Huntington’s Civilizations: A Classification
In 1993, Samuel Huntington wrote an article titled “The Clash of Civilizations”. In it, he expounded his theory that the world was basically divided into 9 civilizations – the Western, the Orthodox, the Islamic, and so on and so forth. He split these civilizations based not on economics but along racial and cultural lines, and explained that wars would happen where cultures clashed. It’s not the only classification, nor the most definitive, but it’s one of the better-known ones out there – and one of my colleagues happened to be using it.
Working off a list of countries from CEPI’s GeoDist database, I read Huntington’s 1996 book on the subject and tagged over 200 countries by civilization blocs. Where his definitions ignored nations, I used currency to figure out the closest possible alliance to a bloc. The map above (not mine) should give a general idea of what the world looks like.
Here’s the CSV with the counrtries and classification. It’s on GitHub.
Huntington correctly predicted quite a few major political events – for example, that the West would eventually clash with the Islamic civilizations, and that Sudan would eventually split off. A few notes, though:
- Ethiopia, Haiti, Israel and Japan are self-labelled as per his theory of ‘lone’ civilizations
- The Phillipines are (by his own definition) possibly Sinic-Western with a Muslim population in the center. I’ve labelled it Sinic-Western.
- Kazakhstan, despite having a dominant Muslim population, is included in the Orthodox bloc. I don’t understand why.
- I mentioned that where his definitions ignore nations, I’ve used currency to figure out the closest possible alliance to a bloc. This worked out well in the case of tiny countries like Micronesia, but fails at the Polynesian isles. Since these are between Aus and the US, I’ve tagged them as ‘Western’ but also included a ‘Polynesian’ indicator in Col 3 (Notes)
- Huntington seems to believe that the British-controlled Caribbean islands are a distinct entity, yet between them are clustered many smaller islands that share the same currency and history of invasions by Western nations – these seem to be completely ignored in most cases. I’ve tagged this entire belt under ‘Anglophone Caribbean’
- I’ve avoided tagging his ‘cleft nations’, despite the accuracy in predicting the Sudanese split in 2011, because I’m not quite sure how he does this. Sri Lanka he describes as a cleft nation, poised between Hindu and Buddhist because of a sizeable Hindu population: however, the population ratios of Buddhists to Hindus in Sri Lanka is, as of the 2011 census, 70.9% to 12.6%, with the majority of political power explicitly (and in case of the Presidency, by Constitution) in the hands of Buddhists.
Feel free to update the file on GitHub if this is useful.