Courtesy Reuters


In recent years Westerners have reassured themselves and irritated others by expounding the notion that the culture of the West is and ought to be the culture of the world. This conceit takes two forms. One is the Coca-colonization thesis. Its proponents claim that Western, and more specifically American, popular culture is enveloping the world: American food, clothing, pop music, movies, and consumer goods are more and more enthusiastically embraced by people on every continent. The other has to do with modernization. It claims not only that the West has led the world to modern society, but that as people in other civilizations modernize they also westernize, abandoning their traditional values, institutions, and customs and adopting those that prevail in the West. Both theses project the image of an emerging homogeneous, universally Western world -- and both are to varying degrees misguided, arrogant, false, and dangerous.

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  • Samuel P. Huntington is the Albert J. Weatherhead III University Professor at Harvard University, where he is also director of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. This article is drawn from his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, to be published this month by Simon and Schuster.
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