clash of civilisations

John Paul Rathbone

Where lies the world’s biggest source of instability? For many, it is the “clash of civilizations”, an idea popularised by Samuel Huntington, whereby people’s cultural and religious identities will remain the main source of conflict in the post-Cold War World. “The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future,” the political scientist wrote in 1993.

Certainly, Al-Qaeda’s terrorist attacks, the rise of China and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq seem to confirm this notion. Yet, as Moises Naim, the former editor of Foreign Policy Magazine points out in a recent article , most conflicts have lately been within civilizations than between them. Islamic terrorists have killed more innocent Moslems than anybody else. Ditto the fight between Shiites and Sunnis. And the source of the “Arab Spring” is homegrown. Indeed, the main source of global conflict, Mr Naim suggests, stems not from a clash between civilisations but  rather the changing fortunes of the world’s middle classes inside them. Read more