Francis Fukuyama: The history at the end of history

Roundup: Talking About History

[Francis Fukuyama is Dean of the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and Chairman of The American Interest.]

Fifteen years ago in my book The End of History and the Last Man I argued that, if a society wanted to be modern, there was no alternative to a market economy and a democratic political system. Not everyone wanted to be modern, of course, and not everyone could put in place the institutions and policies necessary to make democracy and capitalism work, but no alternative system would yield better results.

While the “End of History” thus was essentially an argument about modernisation, some people have linked my thesis about the end of history to the foreign policy of President George W Bush and American strategic hegemony. But anyone who thinks that my ideas constitute the intellectual foundation for the Bush administration’s policies has not been paying attention to what I have been saying since 1992 about democracy and development.

President Bush initially justified intervention in Iraq on the grounds of Saddam’s programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction, the regime’s alleged links to Al Qaeda, as well as Iraq’s violation of human rights and lack of democracy. As the first two justifications crumbled in the wake of the 2003 invasion, the administration increasingly emphasised the importance of democracy, both in Iraq and in the broader Middle East, as a rationale for what it was doing.

Bush argued that the desire for freedom and democracy were universal and not culture-bound, and that America would be dedicated to the support of democratic movements “with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world”. Supporters of the war saw their views confirmed in the ink-stained fingers of Iraqi voters who queued up to vote in the various elections held between January and December 2005, in the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, and in the Afghan presidential and parliamentary elections.

Inspiring and hopeful as these events were, the road to liberal democracy in the Middle East is likely to be extremely disappointing in the near to medium term, and the Bush administration’s efforts to build a regional policy around it are heading toward abject failure....

The End of History was never linked to a specifically American model of social or political organisation. Following Alexandre Kojève, the Russian-French philosopher who inspired my original argument, I believe that the European Union more accurately reflects what the world will look like at the end of history than the contemporary United States. The EU’s attempt to transcend sovereignty and traditional power politics by establishing a transnational rule of law is much more in line with a ‘post-historical’ world than the Americans’ continuing belief in God, national sovereignty, and their military. ...

... coercive regime change was never the key to democratic transition.

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