The idea of civilizations is ubiquitously used within the Worldwide Relations (IR) self-discipline. It has not but been outlined as a stage of research throughout the self-discipline, but its completely different conceptualizations could also be an inspiring supply to additional enrich ontological, epistemological, and methodological points of the examine of worldwide relations. In fundamental phrases, the extent of research in IR refers back to the selection of whether or not analysis is carried out on the extent of the worldwide system or its sub-components, such because the home and nationwide stage. This paper compares numerous approaches to conceptualizing and decoding the function of civilizations in worldwide relations as as to if variations of civilizations ought to be seen as a supply of battle and whether or not they can serve instead unit to higher analyze and clarify the worldwide actuality. On this context, worldwide actuality could also be outlined as a portion of worldwide relations abstracted for the aim of research and restricted by way of a framework outlined by a selected time and house context.

The self-discipline of IR has developed impressively for the reason that institution of the Division of Worldwide Politics within the College Faculty of Wales in Aberystwyth in 1918/19 and been in a position to provide you with a wide range of theoretical approaches, akin to Realism, Liberalism, Marxism, the English College, Constructivism, Important Principle, Feminism, and so forth. Every of those IR theories seems on the world by way of its personal distinct ontological and epistemological prism and makes an attempt to grasp, clarify, predict, or change the course of occasions or the construction of worldwide relations. Ontologically and epistemologically, the query of stage and/or unit of research has been one of many main areas of debate inside the IR self-discipline.

The traditional remedy of this difficulty in IR is J. David Singer’s article The Stage-of-Evaluation Drawback in Worldwide Relations (1961). Singer’s categorization means that one ought to select ‘the micro- or macro-level of research’. He thereby recognized two ranges of research for IR: the worldwide system and the nationwide sub-systems (Yurdusev, 1994). In distinction to that, students like Arnold Toynbee, Nuri Yurdusev, Raji Dutt Bajpai, and Gregorio Bettiza seem to recommend consideration of civilizations instead unit/stage of research and, accordingly, try to conceptualize civilizations in IR in their very own methods.

Within the historic sense, as instructed by Nuri Yurdusev, civilizations might be considered social identifications based mostly on large-scale collectivities in comparison with different items of identification representing smaller social entities. They’re large-scale each when it comes to the time and house which they cowl. As such, as Braudel wrote, ‘Civilizations are realities of the intense longue durée (lengthy period).’ Toynbee made the identical level in ‘defining civilizations as societies, that are wider in house and time than nationwide states or another political communities and in need of embracing the entire of mankind and overlaying the entire liveable or navigable floor of the earth’ (Yurdusev, 2003).

Yurdusev in Worldwide Relations and the Philosophy of Historical past: A Civilizational Method (2003) describes civilizations as ‘large-scale collective identifications’. Subsequently, they are often thought of as items of research not just for the examine of historical past, but additionally in IR. Yurdusev’s guide makes vital contributions to the literature on the idea of civilization in IR. Yurdusev additional explains that traditionally most civilizations have comprised worldwide techniques. He additionally notes that the idea of civilization may be very typically accompanied by the time period tradition, despite the fact that they don’t seem to be synonymous, and that civilization has additionally been equated with progress and growth. An vital query stays, nevertheless: tips on how to distinguish or delimit and examine a number of civilizations for the aim of analyzing, understanding, and explaining worldwide relations.

One reply was given in 1993 when Samuel Huntington got here up with a controversial and broadly mentioned argument that, within the interval forward, the most important supply of battle is not going to be ideologies or financial pursuits, however cultural variations. Cultural conflicts will dominate the agenda of the brand new world. As such, he claimed that the most important conflicts will happen between civilizations, despite the fact that nation states will stay essentially the most highly effective actors in worldwide politics. In different phrases, the ‘conflict of civilizations’ will dominate the worldwide agenda because the fault strains between civilizations will decide the long run battle strains (Huntington, 1993).

Huntington’s elementary assumption mirrored the view that civilizations are completely different from each other, that they’ve a ‘elementary incompatibility of beliefs, values, and cultural norms,’ and these variations would pave the best way for conflicts amongst them. In different phrases, he thought of civilizational variations as a supply of battle, however not as a supply of richness within the context of a collective human civilization, akin to the EU’s well-known motto of ‘unity in variety and variety in unity’. His ‘conflict of civilizations’ speculation was challenged by a number of different students, together with Ian Corridor and Anna Khakee. Nonetheless, the terrorist assaults of 11 September 2001 and the following wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been interpreted as a corroboration of the ‘conflict of civilizations’ speculation (Kapustin, 2009). Huntington’s principle stays a contentious one, but it continues to occupy a outstanding place in modern IR discourses (Bajpai, 2018).

When he revealed his ‘conflict of civilizations’ speculation in guide kind, Huntington outlined civilization as ‘the broadest cultural entity’ and claimed that by disregarding the encircling civilizations the items that represent them can’t be absolutely understood (Huntington, 1996). Each Huntington and Toynbee acknowledge as a weak point of this method the truth that civilizations don’t have any clear spatial and temporal boundaries. It’s due to this fact troublesome to outline a transparent worldwide actuality for ontological and epistemological functions.

Huntington argues that the West has technologically unified the world and facilitated the emergence of a ‘multi-civilizational system’. This new system has been characterised by ‘intense, sustained, and multidirectional interactions amongst all civilizations.’ Nonetheless, it had not, in his view, generated a ‘common civilization’ (Huntington, 1998).

This remark, the truth is, makes it clear that the civilizational method has one other weak point. It seems obscure and/or clarify worldwide relations based mostly on a number of civilizations due to their unclear boundaries and sophisticated interactions. This poses a problem to using civilization as a unit of research as an alternative of comparatively well-defined and broadly used ideas like worldwide society, worldwide system, the home stage, and so forth.

Contemplating the analytical approaches centered nation states, Huntington’s principle is transcendental in a spatial means as a result of it reaches past nationwide boundaries. In different phrases, he argues that civilizations are transnational (Huntington, 1993). This remark of Huntington could also be true, however his assumptions that civilizations will inevitably conflict could also be an exaggerated and prejudiced conclusion, significantly when it’s criticized by way of the constructivist idea of intersubjectivity, which – on this context – might be known as ‘civilizational intersubjectivity’. It could be construed as the best way by which civilizations assemble pictures of one another by way of their multi-faceted interactions.

Francis Fukuyama’s method to civilizations could also be claimed to bear resemblance to that of Huntington. Fukuyama, based mostly on previous examples of clashing civilizations, argued that ‘the expansionist and aggressive habits of 19th century European states rested on the idea within the legitimacy of power, significantly when utilized to non-Europeans, additionally aiming to convey numerous provinces of human civilization as much as the extent of its most superior outposts’ (Fukuyama, 1989). By this remark, Fukuyama seems to be underlining the sense of superiority in Western civilization; this confirms the validity of endeavors to counter Western dominance in IR by developing with non-Western IR theories.

On this vein, Pichamon Yeophantong argues that ‘Huntington’s foresight in regards to the conflictual consequence of civilizational encounters within the post-Chilly Warfare period not solely led to a deepening of Chinese language dissatisfaction with Western theories and their misrepresentations of Japanese cultures, nevertheless it additionally gave Chinese language students renewed impetus to determine a Chinese language college of IR’ (Yeophantong, 2018). A conclusion of those arguments could thus be that, by way of its weaknesses, the civilizational method could have paved the best way for an extra fragmentation of IR on a worldwide scale.

Trying again on the historical past of the civilizational method, students like Ian Corridor and Krishan Kumar emphasize the persevering with significance and relevance of Toynbee’s multi-volume A Research of Historical past. They argue that Toynbee’s common method could undergo from some weaknesses – however, however, permits him to ‘shed an illuminating mild on many vital historic questions’. Furthermore, ‘his perception within the equal worth of all civilizations makes him engaging to those that reject Eurocentrism and are more and more persuaded of the necessity to contemplate the entire human expertise from earliest instances as much as the current’ (Kumar, 2014).

In A Research of Historical past, Toynbee supplied completely different accounts of what occurred when civilizations encountered one another and remained satisfied that concepts transmitted by inter-civilizational encounters might result in main social and political adjustments inside civilizations (Corridor, 2018). This assertion can certainly be interpreted as a power of this conceptualization because it helps clarify human growth by way of worldwide interplay and exchanges.

As underlined by A. Nuri Yurdusev in ‘Stage of Evaluation’ and ‘Unit of Evaluation’: A Case for Distinction (1993): based on Toynbee, ‘an intelligible area of historic examine can’t be parochial nation-states’; it must be civilization, and thus an entity comprising a number of societies, however in need of overlaying mankind. F. Braudel (1976) additionally considers civilization among the many items of research for the ‘historical past of teams and groupings’, which embody financial techniques, states, courses, strata and civilizations (Yurdusev, 1994). In different phrases, Braudel views civilization as one massive group subsequent to all these listed above.

Kroeber (1953) argues that one other power of the Toynbeean conceptualization of civilization is that ‘Toynbee appears to be the one historian who has dedicated himself not solely to enumerating and defining his civilizations, but additionally to stating the factors by which he defines them’. In his view, Toynbee was aware of the issue of delaminating civilizations and making efforts to handle it.

The civilizational method is moreover beneficial because it takes different social details into consideration. As argued by Robert Cox, civilizations endure adjustments which can be pushed each from their inner variety and from inter-civilizational encounters (Cox, 1995). Civilizations are completely different from nation-states when it comes to their territorial boundaries, in that nation states often have clearly demarcated borders, whereas civilizations are inclined to transcend nationwide boundaries (Bajpai, 2018). Regardless of the challenges this include, the civilizational method has no doubt the potential to broaden and enrich the examine of worldwide relations, and to open new horizons for IR students.

One other attention-grabbing instance for the civilizational method lies in how Gregorio Bettiza promotes the idea of ‘civilizational politics’ and goals to broaden and develop theoretically and empirically the sphere of civilizational evaluation in IR. In his view, ‘civilizational politics affords an vital avenue for theoretically inclined and empirically minded students to discover how social and political actors have come to grasp, change, and assemble world politics in view of plural civilizations and their relations’ (Bettiza, 2014). Bettiza sees a power of this method in how civilizations might be deployed in IR to signify transnational and de-territorialized cultural communities.

Christopher Dawson argues that IR’s engagement with civilizations coincided with elementary adjustments within the world order that ushered in decolonization, globalization, and the tip of the Chilly Warfare. By his definition, a civilization is taken into account the biggest and highest socio-historical phenomenon and consists of quite a few, numerous, and distinct cultures inside itself (Bajpai, 2018). Martin Corridor attracts consideration to the looks of civilizational identities in IR and argues that ‘civilizational evaluation bears significance as a result of the notion of civilization is a vital transmitter of information and corresponding preferences and insurance policies’ (Corridor, 2007). This geographical and social variety additionally signifies that civilizations entail some distinguishing elements and are in a continued state of interplay inside themselves and with one another.

The above-mentioned options of the civilizational method provide a broader perspective and, on the identical time, confront the researcher with the problem of delimitating civilizational boundaries. This renders comparability and comparative evaluation troublesome. Analysis performed on this foundation could undergo from ontological ambiguity and epistemological unclarity.

Inter-civilizational interactions are ubiquitous. It’s typically argued, for instance bz Johann P. Arnason, that Europe’s progress to a ‘fashionable’ civilization was assisted by exchanges with China, India, and the Islamic world (Arnason, 2006; Bajpai, 2018). For Bajpai, inter-civilizational interactions can  change into politicaly vital, significantly after they have a job in establishing identities. On this course of, civilizational identification could also be instrumental in demarcating the boundaries of a group by discovering and highlighting the variations between the self and the opposite. It may also be helpful in finding the self on the world, regional, or particular person ranges and to judge others (Bajpai, 2018). In contrast to Huntington’s speculation of a ‘conflict of civilizations’, this interpretation of the civilizational method could also be helpful for constructivist theorists because it additional explains intersubjective civilizational identification formation in worldwide relations.

As to the mainstream IR theories, Yurdusev emphasizes the significance which the English College attaches to the importance of cultural/civilizational elements in worldwide relations. The English College, from early on, highlighted the importance of values and cultural/civilizational components in worldwide relations. Yurdusev highlights that Martin Wight (1977) even said {that a} state system wouldn’t come into being with out some extent of cultural unity. For the English College, identification, tradition, civilization, and values are a part of the observe of worldwide system. Worldwide relations usually are not simply composed of fabric elements, but additionally ideational forces (Yurdusev, 1996).

Artur Kuznetsov takes a unique method to interactions and potential clashes between civilizations. He places ahead his principle of ‘grammatological geopolitics’. In contrast to Huntington, Kuznetsov in his ‘sui generis’ principle, defines civilizations based mostly on the alphabets utilized by the nations and accordingly argues {that a} extra correct prediction of conflicts might be attained by the ensuing fault strains (Aydınlı and Biltekin, 2018). Regardless that this method is attention-grabbing, I have a tendency to contemplate the explanatory energy of this method comparatively weak because the defining components of civilizations transcend alphabets.

As to the discussions a few non-Western IR, Amitav Acharya, who prefers to make use of the idea of International IR, argues that worldwide techniques have to be studied not solely based mostly on political-strategic interactions, but additionally cultural and civilizational interactions. He moreover notes that many fashionable IR ideas akin to ‘financial interdependence, steadiness of energy, and collective administration of safety’ are generally thought of as conventional European concepts and practices – however, the truth is, they’ve come into existence from a number of factors of origin inside and outdoors Europe. Accordingly, he additional argues that by making use of such a widened scope, IR can provide extra room to the historical past, tradition, financial techniques, interactions and contributions of non-Western civilizations and states. He then concludes that ‘IR is finest understood because the product of interactions and mutual studying between all civilizations and states, despite the fact that some have been extra highly effective than others at completely different levels in historical past’ (Acharya, 2017).

Equally, Gurminder Bhambra chooses to clarify variations between peoples and acknowledges the existence of a plurality of civilizations that goes past earlier binaries of ‘civilized’ and ‘non-civilized’, modernity and custom. As such, Bhambra’s new paradigm of ‘a number of modernities’, which might be interpreted because the existence of various civilizations continuously interacting with one another, brings in an vital cultural focus in its try to maneuver past the perceived deficiencies of the Eurocentric civilizational approaches (Bhambra, 2011).

John Hobson claims that the IR self-discipline makes steady efforts to treat and defend Western civilization as the very best or supreme referent in world politics. Accordingly, in his view, such an method runs counter to the opinion that ‘worldwide principle is value-free and produces positivist, universalist explanations of world politics that apply to all states no matter cultural or racial distinction’. In reality, it seems that, when considered by way of a non-Eurocentric lens, most worldwide principle produces a parochial or provincial evaluation of the Western priorities which can be introduced as common (Hobson, 2013). Judging by the Euro/Western-centric nature of IR as a self-discipline, Hobson’s declare appears to have a powerful and credible justification.  

Given the challenges going through the liberal worldwide order all over the world, the speculation of the ‘finish of historical past’, which might be broadly described because the unfold and acceptance of the Western civilizational values on a worldwide scale, as Francis Fukuyama introduced its arrival in 1989, has confirmed to be a mere hypothesis. But, as to the usage of civilization as a unit of research in IR, based mostly on the completely different conceptualizations of civilization as mentioned above, one can additional discover the chance that the civilizational method to some extent might help bridge fault strains in IR.

To sum up, civilization has been conceptualized and utilized in other ways in IR. A serious weak point of the civilizational method outcomes from the blurred spatial and temporal boundaries of civilizations. The plurality of civilizations – or, in different phrases, the dearth of a common civilization – makes it additionally troublesome to take civilization as an all-inclusive stage/unit of research. The chance that encounters of various civilizations could result in conflictual outcomes is an unsubstantiated argument for IR to check because the causes of those conflicts have to be additional examined and analyzed to see whether or not such conflicts are inevitable. Regardless of all of the critiques, the civilizational method to worldwide relations could also be useful in opening new views and allow students/researchers to broaden their ontological and epistemological approaches. Specifically, inserting extra emphasis in IR on the examine of civilizations and their mutually enriching interactions could also be helpful for non-Western IR approaches to make a stronger case in opposition to Western/Eurocentric IR research.


Acharya, Amitav (2017). ‘In the direction of a International Worldwide Relations?’.

Arnason, Johann P. (2006). ‘Understanding Inter-civilizational Encounters. Thesis Eleven’ 86(1): 39–53.

Aydınlı, Ersel and Biltekin, Gonca. (2018). ‘Widening the World of IR: A Typology of Homegrown Theorizing’. All Azimuth V7, N1, 2018, 45-68.

Bajpai, Ravi Dutt. (2018). ‘Civilizational Views in Worldwide Relations and Modern China-India Relations’.

Bettiza, Gregorio. (2014). ‘Civilizational Evaluation in Worldwide Relations: Mapping the Area and Advancing a ‘Civilizational Politics’ Line of Analysis’. Worldwide Research Evaluation, doi: 10.1111/misr.12100

Bhambra, Gurminder Okay. (2011). ‘Speaking amongst Themselves? Weberian and Marxist Historic Sociologies as Dialogues with out ‘Others’’. Millennium: Journal of Worldwide Research 39(3) 667–681

Cox, Robert W. (1995). ‘Civilizations: Encounters and Transformations, Research in Political Financial system’, 47:1, 7-31, DOI: 10.1080/19187033.1995.11675358

Fukuyama, Francis (1989). ‘The Finish of Historical past”-‘, The Nationwide Curiosity, Summer season 1989.

Corridor, Ian.  (2018). ‘Clashing Civilizations: A Toynbeean Response to Huntington’

Hobson, John. (2013). ‘The Eurocentric Conception of World Politics Western Worldwide Principle’, 1760–2010. Chapter 1-Introduction.

Huntington, Samuel P. (1993). ‘Conflict of Civilizations?’. International Affairs, Vol. 72, No. 3 (Summer, 1993), pp. 22-49. Council on International Relations,

Huntington, Samuel P. (l996). ‘The Conflict of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order’, Simon and Schuster, New York.

Kapustin, Boris. 2009. ‘Some Political Meanings of ‘Civilization.’’ Diogenes 56(2–3): 151–169.

Khakee, Anna (2018). Civilizations, Political Techniques and Energy Politics: A Critique of Huntington’s ‘Conflict of Civilizations’.

Kroeber, A. L. (1953). ‘The Delimitation of Civilizations’. Journal of the Historical past of Concepts, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Apr., 1953), pp. 264-275. College of Pennsylvania Press,

Kumar, Krishan.  (2014). ‘The Return of Civilization-and of Arnold Toynbee?’. Comparative Research in Society and Historical past 2014;56(4):815–843. 0010-4175/14, Society for the Comparative Research of Society and Historical past. doi:10.1017/S0010417514000413

Kuznetsov, Artur. ‘A New Mannequin for Conventional Civilizations’. Worldwide Affairs (Moscow) 41, no. 4-5 (1995): 95-100.

Singer, David J. (1961). ‘The Stage-of-Evaluation Drawback in Worldwide Relations’. World Politics, 14(1), 77-92. doi:10.2307/2009557

Wight, Martin. (1977). ‘Techniques of States’, edited by Hedley Bull (Leicester College Press in affiliation with the LSE

Yeophantong, Pichamon. (2018). ‘Asian Views on Worldwide Relations Principle’.

Yurdusev, A. Nuri. (1993). ‘Stage of Evaluation and Unit of Evaluation: A Case for Distinction’, Millennium: Journal of Worldwide Research (Vol.22, No.1, Spring 1993), 77-88.

Yurdusev, A. Nuri. (1994). ‘The Idea of Worldwide System as a Unit of Evaluation’, METU Research in Improvement (Vol.21, No.1, 1994), 143-174

Yurdusev, A. Nuri. (1996), ‘The British College of Worldwide Relations: The Toynbeean Origins’, introduced on the Millennium twenty fifth Anniversary Convention, London College of Economics, London, 17-19 October 1996.

Yurdusev, A. Nuri. (2003). ‘Worldwide Relations and The Philosophy of Historical past’. Gordonsville: Palgrave Macmillan.

Additional Studying on E-Worldwide Relations