In 1991, as the Soviet Union was falling apart, political science underwent a transformation. Focused on the great conflict of the 20th century between Capitalism and Communism, the profession had to answer a singular question: what happens next?
Four theories were put forward. Francis Fukuyama has become rather famously, infamous for predicting “the end of history.” His theory was that the triumph of liberal democracy meant that the entire world would adopt this system due to its success, and that everyone being under the same liberal world order would lead to a stability. That isn’t quite what happened. Many people, especially now, repeat a counter-mantra to the title of his article, “History is happening again.”
There is one political theorist, who was well in his 70s at the time, that predicted that the new system would not be stable at all, but rather, it would allow countries and peoples to get back to the kind of conflicts that existed before the World Wars. Samuel Huntington would not live long enough to see his theory become reality, but we are living in the world he predicted.
Indeed, Peter Zeihan has echoed this comment recently by comparing our present situation to the world before World War I. There were a variety of small conflicts between nations laterally all over the world. The great empires competed both at home and between their colonies. Given that we are living through a dynamic historical period, who is Samuel Huntington, and what does his predictions, in 1992, tell us about our present global order?
Who is Samuel Huntington
Samuel Huntington was a prominent political scientist whose research on democracy, authoritarianism, and international relations has been influential in shaping our understanding of global politics. Huntington’s most famous work is his book “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order.” In this book, he argued that the world was entering a new phase of conflict in which the primary source of conflict would be between civilizations, rather than nation-states or ideologies. He identified several major civilizations, including Western, Islamic, and Confucian, and argued that their differences would lead to conflict.