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Book Chapter

Clashing Civilizations: A Toynbeean Response To Huntington

01 Jan 2018-pp 15-25
TL;DR: In the early 1990s, the British historian Arnold J. Toynbee was in the middle of a stormy debate about an equally controversial work of civilizational history and geopolitical prediction, The World and the West (Toynbee 1953).
Abstract: Exactly forty years before Foreign Affairs published Samuel P. Huntington’s original ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ article, in the northern summer of 1993, the British historian Arnold J. Toynbee was in the middle of a stormy debate about an equally controversial work of civilizational history and geopolitical prediction, The World and the West (Toynbee 1953). Three years away from retirement from his post at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), Toynbee was then 64 years old, and stood, as Huntington did in the early 1990s, at the pinnacle of his career, feted as modern sage for his sweeping grand historical studies and his acute analyses of international politics. His books were selling in the hundreds of thousands and his opinions on a wide range of topics avidly sought by the public (see McNeill 1989).1 The appearance of The World and the West, however, marked the start of Toynbee’s fall from grace. Thereafter, his reputation began to decline, in part because the political views he expressed in that book – best thought of as left-liberal, internationalist, anti-colonial, and empathetic (though not sympathetic) towards Soviet Communism – were growing increasingly unfashionable, as Britain tried to reassert its grip on what remained of its empire and the Cold War-polarized political debate on both sides of the Atlantic (Hall 2012). In this context, Toynbee’s argument in The World and the West and other publications that the West was ‘the arch-aggressor of modern times’ was not at all well received (Toynbee 1953, 2).2 In parallel, his standing as a scholar fell too, as the historical profession grew much less tolerant of civilizational history, as well as the kind of religiosity Toynbee increasingly professed. Ironically, just as the idea of the ‘West’ became prominent in American and Western European political discourse, the concept of civilization was in the process of being set aside by academic historians as unhelpfully vague and imprecise (see Geyl 1956). By the time Huntington revived ‘civilization’ as a unit of historical and geopolitical analysis in 1993, Toynbee’s work had long been set aside as little more than a curiosity.3 It is not surprising, therefore, that his ideas did not feature in Huntington’s original Foreign Affairs article, nor that they received relatively short shrift in the book-length version of The Clash of Civilizations (Huntington 1993; Huntington 1998). But there are good reasons, I argue in what follows, to revisit Toynbee when reading Huntington’s argument. His concept of civilization, developed in A Study of History (12 volumes, 1934–61), and especially his explorations of ‘encounters’ between civilizations and the effects he thought those encounters had, are useful instruments for destabilizing some of Huntington’s key claims.
Citations
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Journal ArticleDOI
27 Apr 1935-Nature
TL;DR: A Study of History By Prof Arnold J Toynbee as mentioned in this paper is such a book and it is commonly agreed that western civilisation has now reached a supreme crisis in its history, since disillusionment, rife among laymen and men of science alike, is poisoning the well-springs of the spirit.
Abstract: OINCE it is commonly agreed that western civilisation has now reached a supreme crisis in its history, since disillusionment, rife among laymen and men of science alike, is poisoning the well-springs of the spirit, and since the most passionate desire of men of goodwill is to discover means of overcoming our present difficulties, any book which can help us to get our bearings and to see our problems in true perspective must command much closer attention than in easier times Prof Toynbee's superb and philosophic “Study of History”, of which the present volumes are the first section, is such a book A Study of History By Prof Arnold J Toynbee (Issued under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs) Vol1 Pp xvi + 476 2lsnet Vol 2 Pp vii + 452 2lsnet Vol 3 Pp vi + 552 21s net (London: Oxford University Press, 1934) 3 vols, 52s 6d net

354 citations

Book ChapterDOI
01 Jan 1981
TL;DR: The geographical boundaries of this "West" are far from clear as mentioned in this paper, and only a little probing is necessary to discover what ambiguities and complexities lurk inside them, such as: is it Europe that is intended? In which case should Russia and Poland be included? Or only Western Europe? Does Western Europe include Germany, and Spain, and Greece? And what of Europe overseas, the lands of predominantly European settlement, particularly the United States?
Abstract: The terms West and Western carry many associations, historical, political, cultural, and geographical. They are often freely used as though they denoted particular entities, whose reality is undisputed. But only a little probing is necessary to discover what ambiguities and complexities lurk inside them. To name only the most obvious, the geographical boundaries of this ‘West’ are far from clear. Is it Europe that is intended? In which case should Russia and Poland be included? Or only Western Europe? Does Western Europe include Germany, and Spain, and Greece? And what of Europe overseas, the lands of predominantly European settlement, particularly the United States? To limit the term to Europe seems arbitrary when today the West also denotes a series of military and political alliances that stretch from North America through-out Europe and the Middle East to Japan and Australia.

8 citations

References
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Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The authors argues that American national identity is threatened by a tidal wave of Latino immigrants who are refusing to assimilate to American "Anglo-Protestant" values, and who are facilitated in this resistance by the erosion of elite support for those very same values.
Abstract: Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity. By Samuel P. Huntington. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004. 448p. $27.00.Samuel Huntington suggests in this book that American national identity is threatened by a tidal wave of Latino—primarily Mexican—immigrants who are refusing to assimilate to American “Anglo-Protestant” values, and who are facilitated in this resistance by the erosion of elite support for those very same values. That erosion is a consequence of the “cults of multiculturalism and diversity” (p. 144) that have collectively “denounced the idea of Americanization,” “downgraded the centrality of English,” and “advocated legal recognition of group rights and racial preferences” (p. 142), strong charges indeed.

565 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
27 Apr 1935-Nature
TL;DR: A Study of History By Prof Arnold J Toynbee as mentioned in this paper is such a book and it is commonly agreed that western civilisation has now reached a supreme crisis in its history, since disillusionment, rife among laymen and men of science alike, is poisoning the well-springs of the spirit.
Abstract: OINCE it is commonly agreed that western civilisation has now reached a supreme crisis in its history, since disillusionment, rife among laymen and men of science alike, is poisoning the well-springs of the spirit, and since the most passionate desire of men of goodwill is to discover means of overcoming our present difficulties, any book which can help us to get our bearings and to see our problems in true perspective must command much closer attention than in easier times Prof Toynbee's superb and philosophic “Study of History”, of which the present volumes are the first section, is such a book A Study of History By Prof Arnold J Toynbee (Issued under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs) Vol1 Pp xvi + 476 2lsnet Vol 2 Pp vii + 452 2lsnet Vol 3 Pp vi + 552 21s net (London: Oxford University Press, 1934) 3 vols, 52s 6d net

354 citations


"Clashing Civilizations: A Toynbeean..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Civilizations, on this view, were the necessary context within which historical events must be interpreted, rather than things like nation-states, which were modern inventions (Toynbee 1934, 44–50)....

    [...]

Book
01 Jan 1969

53 citations

Journal ArticleDOI

45 citations


"Clashing Civilizations: A Toynbeean..." refers background in this paper

  • ...…especially of the Peloponnesian War, and the present, he set out to ascertain whether other past civilizations had experienced similar episodes of conflict – ‘Times of Troubles’, as he called them – and to determine whether the episodes had similar causes (Toynbee 1956b, 8; see also Hall 2014)....

    [...]

  • ...…Toynbee was deeply exercised by this spread of nationalism and the nation-state, an institution he thought both obsolete, given the economic unification of the world, and even more worryingly, prone to being set up as some kind of false idol for the masses to worship (Toynbee 1956a, 27–36)....

    [...]

  • ...…rationalist agnosticism and became more sympathetic to religion, his view of the birth of Christianity and other major religions changed (see Toynbee 1956a), but he remained convinced that ideas transmitted by inter-civilizational encounters could bring about major social and political…...

    [...]

  • ...…heady stuff, of course, and it led Toynbee off toward trying to come up with a plan for a syncretic religion, blending insights from existing ones, that might serve to overcome political conflict and serve as the basis for the future reconciliation of the world (see Toynbee 1956a; Toynbee 1954a)....

    [...]

Trending Questions (2)
Why is Toynbee controversial?

Toynbee is controversial because his political views expressed in his book "The World and the West" were unfashionable and his argument that the West was the arch-aggressor of modern times was not well received.

What is the main argument of A. Toybee's theory of civilizations?

The paper does not provide information about the main argument of A. Toynbee's theory of civilizations.