The Clash of Civilizations

The Clash of Civilizations Irony

Irony in Huntington's Critique

Huntington occasionally makes use of an ironic tone in order to dismiss his predecessors or critics. For example, in his last section, he makes the paradoxical statement, “History ends at least once and occasionally more often in the history of every civilization.” Of course, he does not actually believe this or include it as part of his own argument. The phrasing is meant to provide an instance of irony that makes clear why his own argument makes more sense than alternatives. Nothing—including history—can end "more often" than once, which corresponds to Huntington's belief that this sense of the end of history is a misperceived one. In other words, when the people of a given civilization claim that "history has ended," they are almost always misguided. This instance of irony helps Huntington to dismiss arguments about the "end of history."

Irony in Western Arrogance

Throughout his text, Huntington refers to the arrogance of Western civilization. Westerners tend to believe that their culture represents the peak of human achievement; their values are most morally correct and most practically successful. For this reason, they seek to universalize Western culture by spreading it across the entire world, no matter what other culture might have already existed in a given place. Huntington points out the irony in this situation: other civilizations believe Western culture is actually corrupt and immoral, and have no desire to embrace it. In fact, many other cultures object specifically to the arrogance and individualism manifest in Western culture. Thus, Westerners' belief that they should impose their culture on others because it is naturally superior runs up against the irony of this only making others resist them more fervently.