In This Review

Civilizations in World Politics: Plural and Pluralist Perspectives
Civilizations in World Politics: Plural and Pluralist Perspectives
Edited by Peter J. Katzenstein
Routledge, 2009, 248 pp

Samuel Huntington's famous essay "The Clash of Civilizations?" set off a decade-long debate about culture and identity in world politics. In Huntington's bold rendering, civilizations were primordial entities that would replace ideology and geopolitics as the animating sources of cooperation and conflict in the post-Cold War world. In this illuminating new collection of essays, Katzenstein and his colleagues hold that civilizations are not global conflict groups so much as malleable cultural identities that orient the ideas and practices of states and peoples. James Kurth argues that American civilization has transformed from its Protestant and British Enlightenment roots into a more fragmented, secular, and multicultural array of traditions and values. Susanne Rudolph explores the different facets of Hindu and Indian civilization, finding multiple identities and traditions ebbing and flowing in and out of South Asia. The most interesting arguments in the book deal with the "inter-civilizational" encounters -- diplomacy, commerce, cultural exchanges -- that are shaping global order. Huntington was deeply skeptical of anything that might be called a universal civilization, Western, liberal, or otherwise. In contrast, Katzenstein argues that civilizational "clashes, encounters, and engagements" are giving shape to a "civilization of modernity" that draws on values and aspirations of all the world's cultural groups, even if the precise content of this modern universalism remains unclear.