The aim of this essay is to trace a genealogy of the ‘clash of civilizations’ theory in the intellectual parabola of Samuel P. Huntington, one of the most influential American political scientists. Since the publication of a landmark article in Foreign Affairs (1993), followed in 1996 by the book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Huntington’s ‘clash of civilizations’ thesis seemed to offer a new paradigm of world politics, but it was often misinterpreted. Huntington neither intended to recommend Western imperialist wars against ‘other civilizations’, nor did he conceive of cultures and civilizations in essentialist terms (he explicitly sided with the critique of ‘Orientalism’), but rather as built identities, not so different from Benedict Anderson’s ‘imagined communities’. Writing from a critical perspective on popular mobilization, Huntington regarded the discourse of civilization mainly as a powerful instrument in the hands of the political élites.
Keywords: Scontro delle civiltà, Scienza politica, Modernizzazione, Democrazia