A fascinating retraction

Fouad Ajami rethinks Sam Huntington’s clash of civilizations concept:

In Huntington’s unsparing view, culture is underpinned and defined by power. The West had once been pre-eminent and militarily dominant, and the first generation of third-world nationalists had sought to fashion their world in the image of the West. But Western dominion had cracked, Huntington said. Demography best told the story: where more than 40 percent of the world population was “under the political control” of Western civilization in the year 1900, that share had declined to about 15 percent in 1990, and is set to come down to 10 percent by the year 2025. Conversely, Islam’s share had risen from 4 percent in 1900 to 13 percent in 1990, and could be as high as 19 percent by 2025.

It is not pretty at the frontiers between societies with dwindling populations — Western Europe being one example, Russia another — and those with young people making claims on the world. Huntington saw this gathering storm…. Shortly after the appearance of the article that seeded the book, Foreign Affairs magazine called upon a group of writers to respond to Huntington’s thesis. I was assigned the lead critique. I wrote my response with appreciation, but I wagered on modernization, on the system the West had put in place. “The things and ways that the West took to ‘the rest,’” I wrote, “have become the ways of the world.

It will probably not surprise you to know that I have long been a fan of the late Huntington. The choice Europe faces, between the Cross and the Crescent, is not a new one. Modernization – being a euphemism for secular society – is proving to be a cultural non-starter and a demographic dead-end, just as GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, and Sam Huntington predicted..