Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

The (Con)Fusion of Civilizations

| May 4, 2016

Larry Summers and Kishore Mahbubani think that globalization will eventually lead to world peace. Except that it hasn't — and probably won't

Is all for the best in this best of all possible worlds? If you're looking for an upbeat assessment of recent global trends, check out the essay by Kishore Mahbubani and Larry Summers ("The Fusion of Civilizations") in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. Instead of a world of dysfunctional democracies, violent extremism, eroding institutions, and incipient Sino-American rivalry, they depict a globe where once-disparate civilizations are increasingly connected by shared values and constrained by a rules-based international order.

In contrast with the dark and violent "clash of civilizations" anticipated by the late Samuel P. Huntington, Mahbubani and Summers believe cultural groups are melding rapidly and creating "areas of commonality." Extreme poverty is on the wane, a global middle class is growing, and the "march of reason" that began with the Enlightenment is supplanting superstition and spawning "problem-solving cultures" around the world. Western symphony orchestras are wildly popular in China, Asian flavors are infiltrating Western kitchens, American universities are opening franchises in the Middle East and Asia, and global diasporas are helping knit previously distinct cultures together. In their words, "the world is actually coming together, not falling apart."...

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For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Walt, Stephen M..“The (Con)Fusion of Civilizations.” Foreign Policy, May 4, 2016.

The Author

Stephen Walt