Intercivilizational Conflict: Some Guidelines and Some Fault Lines

11 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2010

See all articles by Fania Oz-Salzberger

Fania Oz-Salzberger

Faculty of Law, University of Haifa; Princeton University, Center for Human Values; Monash University

Date Written: April 6, 2010


Intercivilizational conflict has prospered in public and academic discourse since Samuel P. Huntington’s 1993 essay, “The Clash of Civilizations?” which gave new currency to a far older theme. It spread independent wings as fundamentalist Islam, and the fear thereof, peaked on and after September 11, 2001. This article offers several points of order. It examines the historical semantics of both “culture" and “civilization,” tracing the conceptual tension between them in the history of European thought. Along the way, it dwells on philosophers, social theorists and novelists from the eighteenth century to the present. It then proposes a reconsideration of the early 19th-century distinction between culture and civilization, associating the merits and tensions of distinctiveness with the former and allotting universal values to the latter. Finally, it considers contemporary problems weighing on the useful distinction between - and desirable cohabitation of - cultural pluralism and civil universalism.

Keywords: Intercivilizational Conflict, Clash of Civilizations, Huntington, culture, civilization, pluralism, universalism

Suggested Citation

Oz-Salzberger, Fania, Intercivilizational Conflict: Some Guidelines and Some Fault Lines (April 6, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Fania Oz-Salzberger (Contact Author)

Faculty of Law, University of Haifa ( email )

Mount Carmel
Haifa, 31905

Princeton University, Center for Human Values ( email )

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

Monash University ( email )

23 Innovation Walk
Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3800

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