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One “take away” from this week’s readings (including the reserve reading) is that large scale human conflict can’t simply re reduced to a single cause.. We can’t say “It’s just political” or “Its just economic”. [note here that many public pronouncements on cause do just that].
The discussion of culture indicates that these conflicts are shaped by multiple, over-lapping, and reinforcing “causes” — historical, economic, political, religious, ethnic, etc. Some of these we deem to be “cultural”.
This week, write a short essay in which you explain how all these things overlap to create a sometimes intractable system of conflict that is difficult to resolve. Be sure to use concrete examples to support your argument. Please note there is no right or wrong answer, just answers that show mastery of material and thought and those that don’t.
This may be one of the most important chapters in the text. As Globalization has deepened, cultures are coming more and more into interaction both at the national/political level and at the human level. A quick scan of the net will turn up numerous issues where cultural misunderstandings have fueled conflict. The text points to one example where the cultural differences between Iranians and Americans have soured diplomatic relations and finding solutions to common problems.
This chapter provides some tools for thinking about culture, communications between cultures, and how your own worldviews and ideologies are formed. This is a dense chapter that deserves to be read thoughtfully.
What you need to know.
What are cultural misunderstandings? How do they arise?
What is common sense as defined by the text?
What is Culture from an anthological perspective?
What are cultural logics?
What is a cultural Worldview?
What is cultural relativism?
Here are two culturally based approaches not covered in the text.
Constructivism is a relatively new approach to International Studies. In the past, theorists argued that all states or countries functioned in the same objective reality and behaved accordingly. State behavior was predictable. Constructivists argue that the “reality” that states see is culturally created. It is based on a specific mix of history, ideas, norms, and beliefs that must be understood if explanations or predictions are to be made. The perception of friends and enemies, in-groups and out-groups, fairness, and justice all plan key roles in determining state behavior. Constructivists also put an emphasis on non-state actors such as International Organizations in influencing behavior
Clash of Civilizations.
That the future will see more conflict between civilizations is a thesis put forward by Samuel Huntington in the mid-90s. He argued: Iit is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.
In and expanded book, Huntington offered. six explanations for why civilizations will clash:
Differences among civilizations are too basic in that civilizations are differentiated from each other by history, language, culture, tradition, and, most important, religion. These fundamental differences are the product of centuries, so they will not soon disappear.
The world is becoming a smaller place. As a result, the interactions across the world are increasing, and they intensify civilization consciousness and awareness of differences between civilizations and commonalities within civilizations.
Due to the economic modernization and social change, people are separated from longstanding local identities. Instead, religion has replaced this gap, which provides a basis for identity and commitment that transcends national boundaries and unites civilizations.
The growth of civilization-consciousness is enhanced by the dual role of the West. On the one hand, the West is at a peak of power. At the same time, a return-to-the-roots phenomenon is occurring among non-Western civilizations. A West at the peak of its power confronts non-Western countries that increasingly have the desire, the will and the resources to shape the world in non-Western ways.
Cultural characteristics and differences are less mutable and hence less easily compromised and resolved than political and economic ones.
Economic regionalism is increasing. Successful economic regionalism will reinforce civilization-consciousness. Economic regionalism may succeed only when it is rooted in a common civilization.
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