The Real Clash

September 1, 1994 Topic: Society Tags: Islamism

The Real Clash


Indeed, one of the consequences of this grand project of Americanization was the spread within the American academic elite of the concept of the Western civilization. The political elite remained comfortable with Americanization of the mass population. The academic elite (particularly at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton), however, was in the business of teaching the elite of the future. For this purpose, simple Americanization was too rough and primitive. Rather than imposing Americanization unilaterally on people who were in some sense both European and American, it would be better to find a new common denominator for both Europeans and Americans. This became "Western civilization." As we have seen, very little in this Western civilization happened to contradict the American creed. All of the elements that Huntington identifies as being the elements of Western civilization were in the American creed also.

Deconstructing the West

THE PRESENCE OF African Americans, Latino Americans, and Asian Americans might have been sufficient to create a multicultural ideology in the 1980s and 1990s. But these three groups alone probably would not have been sufficient to have that ideology adopted by much of the American political and intellectual elites, or to have it translated into policies aimed at establishing a multicultural society. Even a grand coalition between them would not have been grand enough to take power and make policy. A truly grand coalition had to include, indeed had to have as its core, a group that was much closer in social and educational background to the existing elite and much more central to the emerging post-industrial economy. That group, which was not really a group but a majority, was women. We have already noted the importance of women in the post-industrial economy and the consequent importance of feminism in post-modern politics.

The feminist movement is central to the multicultural coalition and its project. It provides the numbers, having reached a central mass first in academia and now in the media and the law. It promotes the theories, such as deconstructionism and post-modernism. And it provides much of the energy, the leadership, and the political clout.

The multicultural coalition and its feminist core despise the European versions of Western civilization, which they see as the work of "dead white European males." They also despise the American version or the American creed, particularly liberalism, constitutionalism, the rule of law, and free markets. (They also in practice reject the separation of church and state, because they want to use the state against the church, especially to attack a male-dominated clergy as a violation of equal opportunity and to attack the refusal of church hospitals to perform abortions as a violation of women's rights.) The multicultural project has already succeeded in marginalizing Western civilization in its very intellectual core, the universities and the media of America.

The Real Clash

THE IDEAS of the Enlightenment were invented in Britain in the aftermath of the religious wars of the seventeenth century. They were then adopted by the intellectual elite of the greatest power of the eighteenth century, France, which then proceeded to spread them throughout Europe. The ideas of the post-Enlightenment were invented in France in the aftermath of the ideological wars of the mid-twentieth century. They were then adopted by the intellectual elite of the greatest power of the late twentieth-century, the United States, which is beginning to spread them throughout Western civilization.

The overthrow of the Enlightenment by the post-Enlightenment is also the overthrow of the modern by the post-modern and therefore of the Western by the post-Western. At the very moment of its greatest triumph, its defeat of the last great power opposing it, Western civilization is becoming non-Western. One reason is that it has become global and therefore extra-Western. But the real, and the fatal, reason is that it has become post-modern and therefore post-Western.

The real clash of civilizations will not be between the West and one or more of the Rest. It will be between the West and the post-West, within the West itself. This clash has already taken place within the brain of Western civilization, the American intellectual class. It is now spreading from that brain to the American body politic.

The 1990s have seen another great transformation, this time in the liberal and the conservative movements that have long defined American politics and that, whatever their differences, had both believed in the modern ideas represented by the American creed. Among liberals, the political energy is now found among multicultural activists. Liberalism is ceasing to be modern and is becoming post-modern. Among conservatives, the political energy is now found among religious believers. Conservatism is ceasing to be modern and is becoming pre-modern. Neither these liberals nor these conservatives are believers in Western civilization. The liberals identify with multicultural society or a post-Western civilization (such as it is). The conservatives identify with Christianity or a pre-Western civilization. A question thus arises about who, in the United States of the future, will still believe in Western civilization. Most practically, who will believe in it enough to fight, kill, and die for it in a clash of civilizations?

IT IS HISTORICALLY fitting that Samuel Huntington has issued a call to Western civilization and to Americans within it. In the seventeenth century, the first Huntingtons arrived in America, as Puritans and as founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the eighteenth century, Samuel Huntington of Connecticut was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a lender to General George Washington of the funds necessary to sustain his army at Valley Forge. In the nineteenth century, Collis P. Huntington was a builder of the transcontinental railroad. In the twentieth century, Samuel P. Huntington has been, for more than forty years, the most consistently brilliant and creative political scientist in the United States. Huntingtons have been present at the creation for most of the great events of American history, which in turn have been linked up with great movements of Western civilization--the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the Industrial Revolution. It is fitting indeed that, in our century, Samuel Huntington has been not just an analyst of Western civilization but an exemplar of its creative intelligence.

The American intellectual class of our time is present at the deconstruction of Western civilization. When that civilization is in ruins, however, it will be its glories, and not multiculturalism's barbarities, that will be remembered. And when that intellectual class has also passed away, it will be the brilliant achievements of Samuel Huntington, and not the boring cliches of the deconstructionists, that will be remembered also.

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