Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

The Antinomies of Samuel P. Huntington: Some Anthropological Reflections on the American Pundit

Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

The Antinomies of Samuel P. Huntington: Some Anthropological Reflections on the American Pundit

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Sweeping generalizations on sociocultural phenomena of the sort made by influential political scientist Samuel Huntington exhibit a proclivity toward representing the globe in terms of analytical categories devised without adequate attention to inter- as well as intra-cultural specificities. Huntington's simplistic and politically-motivated conceptualizations of such notions as culture, globalization, and undue reifications of ethnonyms (challenging Hispanics, bellicose Muslims etc.) distort the reality on the ground. His-probably unconscious- trespasses into what is arguably the most anthropological of all issues studied by anthropologists -kinship- in the context of his search at the macropolitical level for perennial roots of collective violence are even more questionable. With his hypothesis that the globe is composed of cultures/civilizations each of which a) is complete unto itself with neatly identifiable borders-imaginary or otherwise- and b) legitimizes amicable relations with others only on the basis of civilizational same- or similar-kindness, the political scientist poses himself as a globalization theorist, culture theorist, and kinship theorist simultaneously.

In a world where "globalization has shrunk the distances between elites, shifted key relations between producers and consumers, broken many links between labor and family life, obscured the lines between temporary locales and imaginary national attachments," (1) Huntingtonesque portrayals of the globe and its cultures, too stratospheric to be representative of ethnographic complexity of the down-to-earth world, deserve rigorous testing against that which they are devised to represent: peoples and cultures of the world. And such a test is precisely what this paper seeks to provide: an anthropological critique of the broad-brush assumptions of Huntington about globalization, culture, civilization, intergroup affinity, ethnoreligious violence et cetera. By providing an ethnographically-informed, critical reading of Huntington's work on Hispanic immigration to the United States, his notion of culture as applied in analyses of the anticipated sources of regional/global conflict, and his precocious attempt to formulate a theory of civilizational kinship, this paper will reiterate the importance of, and the unique insights that may be provided by, an anthropological approach to phenomena of global scope. In that respect, the paper may be construed as a contribution to calls (whose early makers were no less characters than Franz Boas and Margaret Mead, and whose more recent supporters include Paul Farmer, Phillippe Bourgouis, and Robert Borofsky, among others) for an ever-more public anthropology.

LOVE THY NEIGHBOR?: HUNTINGTON AND THE 'HISPANIC CHALLENGE'

Huntington thinks that "the persistent inflow of Hispanic immigrants threatens to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, and two languages. Unlike past immigrant groups, Mexicans and other Latinos have not assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture, forming instead their own political and linguistic enclaves -from Los Angeles to Miami- and rejecting the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream. The United States ignores this challenge at its peril." (2) In particular, he wishes to imagine Hispanic immigrants as a) unsupportive of the American dream, b) negligent of white-anglo-saxon-protestant values which prioritize a deep faith in the importance of education and hard work, and c) as cultural exclusivists not buying into mainstream America and becoming an isolated community unto themselves with their unyielding preference for Spanish as the language of daily economic, political, and schooling practices mainly in the American Southwest. There, for Huntington, is only one America, and that is the America whose identity was defined in the 17th and 18th centuries by the overwhelmingly white, British, and Protestant settlers. More specifically, Huntington thinks "There is no Americano dream. …

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