Economics and International Relations in Nation Building
To what extent is Samuel P. Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ model useful in explaining the conduct of international relations in the post-11 September 2001 world?
The recent events in world history have generated a wide array of responses from both practitioners as well as academicians. The opinions vary from one pole to the other and while some see the events as the end of history as we know it, others argue that they only represent a stage in the modern society. Samuel P. Huntington belongs to the first category and believes that society will return to the traditional conflicts between nations. However, unlike other suggestions in this direction, Huntington’s ideas revolve around conflicts based on cultural values, rather than economic or ideological perspectives. The cultural disputes will eventually lead to political altercations and disruptions in international relations (Huntington, 1993).
Huntington’s findings are not only interesting, but they also seem relevant and true in explaining the contemporaneous environment. In terms of military conflicts, the tendency moves towards a reduction in the loss of human lives. Foremost, the chemical and military developments make the parties ever stronger, resulting as such in major losses in case of an armed conflict between nation states. Also, the contemporaneous society strives to be highly civilized and to move away from barbaric manifestations of power.
Keeping this in mind then, it is only natural for nation states to implement their domination through cultural features. They will strive to convince other countries that their civilization is strong and worth following. The likely outcome is for some weaker states to agree and to adopt the foreign culture in an attempt to align themselves with the stronger party. Other states will however disapprove of the procedure and will decline cultural domination. Consequently then, the international relationships between the cultural powers will manifest in a decline of political collaboration and even the emergence of armed conflicts.
Huntington’s approach is relevant to the contemporaneous society and the aftermath of the terrorist attacks upon the United States. Proof of his correctness stands the already emerged process of globalization, often assimilated with Americanization, or the efforts of the U.S. To ‘convert’ the countries to their culture (Stephan, 2006).
2. To what extent is the cultivation of economic growth under Western ‘free market’ auspices feasible in the developing world?
The western civilizations are the number one promoters of globalization and a free market. They argue that these values foster the development of all countries. And this development is not only relevant in terms of economics, but also in politics, technology, culture and civilization. “Globalization […] liberates them (local cultures) from the ideological conformity of nationalism” (Llosa).
The opinions in response to globalization are multiple and even opposing at times, meaning then that the answer to the question is a subjective one, based on the personal experiences and research conducted by each respondent. In this order of ideas, my personal take on the free market auspices promoted by the western civilizations is that they support the development of the rich, while allowing them to take advantage of the less developed economies, making these individuals even poorer and further increasing the income gap. The theoretical approach to globalization and the free market is a positive one, promoting a liberal and fair trade. But despite the benefits it retrieved, fact remains that the price paid is often too high. Under the umbrella of globalization, the corporations in strong economic countries penetrate developing markets to exploit the natural resources in the region or to open plants and exploit the workers in the region. This generates the creation of scale economies, the destruction of local manufacturing or the increasing unemployment rate in the origin country. The most relevant example in this instance is the NAFTA, which was supposed to increase U.S. exports, but only reduced them, to increase imports from Mexico, to stimulate the opening of manufacturing plants in Mexico and to lead to the loss of jobs for the American population
Ultimately then, the free market is a beneficial theoretical model, but its practical implementation has only proven profitable for the corporations in the highly developed western economies.
3. Are impediments to economic and financial reconstruction worse in a particular region of the developing world?
The tumultuous world history has impregnated its effects upon all players. And these effects are multiple and depend on various other features. On the other hand, they can be used to explain the contemporaneous stages of economic development presented by each state. While some countries enjoy the benefits of high levels of economic growth and development, others still strive to make do. And the differences are not only obvious among the groups of developed, developing and less developed countries, but also within the groups themselves. Particularly applied to the posed question, the group of developing countries is not entirely homogenous within. This can be explained through the challenges each country encounters in reaching the desired levels of economic development. Otherwise put, the impediments to economic and financial reconstruction do exist and vary from one nation to the other, resulting then in varying levels of achievements within the developing regions of the globe.
The challenges in achieving economic and financial growth within the developing societies are multiple and are revealed at varying degrees. Some of the most relevant such impediments refer to military conflicts, ethnic disputes, political stability, poverty levels or scarcity (or abundance, such as the oil in the Middle East or diamonds in Africa) of natural resources (Collier, 2003).
4. Is economic development compatible with democratization in the Greater Middle East?
As the authors of Democracy: Rising Tide or Mirage point out, the history generally triumphs in democracy. This is yet to be achieved in the Middle East. Democracy is often understood not only in political and economic terms, but also in relationship to the human regulations. In the case of the Middle East, the breaking of the international human rights has often generated criticism, proving once again the lack of a proper democracy in the region, keeping this in mind then, it results that the reduced levels of democracy in the Middle East are also responsible for the low levels of economic growth and development.
Taking one step further, the answer to the posed question is a simple and clear yes, in the meaning that the economic development in the Middle East is compatible with the levels of democratization in the region. Otherwise put, the lack of properly understood and implemented democracy materializes in reduced levels of economic development, revealing then the direct relationship between the two forces.
The authors of the article seem to agree on the major role played by democracy in the history and economic development of a country or a global region. They also reveal that despite the long lasting history of the Middle East, the region still has “plenty of history ahead of itself yet” (Ottaway, Schwedler, Telhami and Ibrahim, 2005). In this order of ideas, they recognize the changes and the developments that have affected the Middle East, but argue that a full democracy and a proper economic development has yet to be reached.
Collier, P., the Market for Civil War, Foreign Policy, 2003
Huntington, S.P., the Clash of Civilizations, Foreign Affairs, 1993
Llosa, M.V., the Culture of Liberty, Globalization at Work, 2001
Ottaway, M.S., Schwedler, J., Telhami, S., Ibrahim, S.E., Democracy: Rising Tide or Mirage? Middle East Policy, Vol. XII, No. 2, 2005
Stephan, a., the Americanization of Europe: Culture, Diplomacy and Anti-Americanism After 1945, Berghahn Books, 2006
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