Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

"Clash of Civilizations" Theory Will Not Save the World
KONAMI Takashi  / Professor at Shumei University

November 20, 2001
In 1993, Professor Samual P. Huntington, the American political scientist, advanced his "Clash of Civilizations" theory as a paradigm that will dominate the world in the post-Cold War era. According to the Professor, the world was to become divided into seven or eight civilizations based on Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism, and that the clash between these civilizations will provide an essential paradigm in understanding the world in the coming years. Incidentally, he also said Japan was a unique civilization of its own, not belonging to any of these major groupings. However, I have always thought that the world cannot be saved by this "Clash of Civilizations" model. And the attacks on the World Trade Center by Taliban terrorists have only strengthened my view.

Since the 18th century onwards, what could be described as a "utilitarian civilization" - hand in hand with the philosophy of Enlightenment - spread first in the Western world and then throughout the rest of the world towards the end of the 19th century. What ensued was a process in which countries with older cultures and traditions that were incompatible with this new civilization adapted in a variety of ways. And now, due to the progress in information technology, this process has culminated in globalism - this has been the explanation offered to describe what is happening in the world today. Utilitarianism spread throughout the Western world along with Jeremy Bentham's famous axiom "maximum felicitas - the greatest happiness of the greatest number" of the 1780s and served as the ideological basis for the development of capitalism that resulted from the advance of democracy and free market economy. In other words, Utilitarian ideas were not only alien to Europe, with its ancient traditions and cultures, but also to the ideological traditions of colonial America founded on Puritanism. Many of the so-called "Founding Fathers" who provided political direction in post-independence America were from Virginia, and being under the influence of Enlightenment philosophy were utilitarians who believed in Deism, different from the Puritan tradition which had its center in New England. Today, utilitarian culture is identified with the United States, and the global reign of utilitarianism is being described as "Coca-Colanization" or "MacDonaldization." But despite this tendency to criticize America, this is not a fair judgement. While the United States maybe the champion of utilitarian civilization, we should not forget that its traditional culture - just like Europe - had originally included many non-utilitarian aspects.

Meanwhile, Japan's progress since the Meiji Restoration has indeed been nothing but a process of adapting traditional culture to utilitarianism. And in this adaptation process, Japan took the stance of generally limiting itself to the extent of liberalizing its economy, democratizing its politics and allowing some degree of social choice, while retaining its traditional values on the cultural front, as is evident in the slogan - "Japanese Spirit, Western Learning." As a result, limits were imposed on the democratization of politics, which is intimately related to culture. In other words, Japan's final adaptation to modern utilitarian civilization had to wait until the reforms that took place under Occupational forces after World War II.

The above analysis applies also to Islamic countries such as Turkey, Pakistan and others, that have now become secularized or are seen to be moderate. It seems, after all, that what we are witnessing is none other than a return of the "Modernization Paradigm."

The writer is Professor at Shumei University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

小浪 充 / 秀明大学教授

2001年 11月 20日




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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > "Clash of Civilizations" Theory Will Not Save the World