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Culture and global conflict

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  1. Introduction
  2. Attention and concern over global finances
  3. Huntington's argument
  4. The clash of civilizations theory
  5. The margins of civilizations
  6. Leftwich's argument on Western aid policy and development
  7. Democratic transition in the Third World
  8. Huntington's hypothesis
  9. Conclusion
  10. Works cited

The global recession not only impacts Western and developed countries, but its effects are also applicable to those from the Third World. On 2 April, 2009, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown declared an end to the ?Washington consensus? at the G-20 Conference in London. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, this economic policy prescription of open borders, floating exchange rates and fiscal prudence has been favored by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. With the global credit crisis and subsequent recession, politicians have risen to decry the neo-liberal ideology which encouraged relaxed trade restrictions on capital, over-sight deregulation, and the flow of goods. In fact, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on 26 September, 2008, remarked that ?we must rethink the financial system from scratch, as at Bretton Woods? [Parker, Barber, Dombey, 2008]. As such, the international community is presently faced with an economic crisis testing the ability and effectivity of First World nation-states to lead in recovery, growth and development. For sixty years, the United States has been at the forefront of political and economic leadership in Western Europe, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa; however, it appears that its hegemony as a super-power is beginning to wane. If so, what is the present and future theoretical framework for global power and conflict?

In light of the over-whelming attention and concern over global finances, Samuel Huntington's hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in [the] new world will not be primarily ideological or economic but will be cultural appears specious. Of course, the two decades following the end of the Cold War also witnessed a dramatic increase in non-traditional warfare, and grotesque acts of terrorism produced by cultural intolerance and hatred.

[...] American intervention has developed on the global stage in its manipulation of soft and of hard power to achieve policy ends; notably, those of the Washington consensus, and active military involvement. Of course, this perspective of representing ?Civilization,' or one civilization in conflict with others, has in fact enabled the United States (as the hegemonic leader of the Western or First World) to profit from the Third World in the liberalization of trade, privatization of state enterprises, and the introduction of IMF and World Bank funding in return for ?good governance? and democracy initiatives. [...]

[...] Huntington's hypothesis was to re-define future global conflict based on cultural differences rather than economic or political factors. On the surface, it appears that events over the past decade have yielded some credence to his proposition. In particular, tensions between the Occidental and the Oriental (or the West and Islam). Such thinking is nonetheless a distorted illusion which ignores individual difference, and the dynamics at work within societies to shape their direction. By inventing the artificial geographical and geopolitical borders of ?civilization,' Huntington has created his own categories and mutually opposed groups. [...]

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