R.I.P. Samuel Huntington
Travel Blog • Jim Benning • 12.30.08 | 1:43 PM ET
The author of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order and other influential books has died at the age of 81.
I read “The Clash of Civilizations” while traveling in Asia in early 2001 and found Huntington’s theories about culture and the world fascinating, even if I didn’t always agree with them. (The book was based on this article.) I always thought the book should be essential reading for any traveler with even a slightly wonkish bent trying to make sense of the world.
In retrospect, early 2001 was an interesting time to be reading the book. As the New York Times obituary points out, Huntington was startling prescient, writing: “Somewhere in the Middle East, a half-dozen young men could well be dressed in jeans, drinking Coke, listening to rap, and between their bows to Mecca, putting together a bomb to blow up an American airliner.”
Other writers, like Benjamin Barber in Jihad vs. McWorld, have offered what I thought were compelling counter-arguments to Huntington’s theory, suggesting that it’s not so much a clash of civilizations but other factors behind many of today’s terrorist attacks. The two books could well be read together.
Huntington wrote many books, including, more recently, a controversial volume about American culture and immigration. It angered many.
Regardless, he was a thoughtful writer and an important thinker. Many readers—including travelers—will miss him and his contributions to political science and our understanding of the world.