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November 08, 2007

Comments

Amitha Harichandran

As others have pointed out, the context in which Fukuyama wrote provides some sort of reason to his madness. Indeed, after the cold war it did seem that liberalism was the clear winner. Fukuyama addresses that there will be future opposition to liberalism, however the way in which he dismisses these as non-threatening, is a significant weakness in his argument. As Danielle points out, before World War I, fascism and communism would not have been considered threatening to the neoliberal ideology. However, later these two emerged as tough opponents. Therefore, Fukuyama cannot claim that no significant threat will later emerge, as it is impossible to even predict what ideologies will rise in the future.

I think the key concept that Fukuayma fails to address, is that change is the only thing that is constant. Especially in our times, change is continuously taking place in all aspects of society, and at a much faster rate than before. It is impossible that with all this progress and movement around us, that one ideology could simply remain. As Brendan points out, “Liberal democracy is obviously not a perfect system and people have an inherent habit of striving to obtain a utopian society.” People will continue to challenge the flaws in the system, and for Fukuyama to expect that they will simply keep quiet is, as Kinzie says, insulting. For Fukuyama to believe that liberalism is the end, shows a great lack of faith in the human mind. In addition, it makes an extremely wrong assumption that one ideology can work for everyone.

Fukuyama’s faith in liberalism is understandable, as it has provided a better standard of living. However, that is what evolution is all about, changing to adapt. Liberalism may be best for right now, but there is no way to predict what will work in the future. Overall, Fukuyama’s work serves as an advocate of liberalism, weakened by his borderline insane assumptions.

Kenichiro Nakahara

First of all, it was very interesting to find how different discussion groups had different opinions on Francis Fukuyama and his “End of History” argument. From what I read on the postings, it seemed that my fellow discussion group members in Chaubey’s section seemed to think that Fukuyama was nuts and some were even offended by his argument. On the other hand, people from Durham section seemed to be overall neutral and there were much more students who either sided with Fukuyama or defended the flaws in his arguments. (Although this may simply be a coincidence… or is it??)

Being a member of Varanya’s discussion group, it seems that it is inevitable for me to disagree with Fukuyama and his idea that the advancement of mankind and its history ended with the conclusion of the Cold War in 1989. Fukuyama’s main argument is that the end of the Cold War was the “end of history” and that from now on, Western liberal democracy is going to be the final form of government.

Hegel would be the first to listen to this argument and oppose to it since along with Hegel, many people (including myself) believe that history is an ongoing dialectical progress and there is no way that we have reached the end of history. Secondly, in order for history to come to an end, it must mean that all factors such as economics, ideology, and technology must come to an end as well. When we look at society today, this is absolutely not the case and as a matter of fact, technology; which I believe is a byproduct of the advancement of ideology; and as long as new ideologies are flowing, new technology keeps coming and this will have significant effects on the history of mankind.

Fukuyama feels that Western Liberalism is the end of history and he feels that liberalism is the best thing for mankind. Kinzie opposes against this idea and I do as well for similar reasons. The advancement of government since WW1 has generally moved from Communism, Fascism, to Liberalism and Democracy and Fukuyama feels that we are done. It is quite understandable that he felt this way experiencing the defeat of Communism and the almost “heroic” emergence of Liberalism and this drastic change may have confused him that Liberalism was going to stay for good. However, as seen in the example of 9/11 and the aftermath of it, it is almost proof that liberalism has its flaws and that it is not applicable to every governmental system in the world.

In my mind, nothing is perfect and as long as there is something that is not perfect, mankind will explore for something that is. This advancement is ideology is something that Fukuyama overlooked and maybe he got a little too excited with the emergence of Liberalism during his time. Advancement in ideology is occurring on a daily basis and as an example of this could be this PEIS webposting archive we have. Until the day that all the students in this class have the same exact ideas, same exact opinions, I feel we can be assured that ideology is advancing and history is along with it as well.

William Chen

I strongly agree with the previous posts that Fukuyama's argument does not take into consideration the fact that ideas are constantly changing. I see that liberal democracy maintains its power and influence through its battles against other ideologies in smaller countries. Like others have mentioned, wars against However, I don't agree with Fukuyama that people won't speak up to challenge liberal democracy just because it is dominating right now. One cannot predict the future that way. For instance, Fukuyama did not know that communism was going to be a major enemy against liberal democracy. Furthermore, I think that Fukuyama underestimates the power of smaller countries with different ideologies. Countries may be small, but their political movements can be very influential under the right circumstances and careful execution. Therefore, because ideas are always changing and people are constantly striving for improvements, I don't agree with Fukuyama that liberal democracy is the end of it all. Liberal democracy may be the best we have now, but there are still many problems that may be solved given the right amount of time.

Christiaan Strong

Is Fukuyama insane? I contend that he is not. After reading many of the above posted responses to his work I find that many believe him to be completely wrong and overbearing. There are those who responded and gave him the benefit of the doubt mostly because they viewed the situation the world was in when he wrote this piece. Fukuyama’s life and subsequent work in philosophy and political economy up to the point of this piece, written in 1989, had witnessed a long drawn out Cold War now coming to an end. He had witnessed the inadequacy of the USSR and tragic failure as a result. Now the emergence of liberalism as a superior political ideology was being realized outside of the US and Western Europe.
Those former Soviet Republics whose citizens knew only of communism and were restricted from reading and learning about any political ideologies other than those practiced by the USSR were introduced to what Fukuyama finds to be the most effective political ideology in the world, that of liberal democracy. Allow me to pretentious and believe for a moment that we all agree with Fukuyama that liberal democracy is in fact the best for of government. As Churchill put it, "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried." I believe what many of us are overlooking is the end of history as Fukuyama defines it; that is, the end of the history of emerging political ideologies. I find the crux of his argument to be founded upon his belief that the world will accept and appreciate the superiority of political and economic liberalism. Fukuyama’s definition of the end of history in this text is, as he finds it, “…the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”
While his piece is jumbled and in need of editing, I find that if we edit for ourselves and focus in on Fukuyama’s underlying dictum concerning the end of political ideological history then we do in fact find reasons to agree with and support his argument. I don’t find him to be insane. I find his writing to be a bit confusing and misleading at times, but I actually enjoy and appreciate his proposals, and wish that they were more focused.

Lisa Xu

Fukuyama is not insane, but one of the problems with his "end of history" thesis is that he takes a particularly long run view of history--and as Keynes said, but with regard to certain macroeconomic models, in the long run, we're all dead. In the meantime, Fukuyama glosses over the nationalist "jihadist" movements which Barber highlights in the article "Jihad vs. McWorld" as being insignificant in the grander battle of ideas between democratic liberalism and its main alternatives, communism and fascism. I think there's an inherent contradiction, however, in this position, and his statement that "at the end of history it is not necessary that all societies become successful liberal societies." If, as in Russia, they aren't successful, couldn''t that create the conditions for a new ideology to arise? Fukuyama contends that no other ideas will be as viable as liberalism in the long run, but the failure of liberalism *in practice* in these societies in the short run challenges that long term viability.

But I think Fukuyama makes an important contribution to the debate about the direction of history following the collapse of the Soviet Union. As many other posters have pointed out, Fukuyama is an idealist, not a realist, and his refutation of strictly realist, materialist interpretations of the Cold War is compelling. He makes a good case for the primacy of ideas in international relations, particularly in citing the ways in which expansion and territorial aggression have been legitimized and de-legitimized in Europe in the last century and a half. The main problem with his argument, as I stated above, is not necessarily that his idealism is wrong, although it is exaggerated, but that he discounts the importance of competing ideas.

Similarly, he might have a little too much faith in so-called liberal institutions themselves. As Barber points out, the spread of markets does not necessarily lead to democratization, and as Zakaria points out, the spread of democratization does not necessarily lead to a liberal society. This failure of markets and democracy to deliver what they have been expected to deliver, in the unsuccessful liberal societies which Fukuyama more or less dismisses, is an important phenomenon. The poverty and disaffection this creates are in fact the materialist causes behind the rise of alternatives like leftist authoritarianism in Latin America and Islamic fundamentalism elsewhere. Ideas may carry the day, but they have to be successful ideas, and it is not clear that liberalism has been successful everywhere.

Thomas

I believe Fukuyama presents a powerful argument that the neoliberal “ideology” has trumped over its two major opponents, Fascism and Communism, in the last century. I believe that he’s correct, but only in a “market” sense. The inefficiencies that the last generation of Soviets identified with central planning is inherent in central planning and Fascism simply isn’t effective when the global economy presents such an opportunity for those who enter the market.

Where Fukuyama goes awry, I believe, is his notion that somehow democracy is inherently intertwined with market logic, so this “neoliberal” ideological victory will mean inevitable advancement towards an ideal-type society with free markets and free speech.

Most interesting to me is his analysis of the Chinese system. Note:

“There are currently over 20,000 Chinese students studying in the U.S. and other Western countries, almost all of them the children of the Chinese elite. It is hard to believe that when they return home to run the country they will be content for China to be the only country in Asia unaffected by the larger democratizing trend. The student demonstrations in Beijing that broke out first in December 1986 and recurred recently on the occasion of Hu Yao-bang's death were only the beginning of what will inevitably be mounting pressure for change in the political system as well.”

If China has economic development faster and more pervasive than any other development in the history of humankind, isn’t there a chance that the students of the elite will feel that free speech is unnecessary for the Chinese masses? Wouldn’t these students see the illiterate Chinese poor and think to themselves – why give these people a vote?

Fukuyama’s intellectual heritage is undoubtedly American and neoliberal (Cornell, Harvard), so he’s inclined to powerfully associate free speech with market reforms.

Yet another of Fukuyama’s lapses:

“This is certainly not what happened to China after it began its reform process. Chinese competitiveness and expansionism on the world scene have virtually disappeared: Beijing no longer sponsors Maoist insurgencies or tries to cultivate influence in distant African countries as it did in the 1960s.”

http://www.worldpress.org/Africa/2554.cfm

Where American aid to Africa fails because of a cultural disconnect, it’s possible the promise of the Chinese “system” can woo the African governments into accepting the Chinese as their savior. Those African governments want precisely what it seems the Chinese are able to do: perestroika without glasnost and democracy.

Of course, China doesn’t sponsor Maoist insurgencies any longer, but perhaps a look at China’s Taiwan and Tibet policies is in order. The market may give China an incentive not to sponsor terrorism, but it’s still possible for the Dragon to assert its non-democratic, but market-oriented ethos.

If you accept the argument that the Chinese “system” is inherently different than the neoliberal ideal Fukuyama explores, then the battle of ideologies and history itself are nowhere near their end.

John Keh

In the article, “The End of History”, Francis Fukuyama proposes that history has come to an end. He feels that the end of the cold war implies the end of a vital struggle between two opposing trains of thought. I get the sense as if he feels the balance has been lost, the balance that is created when two forces are pitted against each other. He felt that the balance held by these two opposing forces is what incited creativity, innovation, and culture. With the end of this struggle, modern neoliberalism would take over. It would blanket the world with its thoughts. He sees this lack of diverse ideologies dominating powerful countries will create a bland one sided international political environment. In the long run a single mind set that has been born of the modern neoliberalism will take control. Creativity and culture will have been lost forever.

Frankly, I think Francis Fukuyama is crazy. His ideology may bring light to the fact that we should be cautious of falling into this single-minded trap, but I agree with Kinzie Kramer’s earlier post in saying that the fatal flaw is that Fukuyama has “no faith in human’s creativity and passion”. In fact this single minded, non-creative train of thought developing in this post-Cold War age might insight creative thought by itself. People, as Fukuyama says, that feel “nostalgic” for the past may be moved to be creative and passionate. They will incite new ideologies and unfold the future of human history. In my eyes the true end of human history will never be achieved until every single human is dead. Each and every person, when put into the right situation has the ability to contribute to human history.

Chun Chung Chan

Francis Fukuyama sees the end of history, however, I see just a convergence phase of the history. Market economy and capitalism have been emerging in the post war period, and the general assessment is that the countries follow the market economy turn out to be prosperous, on the other hand, countries which are die-hard to its non-capitalistic ideology suffer. In addition, “what is important from a Hegelian standpoint is that political liberalism has been following economic liberalism, more slowly than many had hoped but with seeming inevitability.” Fukuyama denotes the end of history as Capitalism is just like an irresistible trend that is going to dominate the whole world in just politics worth nothing more, but only economic activities. I cannot disagree with the examples, like China, Russia, that he gives but I think he is missing the rest of the globe. Sub-Sahara African countries are still a mess now, the Latin American countries do not experience a fruitful result of the market economy. How about the poor middle-east countries? Although most of the MDCs are on the Highway of Capitalism, Fukuyama just disgraces the very existence of the non-Capitalistic countries. I believe the more useful discussion will be how to implement or advance Capitalism in the poorer countries, if Fukuyama is so convinced that Capitalism is really the ultimate form of Human social evolution. Nevertheless, I did not agree with him there will be the end of history. He is right about the convergence of the Capitalism throughout the world, but what the next phase will be?

Nick Nejad

Napoleon once said a statement I particularly like- “the stupid speak of the past, the wise of the present, fools of the future.” So just on that basis, I would have to call Fukuyama an idiot because he is trying to predict something way too far ahead of his time. Not only that, he isn’t pointing out any problems, he is merely making a prediction. And I’d say this prediction would not make me do anything different now that I know it regardless of my opinion about it, so it really doesn’t accomplish anything.

But since you probably want more, I will make a few comments about his work. One, he recognizes the problem of class struggle, yet he never really solves it in his work. He discusses how two other systems, fascism and communism, failed to solve this class problem, but he doesn’t ever mention how class struggle itself will be solved. An important question to ask is whether demand for wealth will plateau or not. Will people be satisfied once they have a secure source of food and shelter and basic necessities, or will they constantly strive for more material goods. Two hundred years from now, will we all still want more wealth in order to get a hover vehicle that can travel the country in 2 hours, or will we be satisfied with what we have? If our desire for material wealth is endless, then this class struggle will continue to exist and there is the potential for a better ideology.

If I had to give one reason why the world will not universalize and live peacefully, it would be power. History has had no shortage of people who want more power, and they will cling to it by any means. Even today, the war in Iraq shows two things. One is the need for the U.S. to expand and exert its power, and two, the clinging by Sunnis to the power they once had in Iraq. And to use another Napoleon quote, “the art of government is not to let men grow stale.” The best way to keep your power is to keep the population busy, lest they should turn their focus on what exactly the government is doing. I think this argument is spelled out in “The Prince” by Machiavelli. And to keep them busy that involves conflict, emotions, struggle, not rationality and peace. So Fukuyama’s prediction goes in direct contradiction with what the people in power would want, and it has been my experience that the people in power usually get their way.

Brenda Castillo

I don’t know if the word ‘insane’ would describe Francis, maybe ‘ridiculous.’ I do think that Francis is not correct in thinking that democratic liberalism will bring an end to history. He mentions in his essay how Kojeve believed in Hegel’s argument that the defeat of Napoleon brought defeat to the Prussian monarch at the Battle of Jena which was “the victory of the ideals of the French Revolution, and the imminent universalization of the state incorporating the principles of liberty and equality” which ultimately led to the end of history in 1806, Hegel thought. But the upcoming events of the world wars and the new ideologies for which they were fighting, communism and fascism, proved that history was indeed not over, as Fukuyama mentions. Therefore, what makes Fukuyama believe that history is now over if Hegel was wrong earlier? History will never be over, to me history is the story of past events and past events will always exist as long as human kind exists. I think that Fukuyama is right to a certain extent that history will be more rooted for some years to come in “the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands” but that does not mean history is over. Fukuyama believes that history is only defined by philosophical and political ideologies and by not having past events being focused on such ideologies history loses its romanticism which signifies the end of history overall? I don’t think so. I agree with Jessica and Kenzie, Fukuyama does lose hope that the human mind is very complex and that society is capable of creating different ideologies in the future, maybe not as romantic as Fukuyama may want but that is because times change. I also think that Cindy makes a strong point when she states that Fukuyama believes that democratic liberalism will be the only democratic institution in history however history has proven that democracy cannot overcome all challenges and become perpetual by what we saw in the case of Ancient Greece. Therefore, Fukuyama cannot presume that democratic liberalism will be the absolute ideology for the rest of time. Ideologies will rise in the future and history will continue.

As a side note, one thing that I did find interesting is how Fukuyama is one of the first writers that talks about how it should be taken into consideration the cultural and religious background of the people around the world when it comes to making economic decisions on the economic state of their country. Some people are indeed content with the way of their economic life that has been present for many years because their way of life is rooted on more complex factors such as culture and religion. Fukuyama makes reference how “far Eastern societies, the ethic of work and saving and family, a religious heritage that does not, like Islam, place restrictions on certain forms of economic behavior, and other deeply ingrained moral qualities, are equally important in explaining their economic performance.” I find this very crucial when it comes to political decisions (especially in our government today) to ‘westernize’ underdeveloped and even developed countries in order to prevent upheavals and wars, which is too late now that we are in the Iraq War. Also, it is too bad that Fukuyama does not listen to his own words and realize that people’s environment makes their ideologies and over time people’s environment will change and so will their ideologies which will continue history as Fukuyama defines history to be (based on the creation of ideologies and their development).

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