Is Francis Fukuyama's "end of history” argument dead?Historians in the News
tags: Francis Fukuyama
This presidential campaign is more than a shitshow, an authoritarian fit, or a clash between the identity politics of socially isolated white people and socially overstimulated snake people. It is also looking increasingly like a refutation of one of the more provocative and influential political science theories of the past 30 years: that on or around November 9, 1989, when the people of East Berlin peacefully threw off their Soviet-backed communist government and began to tear down the wall that had divided the city since 1961, History, with a capital H, ended.
If you took a certain kind of class in college, or still read a certain kind of intellectually ambitious political coverage, you remember the End of History. All but trademarked, the phrase comes from Francis Fukuyama's book of the same title, published in 1992 (and based on a 1989 essay in the neoconservative foreign policy journal The National Interest). Fukuyama argued that the collapse of the Soviet empire revealed something much deeper than President Ronald Reagan's success bankrupting the Soviet Union with an arms race, or reformist leader Mikhail Gorbachev's failure to control events. Rather, Fukuyama argued, these were events of philosophical significance.
According to Fukuyama, 20th-century history had been a three-way tournament among different visions of modern society. First was socialism, with the state in charge of economic life.
Second were nationalism and its cousin fascism, which celebrated a strong state but were defined by an exclusive identity at the center of national life — above all, the German volk.
Third was liberal democracy, which was defined by free elections, strong individual rights, and a capitalist economy. Fukuyama argued that only liberal democracy, a.k.a. democratic capitalism, had succeeded in producing stable, prosperous societies, and so had proven itself the only desirable social form, the only way a people would ever choose to live.
Saying that history had ended didn't mean nothing more would ever happen, but that there was no more debate about how to organize a large, complex society. The fight that had shaken the world in the 20th century, from the struggle between right and left in European politics to the wars of postcolonial Asia and Africa, was now done. The German novelist Thomas Mann had summed up the 20th century's stakes when he wrote, "In our time, the destiny of man presents its meanings in political terms." Now, Fukuyama argued, that fate was settled. The future would be like the present, only more so. We knew this, not just historically but philosophically. ...
Thumbnail Image - Francis Fukuyama, By The original uploader was Cardsplayer4life at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0
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