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To put the recent terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center of New York, on September 11 2001, in a wider perspective, I have published Ken Wilber's review of Samuel P. Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations, taken from his book A Theory of Everything (2000, Shambhala, p. 115-127), on this website. Posted with permission of the author. For an explanation of the color terminology used in Spiral Dynamics, see Don Beck's Stages of Social Development. (FV)

Some Thoughts on Samuel P. Huntington's
The Clash of Civilizations

Ken Wilber

The world at large—and much of America as well—is simply not ready for green pluralism.

Samuel Huntington's analysis [is] extremely useful. For "underneath" the worldcentric, postconventional, orange and green memes, there lie the roots and foundations of the various ethnocentric civilizations (including our own). Although many of these ethnocentric civilizations contain worldcentric ideals, nonetheless the masses of people in each civilization remain heavily in the purple, red, blue (and more rarely, orange) waves of consciousness unfolding. Huntington's analysis gives nine of these huge civilization blocks: Western, Latin American, African, Islamic, Sinic, Hindu, Orthodox, Buddhist, and Japanese. These are the horizontal tectonic plates, as it were, of human culture, and taking them into account is absolutely crucial. These plates, Huntington persuasively argues, are some of the primary motivators in international politics, commerce, war, and diplomacy.

As we will see, although Huntington gives a fairly broad definition of civilizations, he is especially focusing on the Lower-Left quadrant, or culture in the specific sense. And his recommendations are heavily weighted to the blue meme, or a conservative-republican stance (which is not necessarily as bad as many liberals would have us believe: remember, 70 percent of the world's population is blue or lower, and thus, when in Rome…. Moreover, as we saw, conservatives—precisely because they recognize subjective causation and stages of the subjective up to blue—are often much more reliable and realistic judges of those interior domains than are liberals, who usually don't acknowledge them at all and thus are literally flying blind through the interior territories while demanding exterior changes.)

For most of humanity's history, the Left- and Right-Hand quadrants developed lockstep with each other. In the Lower Left, the evolution from archaic (beige) to magic (purple) to mythic (red/blue) to rational (orange) was accompanied, in the Lower Right, by technological development that moved, respectively, from foraging to horticultural to agrarian to industrial. Magical worldviews went with a foraging base, mythic worldviews went with an agrarian base, rational worldviews went with an industrial base, and so on.

But with the rise of modernity (rational-industrial), the increasing globalization of economic exchange made a very intense type of cross-level phenomenon possible: for example, tribal cultures could gain access to rational-industrial technology, often with horrifying results. Moreover, the same sort of cross-level access could occur within a given culture: Auschwitz was the product of rational-technological capacity (orange) pressed into the hands of intensely prerational (red/blue) ethnocentric aggression. Today, almost any ethnic tribe or feudal order can gain access to nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons that historically they would never have been able to produce themselves, and the results are literally explosive. Precisely because the Right-Hand quadrants are all material, these material artifacts (modes of technology to nuclear weapons) can be obtained by individuals at almost any level of interior, Left-Hand development, even if they themselves could never produce them. These types of phenomena make cross-level analysis of quadrants, levels, and lines absolutely mandatory in today's world politics, and it dooms analyses that do less than that. (We will return to this fascinating topic later in the discussion.)

The essential point is simply that civilizations evidence, in part, the pyramid of development, where the higher the level of development, the fewer individuals at it. This means that the bulk of the world's population, as we were saying, is at the early or foundational waves—primarily purple, red, and blue (and more rarely, orange). That is not a moral judgement; not only do all of those stages perform crucial functions in every culture, they are the necessary foundation stones for higher development. As we said, every person, in every culture, no matter how "high" or "advanced," is born at square 1, and begins the great unfolding from there. The prime directive is thus to act so as to protect and promote the health of the entire spiral of development, and not to unduly privilege a favorite wave.

But this does mean that a new "realpolitik" will take into account the entire Spiral, while realizing that the bulk of the population will remain at purple/red (preconventional) and blue (conventional)—and thus the bulk of the world's population is egocentric-to-ethnocentric, and these ethnocentric blocks will have an enormous hand in shaping world currents (just as Huntington says). Not the only hand, as we will see, but a very important one. As we saw in chapter 1, Beck and Cowan estimate that 10 percent of the world's population is purple, 20 percent red, and 40 percent blue—thus around 70 percent of the world's population has a center of gravity at ethnocentric or lower: an extraordinary mass of humanity.

That also means that around 70 percent of the world's population falls short of the level at which Fukuyama's analysis would kick in. (When close to 100 percent of the world's population can be expected to reach orange in their lifetimes, that might be a type of "end of history" according to Fukuyama's criteria—but that is a century or two away, if then. Besides, there is then green, then yellow, then turquoise, then coral/psychic…. It appears, alas, that history might never end….)

Vertical and Horizontal

Unfortunately Huntington's analysis, brilliant and useful up to a point, is largely conducted on a horizontal playing field. He recognizes the existence and profound importance of these large civilization blocks, but he does not acknowledge the vertical levels of development (e.g., purple, red, blue, orange, green, yellow) that are some of the crucial archeological strata of these blocks. He is giving us a surface reading of the very real territories that are today present, but he is not giving us the deep developmental analysis of the infrastructures of those blocks. Adding this vertical dimension to his horizontal analysis—recognizing not only the tectonic plates but the archeological levels in those plates—will give us a much more integral perspective from which to make sounder political judgments.

Let me give a few examples of what this "all-quadrant, all-level" approach might involve. Figure 6-2 is a diagram from Don Beck and Graham Linscott's The Crucible: Forging South Africa's Future. It shows the average memetic mix in the adult population of the United States, Europe, Sub-Sahara Africa, and South Africa. Adding this kind of vertical analysis to Huntington's horizontal analysis would give us a more three-dimensional, integral index of what is actually going on in various populations (politically, militarily, culturally, etc.).

Beck made over eighty trips to South Africa, working with those who were dealing with apartheid. He met with Nelson Mandela, F. W. de Klerk, and numerous other African leaders, attempting to bring developmental issues to bear on apartheid and its dismantling. (Since liberals usually maintain that "stages" or "levels" are marginalizing and oppressive, Beck is occasionally—and unfairly—accused of racism. His standard response: "Here is Nelson Mandela's phone number. Call and ask him.")

Several items stand out immediately in this diagram. Europe and America have a center of gravity at orange, with strong pockets of blue and green (most of the "culture wars," in fact, are blue conservatives fighting with green liberals, as I try to point out in Boomeritis). Sub-Sahara Africa is still dominated by purple-to-red tribal consciousness. Northern Africa and much of the Mid-East is dominated by strong blue patriarchies and feudal orders (based largely on the narrow-religion aspects of the Koran). Huntington's horizontal civilization blocks thus actually contain vertical memetic structures as well, and taking both of these dimensions into account seems essential.

South Africa was a particularly difficult situation precisely because it was a mixture of both different horizontal civilizations (European and Sub-Sahara African) and different vertical meme structures (purple/red vs. blue/orange). Apartheid itself was a typically blue-structure arrangement. (Dominator social hierarchies in both the West and the East—from apartheid to the caste system—are found almost exclusively in blue, mythic-membership structures). On this blue foundation, the whites in South Africa had built a strong, orange, capitalistic state. When apartheid was taken down—very abruptly, and with perhaps little thought as to what would replace it—South Africa was thrown into turmoil. Of course apartheid needed to be dismantled, but South Africans needed a little more time to grow a blue structure of their own that could replace the European version. Beck, who has remained close to South African leaders, says that this is proceeding haltingly, in difficult fits and starts. (It has not been helped by green liberals who, with the standard lack of belief in interior stages, have simply insisted that all blue structures be dismantled, which has crippled the overall spiral.)

As with South Africa, many of the truly difficult international situations are the result of both clashing civilization blocks (on the horizontal scale) and warring memes (on the vertical). Viet Nam was an endless quagmire of two clashing civilizations (Sinic and Western) at different developmental levels (red/blue and orange/green), with the result that the corporate state of America was mired in the mud of ancient nations and feudal empires.

The Serbian conflict has been an absolute nightmare because there is a violent clash of at least three civilization blocks (Orthodox, Islamic, Western) spanning at least four developmental levels (purple ethnic tribes, red feudal empires, blue ancient nations, and orange/green states). Milosevic has taken the blue ancient nation of Serbia and unleashed red-tribal ethnic cleansing, rape, and torture. The sensitive-green liberals Bill Clinton and Tony Blair have joined to intervene in an attempt to protect green human rights, an attempt that has fallen on deaf ears in the blue ancient nations of Russia, China, and Iran, who consider both Clinton and Blair to be the real war criminals (and from their meme structure, that is perfectly understandable). Nothing substantial has changed in the area; the tectonic plates and memes are still juxtaposed in extremely unstable fashion, ready for the next earthquake.

The important role of vertical waves or memes can be seen in a situation such as the reunification of Germany. The German peoples share the same civilization block, the same genetic pool, and much of the same history. Yet, due to the events during the Cold War, East Germany fell under the dominance of a Marxist fundamentalist state power—in essence, a blue ancient nation, with one-party rule and obedience to the state; while West Germany continued its development into an orange corporate state with strong green elements. Reunification has thus been predominantly a problem of meshing these two quite different cultural-developmental waves (blue vs. orange/green). Of course, lurking in the background of both Germanys is the temporary insanity of the WWII-regression to purple/red ethnic cleansing and the Holocaust, waged with extremely powerful orange technology: the peculiar nightmare made possible by modernity. But the difficulties faced in the reunification of Germany are not due to a horizontal clash of civilizations but to a vertical clash of memes.

The Mean Green Meme

Although Huntington's analysis is bereft of vertical depth, he gives a fine analysis of how the horizontal civilization blocks are some of the prime factors in international politics, commerce, cultural intercourse, and war. The entire analysis—highly recommended—is testament to the fact that, in the great spiral of development from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric, the bulk of the world's population is ethnocentric, and will likely so remain for the indefinite future (as it has been for millennia). This is not to say that worldcentric cultures cannot or will not emerge—in fact, Huntington sees some evidence of this happening now (as we will see)—only that the center of gravity in the various civilization blocks is heavily ethnocentric, and, due to the pyramid of development, these ethnocentric clusters will always be powerful (and often dominant) factors in individual and cultural consciousness.

Huntington then moves to his policy recommendations, and there is no question about it: they are heavily blue meme (a general republican-conservative view of the world). This has often infuriated liberals (and the green meme), because it violates their stated aims of diversity, multiculturalism, and sensitivity. But once again, as with Fukuyama's analysis, the liberal-green analysis only applies to a very small percentage of the world's population. In fact, Beck and Cowan have found that less than 10 percent of the world's population is at green (and almost all of that is in the Western civilization block, which is a massive embarrassment for the green multiculturalists, who champion everything except Western civilization).

Moreover, in order for the rest of the world to get to green, individuals have to develop from purple to red to blue to orange to green. As Beck and Cowan (and virtually all developmental researchers) constantly stress, the blue meme (by whatever name) is an absolutely crucial, unavoidable, necessary building block of the higher stages (including green), and yet green does virtually everything in its power to destroy blue wherever it finds it. As Spiral Dynamics puts it, "Green dissolves blue"—and in so doing, as Beck himself says, "Green has introduced more harm in the last thirty years than any other meme."

It is not that what green is saying is wrong; it is simply a case of very bad timing. The world at large—and much of America as well—is simply not ready for green pluralism. More than that, as Huntington quite correctly points out, no civilization in history has survived with a pluralistic agenda—but not because, as Huntington believes, no civilization can so survive, but simply that, until more than 10 percent of the population is actually at the green wave, then the cultural center of gravity will be heavily pre-green, and thus a culture that tries to ram pluralism and multiculturalism down everybody's throat is going to come apart at the seams faster than you can say "deconstruction." That is what Beck means by saying that the harm green has done has often outweighed the good—and that is what Huntington is also sharply criticizing.

The difference, however—and this is a big however—is that Beck is giving a post-green analysis, based on the prime directive: namely, when green dissolves blue, it cripples the spiral of development; it makes it absolutely impossible for purple and red to develop further, because there is no blue base to accept the development. Green is thus horribly damaging the overall spiral of human unfolding, here and abroad, and thus erasing much of the undeniable good that green can, and has, done on its own. The prime directive is for all of the memes, including blue and green, to be seen as necessary parts of the overall spiral, and thus each be allowed to make its own crucial contribution to the comprehensive health of the spiral.

Huntington, on the other hand, is giving a pre-green attack on green. He is championing blue because he deeply does not like green. (He is not attacking the notion of what might be called "international pluralism," which recognizes the importance and legitimacy of the major civilization blocks—in fact, Huntington is a strong advocate of international pluralism. He is attacking multiculturalism in America, which he feels is dissolving certain necessary foundations.) This has made many liberals completely ignore the important points of Huntington's argument. Nonetheless, even if Huntington's recommendations are heavily blue, that is often where we need to begin in many instances. Green has, inadvertently or not, damaged blue infrastructures both here and abroad, and a structural refurbishing is wisely in order (reversing what George W. Bush has called "the soft bigotry of lowered expectations").

On a sturdy blue and then orange foundation, green ideals can be built. No blue and orange, no green. Thus green's attack on blue and orange is profoundly suicidal. Not only that, but when the highly developed, postformal green wave champions any and every "multicultural" movement, it acts to encourage other memes not to grow into green. The more green succeeds, the more it destroys itself. Thus, it is to green's great advantage to adopt the prime directive and work for ways to facilitate the entire spiral of development, and not adopt Order-Left imperatives commanding everybody to be sensitive.

The green meme—which constitutes approximately 20 percent of adult American population, and is the core of Paul Ray's misnamed "integral culture"—now has a chance to move into second-tier and genuinely integral constructions. The green meme has been in charge of academia, the cultural elite, and much of liberal politics for the past three decades, but it is now being challenged on all sides (its internal self-contradictions, its failed political agenda, the harsh intolerance of the politically correct thought police, its claim to be superior in a world where nothing is supposed to be superior, the nihilism and narcissism of extreme postmodernism, an aggressive marginalization of holarchies and thus its lack of an integral vision). As happens when any meme begins to lose its hegemony, its Inquisitors begin an often belligerent and reactionary defense—what might be called in this case "the mean green meme" (which is especially the home of boomeritis). And it is boomeritis and the MGM that are now some of the primary roadblocks to a truly integral, more inclusive approach. Whether the hegemony of the MGM crumbles within the next decade or two—leaving behind the many positive, important, necessary functions of the healthy green meme—or whether it holds on bitterly until the death of its adherents (the expected course if history is any judge) remains to be seen.

Nonetheless, the more people at the green wave, the more people are ready to make the leap into the hyperspace of second-tier consciousness, where truly integral approaches to the world's problems can be conceived and implemented.

World Civilization

Huntington ends his blue discussion with the recognition of the emergence of a postconventional, worldcentric, World Civilization (Huntington uses a capital "C" in this case), which is just now slowly beginning, and which not only partakes of orange/green, but begins to intuit the integral, second-tier waves—a type of integral, global, World Civilization. Huntington's recommendations do not stem from that level, but he does recognize it, and he recognizes that the world is slowly moving in that integral direction.

Huntington notes that what is often called "universalism" is really just imperialism—that is, one civilization (such as the Western) tries to impose its values on all the others. That is a universalism that Huntington and I both categorically reject. But Huntington moves toward a universalism of "commonalities," which means that, in addition to recognizing and honoring the many important differences between cultures, we also attempt to cherish those things that we have in common as human beings living on a very small planet, a healthy universalism I strongly share (what I also call unity-in-diversity, universal pluralism, unitas multiplex, universal integralism, etc.). "In a multicivilizational world," says Huntington, "the constructive course is to renounce universalism [imperialism], accept diversity [international pluralism], and seek commonalities [healthy universalism]." I quite agree, as far as that goes.

As for a healthy universalism and World Civilization—an integral Civilization—Huntington concludes, correctly I believe, that "if human beings are ever to develop a universal civilization, it will emerge gradually through the exploration and expansion of these commonalities. Thus…, peoples in all civilizations should search for and attempt to expand the values, institutions, and practices they have in common with peoples of other civilizations."

He then moves toward the heart of the matter, the transformation from ethnocentric (blue) to worldcentric (and integral): "This effort would contribute not only to limiting the clash of civilizations but also to strengthening Civilization in the singular [not imperialism, but healthy universalism and World Civilization]. The singular Civilization presumably refers to a complex mix of higher levels of morality, religion, learning, art, philosophy, technology, material well-being, and probably other things" (my italics). In other words, as I would put it, the various developmental lines or streams (morality, religion, learning, art, etc.) move through the developmental levels or waves (purple, red, blue, orange, green, etc.—or, in short, egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric), and the higher the level of development in the various lines, the greater the chance for the emergence of a World Civilization—precisely because the tectonic plates do in fact move from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric. Huntington's analysis reminds us that the vast bulk of the world's population is still ethnocentric, and a realpolitik had better take that into account, if it wants to actually reach a worldcentric anything.

At the same time, a worldcentric Civilization is not a uniform, imperialistic, homogenized mush, but a rich tapestry of unity-in-diversity, with as much emphasis on the diversity as on the unity. What it does not do is champion only ethnocentric diversity, which leads to all the horrors—fragmentation, alienation, and war—that Huntington so devastatingly chronicles.

Huntington then raises the crucial question to which his entire book has pointed: "How can one chart the ups and downs of humanity's development of Civilization?" He asks the question, and then the book ends.

My own suggestion, of course, is that an "all-quadrant, all-level, all-lines" approach is one of the best methods available for charting that extraordinary unfolding from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric, in all its perilous ups and downs, thus making more friendly the waters leading to the promised land of worldcentric Civilization and unitas multiplex. And that is not a final end point, but simply a new beginning.

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