Sunday, April 23, 2023

Read, Read, Read...

Francis Fukuyama, Samuel Huntington

It occurred to me recently that there are many foundational texts in the political science literature that I have carelessly glossed over. 

As I skimmed through my bookshelf, I found a plethora of books that I love, but that are perhaps somewhat unimportant in the larger context of American and geopolitical affairs. While I am a proponent of finding your niche and delving in deeper, it is also necessary to develop a rudimentary understanding of certain works that have contributed greatly to the Western canon. Doing so expands the mind and intellect of the reader, and allows him to participate in a broader range of conversations concerning political discourse. 

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend about Francis Fukuyama's earth-shattering literary masterpiece, The End of History and the Last Man, a book that I am very fond of. During our conversation, my friend mentioned Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations, a work that he claimed was antithetical to Fukuyama's thesis about liberal democracy as a prevailing global ideology. 

As he continued to speak passionately about Huntington's contributions to the global conversation surrounding culture and ideology, I began to feel a sense of shame: I had never read that book. 

Having only an elementary conceptualization of Huntington's thesis, I became reluctant to contribute further to the conversation. I knew that I had to get my hands on that book. 

Reading it now, I understand why Henry Kissinger called it " of the most important books to have emerged since the end of the Cold War." In fact, even Francis Fukuyama praised it, calling it "dazzling in its scope and grasp of the intricacies of contemporary global politics."

I regret arriving so late to the show... This should have been required reading during my schooling. Huntington's insights are remarkably perceptive and interesting. The empirical rigor is also beyond impressive. 

The lesson here: read everything. Now, obviously, this isn't possible in the literal sense. We are mortal beings, and reading everything would take a long time, I presume. But, for students of political science, or even just individuals with a thirst for knowledge about global affairs and competing ideologies, there are certain books that are paramount. 

Huntington's book, needless to say, is one of them. 

1 comment:

  1. In a television interview, the late, great, Harold Bloom, said that one must immerse oneself in the great books of Western civilization:
    “You can’t think clearly or well without memory and it matters a
    great deal what you remember, and, if what you remember is
    mediocre stuff, you are not going to think very well. It really matters
    having read the best that has been written ever…” Plato anyone!