The Clash of Civilizations

The Clash of Civilizations Character List

Henry Kissinger

An American diplomat and political scientist who also served as Secretary of State under President Nixon and National Security Advisor under President Ford. He believed the international system was made up of at least six major powers (the US, Europe, China, Japan, Russia, India) and a multiplicity of medium-sized and smaller countries. Huntington points out that these six major powers belong to five different civilizations. Kissinger’s hypothesis helped him to build his own argument that the post-Cold War world is multicivilizational and multipolar. Huntington also emphasizes, based on this, that local politics have become the politics of ethnicity, while global politics are the politics of civilizations. Overall, he argues that the rivalry between these different groups identified by Kissinger is a competition between civilizations.

Thomas Kuhn

An American physicist and historian. In his text The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn introduced the concept of the paradigm shift. He argued that intellectual advancement consists of the displacement of one paradigm that is no longer capable of explaining new facts by a new paradigm that can better include this new information in its structure. A theory has to be better than its competitors but still cannot be expected to explain all possible facts. Huntington refers to this concept in order to argue that his own paradigm is the best current explanation for world affairs.

Francis Fukuyama

A political scientist who began as Samuel Huntington's student, but diverged radically from him in his views. Fukuyama introduced the “end of history” thesis to explain the world as it stood after the Cold War. This paradigm assumed that the end of the Cold War also meant the end of significant conflicts in global politics in general, and the emergence of a new and harmonious world order. For Fukuyama, this end of conflict would mean the end of history as people had known it thus far. Huntington introduces this paradigm when he is attempting to explain existing modes of thought and arguing that his own is more effective than these other theories. Huntington generally dismisses this belief in harmony for being a naïve response to the end of the Cold War.

V.S. Naipaul

A British writer from Trinidad, known for fiction and travel writing about the third world. He argues that the post-Cold War era is witnessing the emergence of a “universal civilization.” Huntington challenges the relevance of this idea in the first section of his text. He points out that, in fact, statistics do not show cultures coming together into one universal system, but rather show increasing differences in ever-more aspects of life.