Samuel P. Huntington

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Samuel Phillips Huntington (born April 18, 1927) is a political scientist known for his analysis of the relationship between the military and the civil government, his investigation of coup d'etats, and his thesis that the central political actors of the 21st century will be civilizations rather than nation-states. More recently, he garnered widespread attention for his analysis of threats posed to the United States by modern-day immigration. He is a professor at Harvard University. Huntington came to prominence as a scholar in the 1960s with the publication of Political Order in Changing Societies, a work which challenged the conventional view of modernization theorists that economic and social progress would bring about stable democracies in recently decolonized countries.

Notable arguments

Political Order in Changing Societies

In Political Order in Changing Societies Huntington argues that order is the most important characteristic of states. Order is threatened when the level of mobilization exceeds the level of institutionalization within a society. Huntington is concerned that, as a result of economic development, political mobilization will increase faster than the appropriate institutions can arise, thus leading to instability. As a solution he advocates a stronger emphasis on institution building in development, most importantly the establishment of stable party systems. He remains highly skeptical of less institutionalized political mobilization and protest, which made him the target of heated criticism by student activists at the time of the book's publication in 1968. Political Order is widely considered one of the classical works in post-war political science and is still required readings for most graduate students in political science in the U.S.

In the 1970s, Huntington applied his theoretical insights as an advisor to the Brazilian military dictatorship. In 1972 he discussed with representatives of the Medici that had approached him and one year later he produced a paper entitled "Approaches to Political Decompression", in which he warned against the risks of a rapid liberalization and proposed gradual steps and a strong party state after the image of the Mexican PRI. After a drawn out transition process, Brazil became fully democratic in 1985. Huntington has frequently cited Brazil as a success and alluded to his own role in his 1988 presidential address to the American Political Science Association, commenting that political science had "played a modest role in this process". Critics such as the British political scientist Alan Hooper point to the fact that Brazil today has an especially unstable party system, in which the best institutionalized party, Lula da Silva's Partido dos Trabalhadores, emerged in opposition to the controlled transition process. Moreover, Hooper claims that the lack of civil participation in today's Brazil goes back to the top-down transition process.

The Clash of Civilizations

Template:See details In 1993, Huntington ignited a major debate in international relations with the publication in the journal Foreign Affairs of an extremely influential and often-cited article entitled "The Clash of Civilizations?" The article contrasted with another political thesis regarding the core dynamics of post-Cold War geopolitics expressed by Francis Fukuyama in "The End of History." Huntington later expanded the article into a full-length book, published in 1996 by Simon and Schuster, entitled The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. The article and the book articulated his views that post-Cold War conflict would occur most frequently and violently along cultural (often civilizational, e.g., Western, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, etc.) instead of ideological lines, as under the Cold War and the bulk of the 20th century. Huntington believes that this cultural organization better describes the world than the classical notion of variegated sovereign states.

He surmised that to understand conflict in our age and in the future, cultural rifts must be understood, and culture (instead of the state) must be accepted as the locus of war. Thus, he warned that Western nations may lose their predominance if they fail to recognize the irreconcilable nature of this brewing tension.

Critics (see Le Monde diplomatique articles) call Clash of Civilizations the theoretical basis to legitimize aggression by the US-led West against China and the world of Islam. However, Huntington has also argued that this shift in geopolitical structure requires the West to strengthen itself internally, abandoning democratic universalism and incessant interventionism.

The influence of Huntington's ideas on US policy has been likened to that of British historian A.J. Toynbee's controversial religious theories of the early 20th century on Asian leaders.

Who Are We and immigration

The latest book by Huntington, Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity was released in May 2004. The subject is the meaning of American national identity and the possible threat posed to it by large-scale Latino immigration, which Huntington warns could "divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, and two languages". Like The Clash of Civilizations, this book has also stirred controversy, and some have accused Huntington of xenophobia for lauding America's Anglo-Protestant identity and disparaging other value systems.

The National Academy of Sciences controversy

In 1986, Huntington was nominated for membership in the National Academy of Sciences. Nominations are voted on by the entire academy, but most votes, which are by scientists who are mainly unfamiliar with the nominee, are token votes. This status quo was disturbed when Serge Lang, a Yale University mathematician, began challenging Huntington's nomination. Lang campaigned for others to deny Huntington membership and was eventually successful, with Huntington being nominated and rejected twice.

Huntington's prominence as a Harvard professor and (at the time) director of Harvard's Center for International Studies contributed to the coverage by publications such as The New York Times and The New Republic.

Lang was largely inspired by the writings of Neal Koblitz, another mathematician, who accused Huntington of misusing mathematics and engaging in pseudo-science. Lang's accusations included claims that Huntington had distorted the historical record and used pseudo-mathematics to make his conclusions appear more convincing. Lang's side of the controversy is covered in his book Challenges.

Huntington's supporters included Herbert Simon, a 1978 Bank of Sweden Nobel Laureate in Economics. The Mathematical Intelligencer offered Simon and Koblitz an opportunity to engage in a written debate, which they accepted.


  • "It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future."
  • "The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do."
  • "In the emerging world of ethnic conflict and civilizational clash, Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems: it is false; it is immoral; and it is dangerous...Imperialism is the necessary logical consequence of universalism." (The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, P. 310)
  • "Islam has bloody borders."

Selected publications

See also

External links