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Civilizational Dialogue and Cultural Engagement Report

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Updated: Jun 13th, 2021

Globalization is one of the primary developmental trends in the present-day world, and it is characterized by the penetration of Western values and lifestyles into various regions. At the same time, as the intensity and number of cross-cultural interactions increases, people become more aware of the underlying cultural differences of distinct communities.

The two of the mentioned phenomena – cultural unification and cultural differentiation – raise a question regarding the possibility for constructive cooperation and communication among nations and individuals from diverse backgrounds. The present essay will aim to explore this issue by evaluating post-cold war theories developed by Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington. The positions of these theorists will be compared to the United Nations (UN) dialogue among civilizations paradigm and, along with this, they will be analyzed from a practical and personal perspective.

Fukuyama’s The End of History

In his original article published in 1989, Fukuyama set forth an optimistic thesis about the victory of liberalism. Drawing examples of former communist states, Fukuyama (1989) claimed that viable alternatives to democratic liberalism had exhausted themselves and proved to be nonfunctional. Moreover, he insisted that the fact that Western values commenced affecting the lives of people even in remote and previously inaccessible areas indicates the “ultimate triumph” of the Western idea (p. 3). Based on this, his theory suggests that eventually, all states will adhere to democratic liberalism, and a form of a universal political culture will develop.

Nevertheless, it does not seem that Fukuyama’s assumptions are realistic, at least for now. In fact, many of the recent events proved his thesis wrong. The two major ones discussed by Öner (n.d.) in his critical piece on Fukuyama’s work include the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, in which none of the democratic nations tried to intervene, and the 09/11 terror attack in the United States. Events like these reveal fundamental differences in views on politics, social order, and so forth.

It is valid to say that democratic liberalism is associated with evident advantages. However, it would be wrong to conclude that everyone will easily perceive this ideology as the right and most appropriate one because differences in cultural heritage and experiences of various communities are often profound. Moreover, whenever one tries to impose their opinions and worldviews on others and attempts to prove their superiority even in daily interpersonal situations, it frequently causes negative feelings and induces conflicts.

Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations

Huntington’s position on the development of world history is in sharp contrast to Fukuyama’s stance. As stated by Orsi (2018), the main idea that Huntington discussed in his book is that “conflicts in the post-ideological era are fueled by differences in identity, religion or, more generally, culture” (p. 5). Tucker (2013) states that events taking place in contemporary politics, especially those related to radicalism, support Huntington’s thesis.

According to his paradigm, conflicts and civilizational clashes arise because, as different nations interact more and more, they frequently become aware of fundamental differences in each other’s values and perceive those distinctions as threats to their own identity. As a result, some civilizations may show resistance to cultural influences as it had happened when some parts of the Muslim world encountered the contemporary West (Hall 2018).

Nevertheless, the experiences of many people living in multicultural communities show that fruitful collaboration among individuals with underlying differences in worldviews is possible. Thus, the manner through which nations and civilizations interact with each other, their overall approach to communication and collaboration largely define the outcome of the cultural engagement.

Dialogue Among Civilizations

The paradigm of dialogue among civilizations was proposed by the UN in order to create a platform where different countries could meet and openly discuss various issues. In this case, the dialogue is supposed to be “based on equality of civilizations, regardless of their age, achievements, level of development, or the strength of their beliefs and ideologies” (UN 1998, para. 2). It is said that while the dominant paradigm in the 20th century was of war, the new UN model of relations encourages a collaborative approach towards resolving the major problems that humanity currently faces (UN 2012).

In this way, dialogue among civilizations is drastically different from theses formulated by both Fukuyama and Huntington. It neither strives towards the domination of one ideology and culture over others nor accentuates the unavoidability of conflicts. Therefore, it may be regarded as the most positive among all three and the most constructive.

Conclusion

Culture is an essential aspect of human life, and it affects various domains of performance: social, economic, interpersonal, and so forth. Considering that cultural ideologies also take a central part in distinct systems of power worldwide and frequently contradict each other, many theories have been developed to explain culturally defined outcomes in international politics. Fukuyama’s idea about the triumph of democratic liberalism and Huntington’s argument for cultural differences as fundamental causes of international conflicts are among them.

Nevertheless, judging these theories from a practical perspective, they do not seem as successful as the UN paradigm because they suggest that one certain ideology is better than all others and that there is no possibility for reconciliation among different people. Conversely, the emphasis on respectful dialogue implies an openness to others’ opinions and suggests that there is always a way for peaceful cohabitation and cooperation because, regardless of cultural backgrounds, all people have something in common.

Reference List

Fukuyama, F 1989, ‘The end of history?’ The National Interest, no. 16, pp. 3-18.

Hall, I 2018, ‘Clashing civilizations: a Toynbeean response to Huntington’, in D Orsi (ed), The ‘Clash of civilizations’ 25 years on a multidisciplinary approach, E-International Relations Publishing, Bristol, UK, pp. 5-14.

Öner, S n.d., A brief analysis of Fukuyama’s thesis ‘The end of history?’. Web.

Orsi, D 2018, ‘The “Clash of civilizations” and realism in international political thought,’ in D Orsi (ed), The ‘Clash of civilizations’ 25 years on a multidisciplinary approach, E-International Relations Publishing, Bristol, UK, pp. 1-4.

Tucker, T 2013, ‘‘, E-International Relations. Web.

United Nations 1998, . Web.

United Nations 2012, ‘Dialogue among civilizations: contexts and perspectives, UN Chronicle, vol. XLIX, no. 3. Web.

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