Rachid Belaredj


                                                     Module   EED D028

                                             Discourse, Pedagogy and Identity

Language identity issues: Exploring Samuel Huntington’s views on language identity.

Dr. Malcolm McDonald

Submitted on 31st October, 2008, as part of the requirements for the Ed. D in TESOL 2007-8



Part A

 Huntington theoretical approach on the concept of civilization

 The clash of Civilizations

     Part B

          Huntington theoretical approach on the clash theory

          The Hispanic” nightmare”

          Huntington’s conceptual approach to American identity


   Part C

Beyond Huntington paradigm

Huntington‘s view on language identity

Huntington’s potential influence on US politics





Appendix I – The clash of Civilization and the remaking of the world order. Samuel P, Huntington.

Appendix II – The Hispanic challenge, Samuel P, Huntington

Appendix III – Who we are? , Samuel P, Huntington.



The main purpose of this writing is to present a subset of literature on identity, cultural identity, and discuss language identity: How does ethnic identity manifest itself among Americans?  Are there any correlations between language and identity? Does symbolic ethnicity prevail for ethnic minorities who are living in the USA as it has for Americans of European descents? This essay is a close reading of the work of Samuel Huntington, an influential Harvard academician, who wrote a series of essays and books relating to the themes of language and identity. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel Huntington, which was published in 1993, drew tremendous attention and interest on its author who has been de facto either depicted as a genius or a xenophobic villain. His book is drawing even more interest now, seven years after the September 11th events when Huntington’s insights on international politics as dominated by cultural antagonisms seemed to some people to have been confirmed by the events.  Huntington predicted in his book that the Islamic world would clash with the Western world. In his various essays he warned of an emerging “clash of civilizations” centred on religious and political economic disharmony.  Many scholars and even politicians now see the attacks as the fulfilment of Huntington’s prophecy. The Huntingtonian discourse of the ‘West against the Rest’ has been translated into a new “Cold War against the others”, a new “geopolitical delimitation that excludes all non Westerners.”


Individuals, being natives,  immigrants or born in the country considered, have to negotiate their identification with their ethnic group and their identification with the mainstream culture of the society though an wide range of concrete or symbolic values. The year 1990’s marked the beginning of complex reconceptualization of the concept of identity in academic work and popular culture, mostly due to the collapse of Communism in Europe. The world was no longer bipolar or Manichean; as a consequence academic literature began to flourish in the West  that related to the issue of identity as people could no longer define themselves in opposition to their Russians nemesis .The question “who we are?” became part of the forefront popular discourse. These rhetorical issues that have been ignored by the fields of sociology and Cultural Studies are now experiencing resurgence. The research question that drew my interest is the following: what constitutes social, cultural and personal identity?

The primary objective of this article is to analyse the academic work of Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington and test the linkage he makes between ethnic identity and language. A second objective is to highlight identity as a core concept that sets human beings apart in groups and subgroups. A third objective is to explore the rationale of his conceptual analysis in the US society. The analysis is divided into three sections: 

In the first part of this paper I briefly explore Huntington’s paradigm though his academic essay the clash of civilization, embodying possible contradictions. From there, I move on to an analytical discussion on identity and language. I will finally examine his rationale and possible influence in US politics, the impact of such strategies on our overall understanding of identity.

Part A

 Huntington theoretical approach on the concept of civilization

Huntington’s main argument in this book is that in the post-Cold War world, the most important distinctions between people are no longer ideological, political, or economic but cultural. According to him the dissolution of the Soviet Union not only ended the Cold War era but also it ended simplistic understanding of world politics, divided between the “righteous Americans” and the advocates of Marxism. Huntington’s main theory is that new conflicting blocs are now emerging on the globe and the power struggle will determine the new world order. Huntington discourse ends the classical dichotomy between the East and the West.

Like many academicians before him, Huntington’s work focuses on a new linkage or rather a new world order that is divided between North and South. He also demonstrates in his latest articles a power relationship between two fictional blocs (the North and the South), or the Western world versus third world countries. In that his work is not really innovative. However what sets him apart from his fellow academicians is that he segments this new geopolitical world order in six distinct sections : there are six contemporary civilizations  according to him , (Hindu, Islamic, Japanese, Orthodox, Sinic, and Western) and two possible candidates (African and Latin American). Five of these eight civilizations have a dominant core state (India, Japan, Russia, China, and the United States), but the African, Islamic, and Latin American civilizations do not. Huntington’s theory, while original, is not without deep empirical and normative problems; If Huntington’s theory is indeed correct, Algeria and Indonesia belong in the same civilizational group. How do these countries relate? Are there any linkages other than religion between all these blocs?

It is hard to link these countries exclusively on a religious basis due to the fact that they practice distinct forms of Islam. Furthermore the core state of the Western countries is not England, but the United states, which not only fails to give any historical perspective but also undermines the role of the United Kingdom as a world power, and the rest of the Western countries. In his discourse the United States is the natural world leader, the guardian and the defender of social and political values, and protects justice and democracy in the world However its” natural” hegemony is now being challenged by non-Western states that are now emerging as great powers (in particular the” Sinics” and the “Islamics”) which will bring an end to the dominance of the Western World. These new great powers are increasingly rejecting Western values in favour of their own cultural norms, and the continuing decline in the West’s material superiority will erode its cultural superiority. Thus, Huntington rejects the belief that globalization is creating a convergence between the West and the other five civilisations. » Globalization plays a different role: it empowers cultural values embodied in each civilization, redefines the identity of each bloc while accelerating the clash between those blocs.

 The clash of Civilizations

The world is becoming multipolar and each core state plays a hegemonic role within its bloc. These core states (India, Japan, Russia, China and the United) represent the main axis in world politics, and they are increasingly becoming distinctive in civilizational terms. As a result, “they cooperate with and ally themselves with states with similar or common culture and are more often in conflict with countries of different culture.” He adds elsewhere that, “alignments defined by ideology and superpower relations are giving way to alignments defined by culture and civilization. (Huntington, 1996, p157)” As a prolongation of Social Darwinism, he argues that conflicts will occur between these core states and a new world political order will emerge: it is the survival of the fittest. A few years prior 9/11, Huntington states that Muslim countries are experiencing a cultural resurgence, similar to the Islamic Revolution in Iran, which would inevitably lead to conflict with the West due to the absence of a strong core state and an innate incline among Muslim people for conflicts. Muslims are portrayed as Barbarians in his work, lacking moral values that identify white protestant culture: he envisions permanent conflicts with the West in the years to come, observing that “dedicated Islamic militants exploit the open societies of the West and plant car bombs at selected targets. Western military professionals exploit the open skies of Islam and drop smart bombs on selected targets” (.Walt, Stephen M., Foreign Policy, Spring 97, Issue 106).  He believes that the challenge from Islam is inherently cultural and likely to be prolonged.  The second clash will occur with the Sinics (the Chinese) and likewise, it will be a clash of cultures. Influenced by Confucius political philosophy, the Sinics reject the individualistic culture of the West, and opt for a more collective form of happiness; their recent economic success has reinforced their self-confidence and desire for greater global influence. Huntington sees a clash of interests and thus, a clash of civilizations as virtually inevitable.

His view of Islam and China as enemies to the West, are formulated at a time when the world is gradually globalizing, with the West leading this “benign” trend, while China and the Islamic world represent evil forces. The clash between the West and the Islamic/Confucian civilizations is going to be by Huntington to be particularly painful, in that it would lead to the derailment of a trend that was building up such key structural factors as privatized economies, foreign investment, military alliances and democratic freedom. These “oppositional” civilizations had in their power, or so it seemed, not only to degrade globalization’s positive and rapid economic, political, and social impacts on traditional cultures, but also develop weapons that could destroy the entire western world. Thus the clash of civilization will occur between civilizations but also between religions; Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Confucianism (described as a religion) are central in his design of international politics; What sets the Christians apart from the rest of the religions, is that its adherents have high morals, common values that distinguished them from Muslims, and the Confucians (and the Sinics). Huntington identifies Confucianism as the religion of Orientals and fails to mention the fact that Chinese are overwhelmingly Buddhists. Huntington goes as far as talking about an Islamic-Confucian connection against the Western civilization, a sort of conspiracy. In doing so, he recommends that the West should limit expansion of Islamic-Confucian states’ military and economic power and the West should exploit differences between the two civilizations. He strongly implies that the Western countries should create tensions between the two blocs as a self-protection measure.

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The collapse of the bipolar structure of the world which, opposed communism to capitalism, provided simple answers to an apparently simple situation: America represented good and Russia evil. The collapse of communism initiated the beginning of much more complex era which paroxystic point was reached on 9/11. In this new world «conspiracies" are, according to the philosopher Pascal Bruckner" reducers of complexity"(Bruckner, 1996:77, cited by Douzet 2004, p. 20). The reversals of the burden of proof, in which good is opposed to evil and in which the accuser doesn’t t have to prove that the defendant is wrong. George W. Bush ...

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