Amartya Sen’s critique of Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of civilisations” 1

Many talks and interviews with well known people are now available online. I’ve put together a series of them that I have specially enjoyed. To see the rest, click here.

The argument that Sen makes is complex and I will not attempt to recap them here. But as a pointer, I’ll just mention that this talk is based on his book “Identities and Violence”. Sen questions the notion of Clash of civilisation by Samuel Huntington from different dimensions. He questions if any group of people can be neatly identified as a “civilization”, if animosity has to be the basis of difference and if Huntington’s identification of charecteristics of Western or Islamic civilisation are defendable.

Given Sen’s background he draws heavily from Indian history. But he also makes referneces to Arab world, Chinese history and annecdotes from other places in the world. Sen argues that each of us has multiple identities and commitments and makes a powerful case for a peaceful coexistance of diverse people.

The lecture was delivered at UCSC. To see the webcast, click here. To see another talk on this topic by Edward Said (again in University of California, but a different campus) click here.

If you konw of a good talk that you feel may be of interest to me, I welcome you to leave a comment below. Thank you.

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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One thought on “Amartya Sen’s critique of Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of civilisations”

  • Sailen Debnath

    Though the point of multiple identities can never be denied, yet the arguments of Samuel Huntington in his ‘Clash of Civilzation’ equally can not be ignored.What originated from the Crusades and elongated throughout the course of clashes between Christian Europe and the Islamic Near-East and Middle-East has taken a new turn with the Pan-Islamic objective of transforming Christian Europe to a Dar-ul-Islam by a steadfast pursuit of conversion of as many Christians as possible to Islam and by increasing the number of marriages of Christian women with the Muslims. European secularism has provided the best opprtunity for the expansion of Islam in Europe and the same is the case of America; and this is a point ignored by both Huntington and Sen. In coming one hundred years Europe may become an Islamic continent; therefore, the clash is now under the carpet, Amartya can not see it.