The New Clash of Civilizations
Economics vs Culture
The tragic conflict in Gaza has revealed, under cruel floodlights, the divide between the world’s two dominant geopolitical blocs. On one side, the United States, most of Europe, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia/New Zealand, the UAE and Israel. On the other, just about everyone else, including China, India perhaps, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and much of Central Asia and the Global South. One group is under the US sphere of influence and protection. The second has strong ties to China that are more economic than ideological, although members of this bloc share opposition to US dominance.
I am not predicting the ascendency of one over the other. However, the split that became so apparent with the onset of the Ukraine War has now become an uncrossable political chasm. A rather tired paradigm is to delineate the current global divide by democracies vs autocracies. Reality however is far more layered.
Samuel Huntington’s 1993 essay The Clash of Civilizations was about the inevitability of conflict between groups and cultures in specific fixed geographies. As he wrote:
The clash of civilizations thus occurs at two levels. At the micro-level, adjacent groups along the fault lines between civilizations struggle, often violently, over the control of territory and each other. At the macro-level, states from different civilizations compete for relative military and economic power, struggle over the control of international institutions and third parties, and competitively promote their particular political and religious values.
This is not a bad description of where we are now, although extraterritorial ideologies have faded and fundamental belief systems have diverged internally. Today there are clear cultural divides within democracies such as the US that have created historic levels of political disunity.
Huntington vs Fukuyama
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