the data used in this study are current only through the end of 2001, anecdotal evidence suggests that even after 9/11 his predictions, including those regarding an Islamic - Western clash, are unlikely to come true unless the prediction itself becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)428-457
Number of pages30
JournalInternational Politics
Volume42
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2005

Keywords

  • Clash of civilization
  • Post-Cold War era
  • Samuel Huntington
  • September 11

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