Samuel Huntington, seer of 21st-century cultural conflicts The Australian, Australia - FOR millions of ordinary readers, as for conservative politicians and pundits, Samuel Huntington was the man who predicted the grand narrative of the 21st century...
Staying strong in the face of outside threats was a classic Huntingtonian theme, but in his last book, Who Are We? (2004), he cautioned against the enemy within. The US's national identity, he argued, was in danger of being eroded in the face of sub-national, dual-national and transnational loyalties. Writing for a popular audience "as a patriot and a scholar", Huntington argued that some Americans, most notably liberal elites and Hispanics, were undermining America's fundamentally Anglo-Protestant culture.
Built on Christianity, the English language and British legacies of justice and government, and mixed with the "American Creed" and its principles of liberty, equality and individualism, this was a culture that every immigrant group had assimilated - until recently. But globalisation meant a growing chasm between "the cosmopolitan and transnational commitments" of elites, and the "still highly nationalist and patriotic values of the American public".
The most controversial chapter, on Mexican-Americans, warns that the fast-growing Hispanic population's reluctance to assimilate could lead to "a bifurcated America", with two languages, Spanish and English. These new immigrants would achieve the American Dream "only if they dream it in English", he argued.
Such bluntness led admirers to laud his bravery and critics to charge that he was pandering to nativist sympathies. Huntington was a self-declared conservative, but an old-fashioned one, critical of the neocons in the Bush administration. Though US and British pundits used his ideas to promote the invasion of Iraq, Huntington was a steadfast critic of it, dismissing George W.Bush's plans to install a Western-style democracy as a "joke".
"Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems," he had written in The Clash of Civilizations. "It is false; it is immoral; and it is dangerous." Huntington is survived by his wife, Nancy, and two sons. The Times