Dialogue of Civilizations: a path towards peace?

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The United Nations declaration of 2001 as the ‘Year of Dialogue among Civilizations’ saw its efforts diminished as the 9/11 opened the path for global discourses and policies pivoting around the Clash of Civilizations, as discussed in a previous post. Since then, civilizational scholars, intellectuals and activists of all backgrounds have emphasized the political discourse of  a new endeavor, the ‘Dialogue of Civilizations’, posited as a paradigm shift in IR. This Dialogue aims at enhancing an inter-civilizational climate of mutual understanding that might lead to global peace.

The end of the Cold War brought new debates on the next political dimension to define the world to come. Fukuyama’s End of History  (1989) proclaimed that history had reached its peak, as ideological evolution from Western liberalism was deemed impossible. Contra Fukuyama, Huntington’s  Clash of Civilizations claimed that the next conflictual lines would be in civilizations and not in ideologies or states. Huntington warned about the risk of pursuing a Western/liberal order, not to acknowledge and overcome a Western-dominated world order, but to call for Western cultural conservatism as he defined the West as ‘unique’. His views have been therefore considered as essentialist and cultural reductionist he advocates for a civilization-based world while avoiding domestic multiculturalism.

Against the Clash, the Dialogue of Civilizations takes as its premise the paradigm of the ‘multiple modernities’ (Eisenstadt, 2000), in which civilizations despite being different from each other can reach common understandings, cultural exchange, and cooperate, both in domestic and global politics. The Dialogue emerges from an interpretation of our contemporary world as potentially conflictual but nonetheless capable of collaborating in approaching global solutions. It is in this regard that the Declaration of the UN emphasizes civilizational cooperation and initiatives such as the Alliance of Civilizations have taken place within the international community.

As the International Day of Peace this past 21st of September has seen a world heading to more conflictual, uncertain situations and contexts; the rise of far-right politics or a global climate crisis among others, it is perhaps important to recover the politics of the Dialogue of Civilizations and pursue it. In a world marked by a culture of war, weaving a culture of peace is a multidimensional holistic endeavor that must be pursued encompassing efforts within all forms of societies, religions, or cultures.

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