In class yesterday, I mentioned that there have been recent attempts to interpret international relations in novel ways beyond the mainstream frameworks. In 1993, Harvard Professor Samuel Huntington shook up the IR community when he wrote about what he viewed as a coming “clash of civilizations”. The provocative concept has continued to be debated even now – nearly four years since Huntington died.
In class, I noted the connection that IR theorists have made between realism and the “tragedy”. Consider John J. Mearsheimer’s 2001 book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, which looks at the concept of “offensive realism”. (Read another review of the book here and this 2004 interview with Mearsheimer.)
More recently, as I noted, there has been some discussion in IR circles about the “culture of emotions”. In 2007, French political scientist Dominique Moïsi wrote an essay in Foreign Affairs on what he called “The Clash of Emotions”, in which he discusses how he sees fear, humiliation and hope driving geopolitical relations:
Thirteen years ago, Samuel Huntington argued that a “clash of civilizations” was about to dominate world politics, with culture, along with national interests and political ideology, becoming a geopolitical fault line (“The Clash of Civilizations?” Summer 1993). Events since then have proved Huntington’s vision more right than wrong. Yet what has not been recognized sufficiently is that today the world faces what might be called a “clash of emotions” as well. The Western world displays a culture of fear, the Arab and Muslim worlds are trapped in a culture of humiliation, and much of Asia displays a culture of hope.
Instead of being united by their fears, the twin pillars of the West, the United States and Europe, are more often divided by them — or rather, divided by how best to confront or transcend them. The culture of humiliation, in contrast, helps unite the Muslim world around its most radical forces and has led to a culture of hatred. The chief beneficiaries of the deadly encounter between the forces of fear and the forces of humiliation are the bystanders in the culture of hope, who have been able to concentrate on creating a better future for themselves.
These moods, of course, are not universal within each region, and there are some areas, such as Russia and parts of Latin America, that seem to display all of them simultaneously. But their dynamics and interactions will help shape the world for years to come.
This essay was the basis of a 2009 book by Moïsi – The Geopolitics of Emotion: How Cultures of Fear, Humiliation, and Hope are Reshaping the World.