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.

2 Comments for R.I.P. Samuel Huntington

Ling 12.31.08 | 10:25 AM ET

RIP Huntington, and he was right about at least one thing - America is losing its cultural identity, and that is causing a certain inertia (nothing ever gets done for fear of offending some group or the other)which other nations don’t seem to have.

Grizzly Bear Mom 12.31.08 | 4:25 PM ET

I am a second generation American veteran who lived all over the world and made many Christian,  Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindi friends.  I’ve adopted the wonderful parts of their cultures such as being intentional, honoring elders, humility, modesty, wonderful cooking, love for the earth, shoe less housekeeping, etc.  However, Menorrahs, Kwanza Candelobras, and atheists saying be good for goodness sake don’t discourage me from celebrating who I am.  In fact they encourage to to search for the real meaning of the holidays. 
    As a Christian I celebrate Christmas as Jesus disregarding the worship of the angels to condescend to put on flesh to die on the cross for out sins.  I make time and money gifts for the people he would have me buy for: the poor, orphaned, inprisoned, sick, etc.  I can’t imagine why anyone would want to cheapen such an event with Santa and reindeer.  I celebrate Easter as resurection Sunday and again wonder why anyone would cheapen that celebration with Bunnies and eggs.  New Year’s is a time to look at our lives to see who we can become more intentional; President’s, Martin Luther King, Memorial, Flag Day and the 4th of July honor those who fought for our liberties.

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