« Durham Students: Web Assignment 11: Is Francis Fukuyama Insane? | Main | Peacock Students: Web Assignment 11: Is Francis Fukuyama Insane? »

November 08, 2007

Comments

Stephanie Loville

To argue that history has come to an end is quite a bold statement. I would argue based upon the events of recent years that political and economic ideology has slowed down considerably or come to somewhat of a stand still but I do not think that this marks the end. Although it may seem that everyone is moving toward embracing western liberalism I do not think that it is the final form of government. Furthermore I do not think that it is even rational to say that there will be a final form of government, based on Hegel’s idea that human history is a progression through conflict and the existence of contradictions.
Fukuyama poses the question “Are there any fundamental contradictions in human life that can’t be resolved by modern liberalism or alternative political/ economic structure?” I think that his asking of this question points to as Vera stated “a lack of ambition to find alternatives to make the world better”. He looks at socialism and capitalism as the only alternatives, and then concludes that history has stopped because we have no other solutions for organizing and governing our lives. I think that it is ludicrous to say that there will ever be a final rational form of society and state that victorious, because time and time again, especially in light of the welfare state we have seen that there is no one size fits all solution for each member of our society.
History is much more than just a political ideology as I think Fukuyama emphasizes but encompasses all of the social causes, effects, and ramifications as well. If nothing else, the progression of history can always count on social conflict which warrants change and the complex social issues that this western liberal democracy has yet to solve. As we have seen in cases such as the Civil rights movement and French revolution social unrest can produce great change. No one living before or during could have predicted what the change it looked like but it happened nonetheless and the resulting changes make are dynamic parts of our human history and experience. History will end when everyone is completely happy with their standard of living and we live in a complete utopia, and zero conflict exists. Since I do not believe that we will ever reach a true utopia for all of mankind I do not think that history will come to an end.

Jennifer Miller

I agree with Kinzie, and others, who have noted that Fukuyama ignores the evolutionary process that will inevitably engulf what elements there currently are of a liberal “homogenous state.” Fukuyama’s idea of a globalized homogenous liberal state, which he believes despite its faults is the best we’ve had so far, is largely due to his vantage point. Assuming Fukuyama lives in the U.S., liberalism has allowed him (as well as a lot of us) comfortable economic stability, and therefore it would make sense that he would be more likely to agree it is the end all, be all.
There is some essence of validity to the notion the solidification of liberalism, only because the U.S. has been working hard at this goal. For decades the U.S. has been in some form vying to spread liberalism to create fertile ground for it’s commercial endeavors, at times motivated by religion, patriotism or desire for survival and adventure. (Manifest Destiny, westward expansion, Philippines, Cuba, Guam etc. etc, and not to mention outer space).
I think that Fukuyama’s argument relates to this trajectory of U.S. expansion, due to the fact that he is a member of an organization called the Project For a New American Century. PNAC is self described as “a non-profit educational organization dedicated to a few fundamental propositions: that American leadership is good both for America and for the world; and that such leadership requires military strength, diplomatic energy and commitment to moral principle.” (It describes itself as non-partisan, but critiques Clinton and praises the Reagan administration.)http://www.newamericancentury.org/
As Vera sharply pointed out, Fukuyama is not gleeful about the end of history and he says that he will desire a time when history existed. This notion, in combination with his involvement with PNC (who’s goal it is to find new ways to spread U.S. “foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad”) indicated to me that Fukuyama may be pessimistic about the end of history, but is or was, actively working to keep history alive through U.S expansion. The fact that this organization cites increased defense spending as it’s main mandate, would indicate that the threats from anti-liberal forces might have more power than Fukuyama grants them.

Anthony Yates

Insanity aside for the moment, Francis Fukuyama’s argument is false. To make a convincing defense of his “End of History” hypothesis, he grossly mismanages definition and scope.

The declaration of his thesis as follows:

“What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

But in order to justify liberal democracy as this “end point,” even assuming we accept his arguments with regard to China and Russia (and honestly, I found myself nodding along with him here), he discards the other nations which do not conform to this government. They are run by “crackpot messiahs,” or are not “embodied in important social or political forces and movements…which are therefore part of world history.” He does not deny that these are forces with the potential to cause conflict, and yet dismisses them in his lofty, large-scale perspective.

His definition, as it seems to me, equates the conclusion of the “ideological evolution” with the disappearing possibility of vast scale, inter-state war between countries of rival ideology. This war would be much as World War II; it is envisioned as millions of men bleeding and dying in huge battles under the banners of democracy to preserve freedom against the forces of communism/fascism/other rival ideology. Fukuyama reaffirms this view when he writes:

“Large-scale conflict must involve large states still caught in the grip of history, and they are what appear to be passing from the scene.”

For a man who looks boldly prophesizes an inevitable liberal democratic destiny for mankind, I believe here he is advocating an anachronistic view of war. Among his fundamental errors, Fukuyama greatly underestimates the danger of small groups of ideological difference; the evolution of warfare has allowed destruction potential of enormous magnitude to even these “crackpot messiahs.” It is increasingly possible for a small group of ideological difference to exert its beliefs on an entire nation or nations---with fire and brimstone. The level of death and destruction a single rogue state or group can wreak is a threat to the foundation of global society, of liberal democracy everywhere. Who can possibly predict the consequences of such an event?

And this brings me back to my beginning and the question to which I delayed an answer until the final notes of “The End of History” had resounded. When Fukuyama writes, “Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again,” he writes with an acknowledged nostalgia for the times when history still lived, and had secrets yet to unfold. But by his very own definition, he longs for the return of bloody battles and unspeakable annihilation of human life. Insane? Indeed.

Vaclav Burger

Francis Fukayama states in The End of History and the Last Man, that the passing of the Cold War and fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 coincides with an end to a certain period in post-war history. Furthermore, Fukayama notes this as, “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”. He argues that the world is settling on liberal democracy with the prediction that political and economic liberalism will eventually be triumphant on a world scale.
Looking at what others have written, the quote from Fukayama: “Our task is not to answer exhaustively the challenges to liberalism promoted by every crackpot messiah around the world, but only those that are embodied in important social or political forces and movements, and which are therefore part of world history.” I agree with Kenzie’s point of the idea of the “crackpot messiahs, but I feel that the idea of Hitler is a somewhat tricky case because he was this terrible figure who is behind a world war. But, Hitler was elected by a democratic majority and therefore his movement is very legitimate.
The fact that Fukuyama’s argument leads to the “end of history” is just too strong of a statement because we live in very diverse world and I just don’t believe one ideology can hold true for everyone. If anything has proved this true, then it is the war with Iraq that has seen countless resistance and the stubborn nature of its people to become at all Americanized. Just looking back at section a couple weeks back it was interested to see the connection when we discussed how so many products are become standardized and we have more global knowledge versus local knowledge.

Brendan Gluck

Currently, Fukuyama’s argument has proven to be quite a stretch, seeing as how technological advancement allows small non-state actors to challenge not just larger states but seemingly dominant ideologies. Stephen referred to this in his post, stating that Fukuyama blatantly disregarded this important factor. Yet, it seems harsh to completely dismiss his argument when in 1989 there were very few signs of the emergence of religious fundamentalist groups obtaining so much clout in international politics. On the contrary, the end of the Cold War was a time where economic success was met with political unification. The success of European unity paved the way for the belief in capitalism and democracy as a means of creating peace under integration and cooperation. Therefore, it seems very reasonable to believe that history was coming to an end and that liberal democracy would be the hegemonic ideology.

At the same time, history is always progressing and transforming, making it impossible to ever have an end to history. Inevitably, new ideologies will develop to counter the dominance of liberal democracy. Liberal democracy is obviously not a perfect system and people have an inherent habit of striving to obtain a utopian society. As a result, I believe Hegel’s dialectic process is fundamentally incorrect because history is a continuous string of infinite events. Any attempt at classifying history into a beginning, middle, and end is unfathomable, since history is so extensive that placing overarching limits on it would be too simplistic. Even if history could be divided in such a manner, in X number of years many important events will have occurred, making these classifications obsolete.

Zack Simon

After taking the time to read more-or-less the whole of Fukuyama’s text, I sat back and I thought to myself, ‘Does he really believe in what he writes, that this post-modern society we purportedly live in today will have no history?’ As the majority of my classmates have also recognized, Fukuyama’s characteristic ambiguity makes this essay a very hard work for me to read and ‘consider’ thoughtfully. So much of what he writes, especially on the ‘inadequacy of fundamentalist groups to hold ideological sway’ sounds completely backwards from our intuition. But I really think this is more in hindsight than we may realize. Browsing through my classmates’ responses posted so far, I see no mention of the fact that Francis Fukuyama’s book was published in 1992. In this regard, it’s incredibly relevant to read his work through the adopted lenses of the fall of Communist regimes. I’m not so much defending his writing as merely pointing out the fact that he wrote in a time that itself was a product of decades, the Cold War, that had very little wisdom of what was to come.

I give Fukuyama credit for his description of modern liberalism as being a consequence of religiously-based societies, and not even ‘religious’ as much as ‘more orthodox’ to what Weber referred to as the Protestant Ethic. I believe this. However, he is inconsistent. Fukuyama maintains that neither Russia nor China will have any success in rebuilding society. He implies that each nation has made progressives steps towards liberalizing their economies, but somehow manages to demerit each.

I was very surprised to read that Fukuyama really believes that the end of history is nigh. How could he believe that? How does he completely ignore the traditional historian’s perspective that everything is inherently historical? How can one become bored with history like Fukuyama purports that he fears? Something tells me that if he were to edit this book to a more contemporary edition Fukuyama would recognize its need to be wholly rewritten, if not for its lacking inconsistency, then for its historical inaccuracy up till now. In attempt at avoiding completely embarrassing myself, I thought I would include only a reference to one anthem of the Cold War—Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” that more than anything, is the anthem of the historian’s cause to recognize the fact that everything that has occurred has, and in fact always will, affect what is to come. We couldn’t avoid this even if we tried.

Adriana Gomez

Well, I don’t necessarily think Fukuyama is insane, but I agree with Cindy and others who claim his argument to be “contentious.” Fukuyama writes,

“For human history and the conflict that characterized it was based on the existence of "contradictions": primitive man's quest for mutual recognition, the dialectic of the master and slave, the transformation and mastery of nature, the struggle for the universal recognition of rights, and the dichotomy between proletarian and capitalist. But in the universal homogenous state, all prior contradictions are resolved and all human needs are satisfied. There is no struggle or conflict over "large" issues, and consequently no need for generals or statesmen; what remains is primarily economic activity.”

As far as Fukuyama’s argument goes, for as strange as it seems has a tiny bit of legitimacy to it, but for the most part, it can easily be challenged. The drastic improvements of the other developing countries as a cause of more political leaders turning towards “democratic neoliberalism” is a sign that more leaders are seeking to improve the status of their citizens or even their own, as noted by Vera B.’s posting. Fukuyama mentions that through this new system, less and less ideological changes will be proposed because this is about as ideal as a society with fully adapted neoliberal principles can get. Apparently, Fukuyama believes that the improvement as the main component of history will no longer be seen and that history will halt here. I give Fukuyama credit in this argument in a sense that a lot of people will agree that the United States is “as close to a modern …utopian movement as it can get,” as said by professor Delong, and that few people with new ideals will bring them to light because there are hardly any “contradictions” that matter enough to make one realize that there could be further improvements in this society. Though, I will say that the “contradictions that drive history” are not completely out of reach. I believe that the fact that some of the countries that have “history left,” according to Fukuyama can be an influence to internal revolt. If any of you guys are familiar with Emma Goldman, you’ll see that she came from an oppressive Russia, idealizing the freedom of speech in the U.S., only to find the true liberty of the US much more limited than she anticipated. This made her play a pivotal role in the start of revolt as a radical (hence, trying to improve a “contradiction”) because she brought in an outside perspective and ideas of America that American citizens themselves had not thought of. Overall, I will say that Fukuyama was wrong for the most part, but a tiny bit legitimate in his points of idealism fading a bit.

pierre mouillon

Francis Fukuyama’s wrote his article “The end of History?” in 1989, thus, in the time of the fall of the Eastern world and the communist Warsaw pact. This is also the basis, why he makes his argument that history might come to an end, where in his opinion, the western liberalism and democracy emerged as the “winner”.
Fukuyama draws his conclusions mainly from Friedrich Hegel, the German philosopher and founder of the “Hegel’s theories”, where, as Fukuyama quotes, “the contradictions that drive history exist first of all in the realm of human consciousness, i.e. on the level of ideas”. As it looked in 1989, Fukuyama might have been right.
He argues that the only threats to liberalism during the 20th century were in fascism and communism. But the fascist idea failed with the end of the WWII and the communist idea is failing right now (as in 1989, when Fukuyama wrote his article). For him, in future, there will be just two other challenges to liberalism, this would be the religious fundamentalism and nationalism, but Fukuyama believes, that both won’t be a threatening idea. He also gives examples of China, where liberalism is put against the communist idea, whereby China is more and more liberalizing. Thus, in ultimate terms, liberalism will succeed and it would come to an end of history.
Looking at the world today, it seems like Fukuyama underestimated other political ideas. If you look on the strong build up of Islamism and other several conflicts (like the new Russian problems), Fukuyama’s theories might be wrong. Conflicts with liberalism are still ongoing and history is still changing.

Sam Iverson

It is a ridiculous and unsustainable hypothesis to make that, with the victory of liberal democracy over communism, the world would finally confront an “End to History.” While I personally hope that the ideology of liberal democracy will survive and dominate international relations throughout time, I would not agree with Fukuyama’s claim that the western ideology will continue unchallenged through history. Rather, I feel as though the sustainability of liberal democracy is dependent upon continued pressure by new ideologies and changes in the balance of power.

Liberal democracies survive to a large extent by defining their ideological dominance in terms of an enemy. Whether it is a war against Nazi Fascism, Soviet Communism, Chinese Communism or even the rising “Islamo-Fascism,” western ideology maintains its strength strictly by creating new enemies. Regardless of the military and economic threat of the enemy, these “crackpot messiahs” play a major role in maintaining promise in the liberal democratic system.

Fukuyama, himself, acknowledges that modern powers will rise in opposition to the West (such as Islamic Fundamentalism), but then discredits their abilities in challenging the liberal democratic ideology. In considering that no movement of this nature could ever gain the military capability to legitimately wage war on the West and threaten the foundations of western ideology, he feels that they don’t bear significant reason to question the survival of liberal democracy.

However, the fact that liberal democracies must continue to wage war against these smaller political-economic movements in order to reassert their dominance shows that it isn’t safe to assume that the western ideology is an endpoint. In observing that liberal economic policies have managed to cause more political instability in certain areas of the world, there will continue to be an ideology against the west as long as another system works for these people.

The West may fight for its system, but there continues to be an opposition to this Washington Consensus. In this way, it seems as though an endpoint is not clear in sight as long as the West wages war for its cause and experiences a backfire of resistance.

Danielle Mahan

Fukuyama, before World War I, would not have predicted communism and fascism as threats to the classic liberal ideology; just as about 20 years ago he could not see the threats to liberal democracy and its ideological adherents. Not only does he fail to correctly predict the evolution of ideologies, but he misunderstands the nature of the evolution. Furthermore, I find fault with his arbitrary and loose definitions of history, conflict, and democratic liberalism.
Fukuyama could be easily characterized as a realist because he believes that only states’ discords (actually only those of large states) constitute an important conflicts. While he recognizes the coming (for us, reality) of the “rising level of ethnic and nationalist violence,” he dismisses these issues as almost trivial. On the contrary, subnational and transnational groups (terrorist groups, religious factions, drug cartels, organized crime) play a huge role in the political economy and international relations of today. These groups and their actions represent “the struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one’s life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that call[s] forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism,” which Fukuyama claims has been lost to a former era of history.
Perhaps, his most significant flaw is not recognizing the fundamental characteristics of human nature and the human state of being: “any fundamental ‘contradictions’ in human life [can] be resolved in the context of modern liberalism.” However, perfection is unattainable and- there will always be irresolvable “contradictions” – suffering and inequality. People, communities, nations, and now international organizations will not stop trying to remedy the imperfections of the status quo. We cannot say whether this means the continual manipulation of democratic liberalism, or if it means the nascence of an entirely unforeseeable ideology.
On a side note, I have to agree with Kinzie and Hye Jin about art and philosophy. They will continue to flourish because they stem from our inquiry into the fundamental characteristics of human life- suffering and insecurity— which we will never evade completely, no matter the success of democratic liberalism.

The comments to this entry are closed.

From Brad DeLong

Brad DeLong's Schedule

Search Brad DeLong's Website

  •  

About Brad DeLong

Pages