Below is a translation of two pages from a 194-page atlas recently published by Le Monde diplomatique. -- Journalist Dominique Vidal takes a critical look at the "clash of civilizations" thesis coined by Bernard Lewis and developed in Samuel P. Huntington's famous bestseller The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (Simon and Schuster, 1996; paperback 2002). -- The new Atlas du Monde diplomatique (a previous edition was published in 2003, but the 2006 edition is entirely new), which aims to reveal "the relations and interactions among phenomena situated in different spheres," sells for 12 euros (ISSN 0026-9395) and is divided into five sections: -- (1) The Planet in Danger (28 maps with accompanying charts and text); -- (2) A New Geopolitics (35 maps); -- (3) Globalization, Winners and Losers (25 maps); -- (4) Those Persistent Conflicts (48 maps); -- (5) Asia's Irresistible Ascent (38 maps). -- L'Atlas du Monde diplomatique is edited by Alain Gresh, Jean Radvanyi, Philippe Rekacewicz, Catherine Samary, and Dominique Vidal, with the collaboration of some 70 specialists. -- Copies can be ordered by calling 011 33 344 318 048. -- Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order will be discussed at UFPPC's Monday evening book discussion group, Digging Deeper, on Aug. 14, 2006, at 7:00 p.m., at the Mandolin Café in Tacoma (3923 S. 12th St.)....
A new geopolitics
"CLASH OF CIVILIZATIONS" OR NORTH-SOUTH CLASH?
By Dominique Vidal
** The Soviet bloc's débâcle, symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, was an historic turning point. Among the theories that have multiplied since then to analyze the world's future, the "clash of civilization" has had the greatest success. This is because it was able to justify another phenomenon: the renewal of an openly "imperialist" discourse. **
L'Atlas du Monde diplomatique (2006)
With the Soviet Union in its death throes, the Cold War model collapsed: international relations determined by the bipolarity of two systems locked in struggle both on the socioeconomic plane and on the political-ideological plane.
In 1989, even before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama published in the National Interest an article with a provocative title: "The End of History?" Referring to a version of Hegelianism adapted to the taste of the time, he saw in the collapse of the Soviet bloc the definitive triumph of liberalism as a political-economic model. Henceforward, there would be nothing more at stake ideologically in international relations, and the world would become boring...
DISCOURSE OF HATE
This thesis provoked a virtually unprecedented international discussion. The reason: it expressed what was in the air, reflecting like a caricature the ideological triumphalism of the United States even as it served to justify a politics of disarmament. Developed in a book in 1992 that became an instant bestseller, it gave innumerable commentators the easy task of refuting its author's blissful optimism. Samuel Huntington, a professor at Harvard and member of the American foreign policy establishment, formulated in 1993, in Foreign Affairs, what was in the nature of a counter-thesis: to the confrontation of the sociopolitical ideologies of the Cold War succeeded a "clash of civilizations."
In a work that also became a bestseller as soon as it was published in 1996, Huntington distinguished several great "civilizations" on a planetary scale that are rivals, but able to draw closer together according to their affinities and according to the needs of their own struggle for hegemony or against that of the others. Thus Orthodox Christianity (the Russian sphere) might be tempted by alliances with Chinese "Confucian" civilization against Western civilizations and its allies, led by the United States. Huntington's chief fear was that what he perceived as the principal anti-Western axis, the "Confucian-Islamic" axis, might join the "Hindu-Orthodox" axis and tilt the balance in "Eurasia" against the West.
Huntington's thesis were in their turn submitted to intense criticism from critics on every side. On the methodological plane, it was not difficult to refute the very idea that "civilizations" as such could be historical actors, since each of the groupings defined by Huntington includes states with very diverse alliances and policies. [Note: This is not the case for Japan, which Huntington classifies as a distinct civilization. The map reproduced with Vidal's article drops Japanese civilization, this is probably inadvertent, since Japan appears is not shown as belonging to any other "civilization." --M.K.J.] His very notion of "civilization" was also sharply criticized on various grounds -- sometimes religious, sometimes geographical, sometimes political.
But the thesis survived because of one aspect: the "clash" between the Christian, Occidental, and Orthodox world, on the one hand, and the Muslim world, on the other. Paradoxically, this thesis was maintained by the Muslim fundamentalists themselves, whose discourse of hate against "the crusaders and the Jews" also helped nourish an Islamophobia of a racist character that drew upon fantasies dating from colonialism or from even earlier times.
The destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, seemed to corroborate the thesis of the "clash of civilizations" -- despite the rejection of this idea by Huntington, according to whom that event was part of a struggle occurring inside "Muslim civilization." Official discourse in the U.S., which has been careful not to alienate Muslim populations, soon picked up the old imperialist refrain of the "civilizing mission" of the West. The populations of the Near East remember above all the most barbarous aspects: Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Fallujah.
--Dominique Vidal is a journalist at Le Monde diplomatique and, with Leila Shahid and Michel Warschawski, the author of Les Banlieues, le Proche-Orient et nous (Éditions de l'Atelier, 2006) ('The Suburbs, the Near East, and Us').
[MAPS 1, 2, & 3: CIVILIZATIONS ACCORDING TO SAMUEL HUNTINGTON AND THE HYPERTROPHIED WORLD OF THE WEALTHY IN 2003: (Shows (1) the division of the world into "Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese (Confucian), Muslim, African, Latin American, Orthodox, and Western" civilizations, according to pages 26-27 of Samuel Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations (Simon & Schuster, 1996; paperback 2002), but dropping Huntington's "Japanese civilization," probably inadvertently; (2) a map where the area of each country is proportional to its 2003 GNP per inhabitant in dollars; (3) a map where the area of each country is proportional to its projected 2020 GNP in dollars. Source: PNUE/GRID-Arenda; anamorphosis created by Vladimir Tikunov, Dept. of Geography, University of Moscow, September 2005, according to data from the World Bank.]
[MAP 4: THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SOME ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, AND FINANCIAL INDICATORS: Shows (1) the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, Japan, Korea, and Australia represent 80% of the global GNP; (2) Stock market capitalization at the beginning of 2000: North America ($16 trillion), Western Europe ($10 trillion), Japan and Korea ($5 trillion), Singapore and Jakarta ($300 billion), Sao Paulo ($150 billion), Johannesburg ($100 billion), with 98% of total capitalization is in the North; (3) Principal financial and economic flows: air traffic, passengers, merchandise, money (more than 80% in the North); (4) North American and Western Europe as the site of arrival and departure of 82% of the world's tourists; (5) Airports with more than 20 million passengers per year (North America, not including Mexico: 21; Western Europe: 8; Japan and Korea: 4; China: 2; Mexico: 1; Brazil: 1; Thailand: 1; Indonesia: 1; Australia 1. Sources: World Bank; International Monetary Fund; World Tourism Organization; Images économiques du monde 2006 [Armand Colin]; International Civil Aviation Organization.]
ON THE WEB
The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel P. Huntington: http://www.alamut.com/subj/economics/misc/clash.html (The text of Huntington's original 1993 article.)
Bernard Lewis: http://www.arab2.com/biography/bernard-lewis.htm (As of Aug. 14, 2006, this site is suspended due to an outstanding billing issue.)
The Edward Said Archive: http://www.edwardsaid.org
« Confluences Méditerranée »: http://www.confluences-mediterranee.com
Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
Home page: http://www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/