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A False Understanding of
Samuel Huntington: The Clash of
Civilizations. 1999
Samuel Huntington “A Clash of
A drastic examples of an actual eurocentric
Citation: “Western concepts differ fundamentally from
those prevalent in other civilizations. Western ideas
of individualism, liberalism, constitutionalism,
human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of
law, democracy, free markets, the separation
of church and state, often have little resonance in
Islamic, Confucian, Japanese, Hindu, Buddhist or
Orthodox cultures.” (Huntington 1993, 40)
Huntington, Samuel. The Clash of Civilizations?. In: Foreign
Affairs, Summer 1993: 22-49.
Makes the term “Western” values
any sense?
individualism, liberalism,
constitutionalism, human rights,
equality, liberty, the rule of law,
democracy, free markets, the
separation of church and state
Whatever these values may be, they
obviously are not stable.
And they are full of contradictions.
“Western” values …
have developed considerably over time,
and have kept changing
E.g. three generations of Human Rights
• Declaration 1948
• Social Pact 1966
• Resolution on the right of development 1986
History teaches us that …
“Western thinking” at an earlier stage
was basically driven by religious and
mystical narrow-mindedness, by
superstition in its Christian or nonChristian versions, by all the things that
the West today believes are specific for
Muslim or Hindu societies.
The following examples are taken from
Hippler, Jochen: Anstatt einer
notwendigen Satire: Eine kleine Polemik
zum Clash of Civilizations nebst einigen
Anmerkungen zum Islamismus. In:
• http://www.jochenhippler.de/Aufsaetze/Clash_of_Civilizations __Polem/clash_of_civilizations_-_polem.html
Stable European Family Structures?
Family Structures
While stable family structures have been very
important until into the twentieth century, today
family cohesion has lost most of its meaning and
Even being married does not matter very much any
longer, at least in big cities of Europe.
In many of them, some one third of the household are
single persons and one third of all marriages end in
Just a few decades ago this would have been
Family Structures
But what does it imply for “Western
Are family values not any longer part of
them, after they were for centuries?
Strong pro-human rights tradition in
Europe versus Fascism and Stalinism
Western “values” have entailed both
freedom and repression,
both human rights and the holocaust,
and both streaks of traditions have fought
with each other.
To define “Western values” only as the
positive side of this double faced history is
an arbitrary attempt to purge European
history of its destructive and depressing
Economic Moderinzation
Many of the “values”
mentioned may
have less to do with
“western” culture,
but with economic
Results of Capitalism, of Mechanization,
of the Market Mechanism
The weakening of religion in Europe, the growth of
individualism, or, again, the decline of the family, all
not necessarily are “Western values” at all, but
results of capitalism, of mechanization, of the
market mechanism.
In this case they would just appear “Western”,
because these phenomena have first happened on a
large scale in Europe, but they would in fact be
above cultural specifics.
“Western values” is not anything
stable or homogenous
These trends would then not constitute
European values, but shape them.
Only the societies affected would obviously
perceive them as something forming part of
their “original” identity.
The Charge of Eurocentrism
In the 1960s a reaction
against the priority
given to a canon of
„Dead White
European Males“
provided a slogan
which neatly sums up
the charge of
(alongside other
important -centrisms).
Anti-Western Idea in the 1960s
The fall of Universal History and the
rise of Multicultural World History
An anti-Western attitude stating, that the
single most important phenomenon of
modern world history is the imperialist
expansion of Europe against the
development of societies situated in the
1st Definition of Eurocentrism
is the practice, conscious or otherwise, of
placing emphasis on European (and, generally,
Western) concerns, culture and values at the
expense of those of other cultures.
Eurocentrism is an instance of ethnocentrism,
perhaps especially relevant because of its
alignment with current and past real power
structures in the world. Eurocentrism often
involved claiming cultures that were not white
or European as being such, or denying their
existence at all.
2nd Definition of Eurocentrism
A set of scientifically proved criterias and
categories for dealing with the others,
constituting their particular inferiority
e.g. Friedrich Willhelm Hegel‘s Hirarchy for the
comparision of world regions
America is inferior to Africa due to the comparative short sature
of the american flora and fauna
Asia is inferior to Europe, because it is old aged and exhausted
Africa is inferior to Europe due to its lack of civilization
Gerbi, Antonello. Dispute of the New World: The History of a Polemic, 1750-1900.
1955. Trans. Jeremy Moyle. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1973.
3rd Definition of Eurocentrism
Emerges in the slipstream of universality =
the mayor myth of „The West“
Raimon Panikkar (1995) Religion, Philosophy and
Culture. In: polylog. Forum for Intercultural Philosophy
= http://them.polylog.org/1/fpr-en.htm (2006-09-12)
demanding MULTI- and
Every Culture Creates Its Own Myths
Western Culture ...
... states that there was
no myth in its culture
but a basis =
There are no Cultural Universals
„Each culture possesses a
cosmovision and reveals the world in
which we live (…).
Each culture is a galaxy
which secretes its selfunderstanding,
and with it,
the criteria of truth, goodness, and
beauty of all human actions.
Panikkar 1995
There are no Cultural Universals
i.e. concrete meaningful contents valid for all
the cultures, for mankind throughout all
What one calls human nature is an
And every abstraction is an operation of the mind
which removes (abstracts) from a greater reality
(as seen by this mind) something (less universal)
which it considers as important. There cannot be
cultural universals, for it is culture itself which
makes possible (and plausible) its own universals.“
• Panikkar 1995
Culture is a Subject
„By saying that there are no cultural
universals, we are using a way of thinking
which is foreign to the modern "scientific"
mentality, in which predominates (when not
dominates) simple objectivity (and
objectibility) of the real.
Culture is not simply an object, since we are
constitutively immersed in it as subjects (…)
, i.e. subjectivity, essentially belongs to the
human being.“
Panikkar 1995
The Conquering Myth
It is very revealing to inquire whence and why a
"mythology" was born (not the narrative, mythoslegein) as a rational science about others' myths
(legends). All those who do not come from the
South or the Center of England speak English with
an accent: only the "natives", of course, speak
without an accent ... Everything which did not fit
into the mental framework of what is called
the Enlightenment, which flourished precisely
when the West had politically "conquered" more
than three quarters of the planet, has been called
primitive myth, and still nowadays, "on the way to
development". Panikkar 1995
Examples of such a critique
Tzvetan Todorov
Carlos Castaneda
Pluralism and Interculturality
„Cultural respect requires that we respect
those ways of life that we disapprove, or even
those that we consider as pernicious. We may
be obliged to go as far as to combat these
cultures, but we cannot elevate our own
to the rank of universal paradigm in order
to judge the other ones.
(…) one of the cements of interculturality.“
Panikkar 1995
Against Eurocentric History
Andre Gunder
FRANK: ReOrient.
Global Economy in
the Asian Age.
University of
California Press
1998. obligatory
reading: Chapter 1,
p. 1-51.
Against Eurocentrism
Frank 1998,7:
19. Jh.: leadership
not hegemony
shifted to the west
21. Jh.: leadership
not hegemony
shifted again to the
Thesis of Eurocentrism in Western
National histories
formed nation
states in Europe
and America „…
serving the
ideological, political,
and economic
interests of their
ruling classes.”
„If any regions were predominant in the world
economy before 1800, they were in Asia.“ (Frank
1998, 5)
Adam SMITH (1776): An Inquiry into
the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of
“…was the last major (Western) social
theorist to appreciate that Europe was a
Johnny-come-lately in the development of
the wealth of nations.” (Frank 1998, 13)
Frank against Eurocentrism
„We need more than global terminology. We
also need global analysis and theory” (Frank
1998, 38).
„…history makes people more than people
make history…“ (Frank 1998, 41).
„globological perspective“ (Frank 1998,
„We must analyze the whole, which is more
than the sum of its parts“ (Frank 1998, XV).
Prominant References in Frank 1998
Fernand Braudel
Karl Polanyi
Werner Sombart
Edward Said
Samir Amin
Sidney Mintz
Eric Wolf
Janet Abu-Lughod
John K. Fairbank
Martin Bernal
Fly UP