Saturday, December 27, 2008

Samuel Huntington, 1927-2008

Samuel Huntington, one of the nation's greatest political scientists, has died. Huntington, who taught at Harvard University for 58 years, passed away Tuesday, December 24, at his home in Martha's Vineyard. He was 81.

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The Harvard Gazette has a lengthy obituary, and the Caucus has a brief note on Huntington's more recent scholarly controversies.

I've never met Huntington, but I've read two of his books - my favorite is Political Order in Changing Societies - and many of his academic articles. His recent book on immigration and national culture, Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity, is the essential primer on the conservative cultural foundations of the American democracy.

Huntington generated tremendous attention with his 1993 article in Foreign Affairs, "
The Clash of Civilizations?" Powerfully argued yet contentious, Huntington's thesis that cultural conflict would mark post-Cold War American foreign policy and international relations gained prophetic acclaim after the September 11 attacks. Robert Kaplan, writing at the Atlantic in December of 2001, placed Huntington's work in context:

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon highlight the tragic relevance not just of Huntington's ideas about a clash of civilizations but of his entire life's work. Since the 1950s he has argued that American society requires military and intelligence services that think in the most tragic, pessimistic terms. He has worried for decades about how American security has mostly been the result of sheer luck—the luck of geography—and may one day have to be truly earned. He has written that liberalism thrives only when security can be taken for granted—and that in the future we may not have that luxury. And he has warned that the West may one day have to fight for its most cherished values and, indeed, physical survival against extremists from other cultures who despise our country and who will embroil us in a civilizational war that is real, even if political leaders and polite punditry must call it by another name. While others who hold such views have found both happiness and favor working among like-minded thinkers in the worlds of the corporation, the military, and the intelligence services, Huntington has deliberately remained in the liberal bastion of Ivy League academia, to fight for his ideas on that lonely but vital front.
The Harvard obituary features numerous comments from friends and colleagues indicating how much Huntington loved subjecting his ideas to critical examination.

He will be missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Huntington family.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Always sad to see a political scientist pass away.

Christopher Hamilton
The Right Opinion, for the Right Wing

Grace Explosion said...

Hi Donald,

I love great minds. I pulled this from one of your links provided:

"American National Identity,” was published in 2004 and tackled immigration. That volume also attracted criticisms of his assertion that low levels of assimilation by Hispanic immigrants could cleave the country in two."

Wait until the Great Awakening. The Christians will completely assimilate in the core values of that which determine civilization and solidify political ideology. The left will have radicalized as well... and the country shall cleave in two.

He sees the "why" of how this must happen. He sounds brilliant.. and capable of seeing the dynamics that will produce an unprecedented result. So often people think in terms of their own emotional investments in the past or in outcomes, that they cannot foretell what shall occur - based on the simple power of dynamic forces at opposition and splitting one from another in shared identity. But that's exactly, imo, what's going to happen as soon as we have our Great Awakening. We shall become an entirely separate civilization - than the left. We'll form an Exodus. It will be like Israel leaving Egypt - so great shall the split be in civilization from the leftists going Socialist... and the Christians returning to the foundations of the Bible and individual liberties as our founders foresaw and enshrined in our Constitution, etc. My pov. I see some of the parallels in his reasoning - in brief. I do love minds that think these things through. Very enjoyable. :)

God bless his family with comfort.

Grace.

Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Quite sad. I had not read of this. I have two of his books, both seminal, his 1996 "The Clash of Civilizations" and his 2004 "Who Are We?"

BZ

Tom the Redhunter said...

I've heard much about his "Clash of Civilizations" (and think it quite accurate) but never got around to reading it. Maybe I will someday, but I just got a half dozen new books for Christmas, so there goes half the year already....

Jason said...

Truly one of the great ones...

I used his thesis from Clash of Civilizations to write an essay on the Middle East and the West. To me it was a no brainer to use his theory on such a complicated topic.

Law and Order Teacher said...

It is obvious that he was a great influence on you. I will read his book ASAP. My condolences to you and his family.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks for commenting, Christopher. Anyone's death diminishes us, but yes, it's especially sad when we lose those who make such great contributions.

Donald Douglas said...

You'd love Huntington's "Who Are We?" , Grace. A majesterial book on precisely the grounds you mention.

Donald Douglas said...

Hi BZ: Yeah, it's quite a loss. Huntington was one of classics!

Donald Douglas said...

Tom the Redhunter: It's hard to read everything. Shoot me an e-mail and I'll send you the link to his Foreign Policy essay, "Hispanic Nation." That one's a classic.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks for commenting, Jason. I'm glad Huntington's work served you well in your own research.

Donald Douglas said...

Law and Order Teacher: Thanks for visiting. Huntington's one of those scholars that one finds themselves returning to over and over again. You'll make reference to him in your classes. A brilliant scholar.

Debbie said...

Always sad when LOGICAL great minds pass on.

Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

Greywolfe said...

Well, another soldier dies and we're left with one less voice in the wilderness. He had a great mind.

It's my first time on your site, just came across it on another site. Nice to hear a conservative voice in the cereal state. You're brave just living out there, let alone teaching there. I'll be checking in more since I read your blurb about yourself. I detest arguments based on emotion. Nice to know I'm not the only one.

Good article.

AI said...

Thanks for posting; read with sadness and interest. Like America, Australia too was founded by British settlers and like America is facing the same identity challenges. I must read "Who are we".

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Debbie: A great mind indeed.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Greywolfe. Welcome to American Power. Stop by often.

Donald Douglas said...

Ottavio: You'll really like Huntington.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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