In seeking to understand the root causes of the events of 9/11 many accounts have turned to Samuel P. Huntington's provocative and controversial thesis of a 'clash of civilizations', arousing strong debate. Evidence from the 1995-2001 waves of the World Values Survey/European Values Survey (WVS/EVS) allows us, for the first time, to examine an extensive body of empirical evidence relating to this debate. Comparative analysis of the beliefs and values of Islamic and non-Islamic publics in 75 societies around the globe, confirms the first claim in Huntington's thesis: culture does matter, and indeed matters a lot, so that religious legacies leave a distinct imprint on contemporary values. But Huntington is mistaken in assuming that the core clash between the West and Islamic worlds concerns democracy. The evidence suggests striking similarities in the political values held in these societies. It is true that Islamic publics differ from Western publics concerning the role of religious leadership in society, but this is not a simple dichotomous clash — many non-Islamic societies side with the Islamic ones on this issue. Moreover the Huntington thesis fails to identify the most basic cultural fault line between the West and Islam, which concerns the issues of gender equality and sexual liberalization. The cultural gulf separating Islam from the West involves Eros far more than Demos.
Although democratic institutions existed long before gender equality, at this point in history, growing emphasis on gender equality is a central component of the process of democratization. Support for gender equality is not just a consequence of democratization. It is part of a broad cultural change that is transforming industrialized societies and bringing growing mass demands for increasingly democratic institutions. This article analyzes the role of changing mass attitudes in the spread of democratic institutions, using survey evidence from 70 societies containing 80 percent of the world's population. The evidence supports the conclusion that the process of modernization drives cultural change that encourage both the rise of women in public life, and the development of democratic institutions.