Monday, December 29, 2008

Samuel Huntington Passes Away

Harvard Political Scientist Samuel Huntington passed away last week at the age of 81. Prompted by his passing, RealClearPolitics links to a reprint of Huntington's famously prescient Foreign Affairs essay from 1993, The Clash of Civilizations. In 1996, Huntington published a book expanded from that article, "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order". In an Atantic article on Huntington from 2001 ("Looking the World in the Eye" -- the Atlantic re-posted this on its website in response to the news of Huntington's passing), Robert Kaplan summarizes some of the themes of this book:

In the book that emerged from his article, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996), Huntington offered a wealth of other insights. He showed that whereas the West has generated ideologies, the East has generated religions—and explained that religion is now the more menacing force on the international scene. He pointed out, counterintuitively, that because communism was a Central European ideology, the Soviet Union was philosophically closer to the West than is the Eastern Orthodox Russia that has succeeded it. He reminded us that the Cold War was a fleeting event compared with the age-old struggle between the West and Islam. In the Middle Ages, Muslim armies advanced through Iberia as far as France, and through the Balkans as far as the gates of Vienna. A similar process of advance, demographically rather than militarily, is now under way in Europe. "The dangerous clashes of the future," Huntington wrote, "are likely to arise from the interaction of Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance, and Sinic [Chinese] assertiveness."

The rest of Kaplan's article is worth reading.

Neither RealClearPolitics nor The Atlantic mentions an article Huntington wrote for Foreign Policy in 2004, "The Hispanic Challenge". In his preface to that article, Huntington wrote:

The persistent inflow of Hispanic immigrants threatens to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, and two languages. Unlike past immigrant groups, Mexicans and other Latinos have not assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture, forming instead their own political and linguistic enclaves—from Los Angeles to Miami—and rejecting the Anglo-Protestant1 values that built the American dream. The United States ignores this challenge at its peril.

1On the first page of this essay, Huntington elaborates:

Would the United States be the country that it has been and that it largely remains today if it had been settled in the 17th and 18th centuries not by British Protestants but by French, Spanish, or Portuguese Catholics? The answer is clearly no. It would not be the United States; it would be Quebec, Mexico, or Brazil.

A Brazilian once actually made a similar point to me a few years ago. During a vacation to Brazil I had scheduled a couple of business meetings, the second of which was at the Rio de Janeiro branch of a U.S.-based brokerage. In conversation with the office manager, it came up that a friend and I had visited the old colonial port city of Paraty on our way up from São Paulo. The manager explained the history of the town to me, that it had been the port from which the minerals mined from the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais ("General Mining") were shipped back to Portugal. Then he went on to contrast the difference between the original settlers of what became the U.S. with the original settlers of Brazil: "You had a higher quality of settlers," he said. "Yours -- Puritans -- came to build. Ours came to take". Of course in the 19th and 20th Centuries, Brazil attracted some of the same sort of immigrants that the U.S. did, including Italians, Poles, Germans, Jews, and Japanese (Brazil today has the largest ethnic Japanese population outside of Japan).


JK said...

Suprised that since you mentioned Brazil and Sam in the same post; you didn't mention Mr. Huntington's role in forming Brazilian democracy (ironically modelled after Mexico).

Mr. Huntington's life reads like a walk in the park of contradictions, while not acknowledging any shifts in philosphy or disconnect between words and actions. Kind of like a Christopher Hitchens... except with an actual resume and influence. On one hand he is a member of the Carter Administration and the globalist Trilateral Commission, and on the other hand he rails against Hispanic immigration and Davos men (well he sure would know about those types wouldn't he!).

At any rate, his wiki entry has some good food-for-thought quotations whether or not you agree with him (he doesn't always agree with himself either).

Gotta love this one:

"The effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups." —— Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission

(Or, instead of apathy, just give them an illusion of choice. )

DaveinHackensack said...

"Suprised that since you mentioned Brazil and Sam in the same post; you didn't mention Mr. Huntington's role in forming Brazilian democracy (ironically modelled after Mexico)."

I'm not sure what impact Huntington's advisory work with the military government in the early 1970s actually had on Brazil's return to democracy in the late 1980s. If he recommended a kind of one-party oligarchy of the sort Mexico had for most of the 20th Century with the PRI, that's not what came to pass in Brazil over the last couple of decades. Brazil's 1988 constitution, in the structure of its federal government at least, seems to have been more influenced by the example of the U.S. (with some local innovations*) than Mexico.

Kaplan's article in the Atlantic touched on some of Huntington's contradictions.

The Huntington quote about the need for apathy in an effective political system is interesting in the context of Brazil, since suffrage in Brazil is not only universal but mandatory for most Brazilians over 18. I wonder if Lula would have been reelected if suffrage weren't mandatory. He wasn't too popular in the Southern, richer part of Brazil (since Lula is missing a finger from an industrial accident, an anti-Lula poster featured a four fingered hand in a circle with a line through it), and presumably the more affluent and educated would be more inclined to vote in a voluntary system.

*That Brazilian brokerage manager was proud of Brazil's voting machines, which he said showed photographs of the candidates so even illiterates could vote for the correct candidate.

Anonymous said...

*That Brazilian brokerage manager was proud of Brazil's voting machines, which he said showed photographs of the candidates so even illiterates could vote for the correct candidate.

The more I learn about Brazil, the less I wish I knew about Brazil.