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November 08, 2007


Yelena Bakman

Francis Fukuyama makes a weak argument. Most of it based on the illegitimacy of other ideologies. He writes, “But the century that began full of self-confidence in the ultimate triumph of Western liberal democracy seems at its close to be returning full circle to where it started: not to an ‘end of ideology’ or a convergence between capitalism and socialism, as earlier predicted, but to an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism”. That is where he opens. If this statement were true, we could have a lot more ownership of other nations present. That is where the West stood as a whole in the beginning of the twentieth century: at imperialism. And this is not an ideology of “economic and political liberalism’; in fact, one may argue it is one of the most conservative in the sense that one protects its own markets and resources by making them closed economies to the rest of the world. Another point against this statement is the fact that in many ways we have converged to a blending of social and capitalistic politics. I would argue that best example of this is Germany. Their social programs are very strong and health care is taken care of by the government. No one would claim that Germans are not capitalistic; they produce and sell goods and services on the open market.

I think that both political and economic liberalism are both getting a run for their money. Consider a current big player: religion. Religion plays a role most obviously via the Islamic ruled states that control oil and, thus, by extension, the world economy. These states are clearly not liberal in any way one may look at them. Economically, they prosper on their control over oil. And this control is clearly centrally based. Many of these countries citizens are not nearly as prosperous as the ones in control.

Lastly, I think it would be closed minded to consider that we can ever reach an “end of history.” I think that there is always room for progress and ways to develop systems that account not only for the biggest and most powerful countries and people but also for the ones that under the current way of organization are not faring as well. For example, coffee exporters in West Africa do not experience the benefits of this economics liberalism that supposedly is the end of economic thought; they would much prefer that there was a way to raise the prices that they can charge on their coffee. With more time and an ability to grow from our experiences, I think we as a world can find an ideology that suits us as a world, not just as a hemisphere.

Glory Liu

I agree with Yalena’s comment that the “end of history” is extremely narrow-minded, almost suggesting that there is no more room for progress, no other alternatives to neoliberalism. The world today disproves this idea, but more on that later.

Fukuyama’s argument that modern neoliberalism is the “end of history” is no new story. We’ve heard it in different contexts, whether from Milton Friedman’s point of view, or even from a slightly different point of view such as James Scott who believes that the people and market interest will solve most problems rather than the State. However, what Fukuyma controversially brings up is his argument that there is no better alternative than neoliberalism for all nations and as a consequence, large-scale international wars will no longer be likely, which I find to be the most astonishing part of his argument, especially in the 21st century.

This hearkens back to Joseph Schumpeter who believed that imperialism would eventually die out because people would pursue peaceful capitalist interests instead. Fukuyama qualifies his argument that this does not mean war is no longer possible, but rather wars will most likely be internecine conflicts over ethnic or nationalist rivalries; however, I feel that international “cold wars” are more likely than ever. The United States and other Western Liberal dominating powers at some point in the 20th century adopted Fukuyama’s belief in western neoliberalism being the end-all, be-all—that is, that the rapid increase of material wealth based on scientific and technological developments fuels a society’s well-being and power in the world. This is also portrayed today as the “World is Flat” argument by people such as Tom Friedman, who believes that technology is the key to “leveling the playing field” for sitting and rising superpowers.

I have to disagree with Fukuyama’s point, however. It seems that this persistent faith in the teleology of history, ending with neoliberalism, would polarize the world even more: those who believe in the “end of history,” and those who do not. China has proven Fukuyama’s point wrong: they have achieved unprecedented growth and even the technological advancement without the neoliberal society Fukuyama expects. And while there is no outright war between China and the United States, we can’t ignore the underlying paranoia that exists. One could also argue that the “War on Terrorism” (whether in Iraq or Afghanistan or whatever one chooses to believe about the so-called “war”) is a result of multiple retaliations between the “terrorists” and the “western materialists/imperialists/capitalists.”


I concur with Glory largely for her use of clear examples debunking Fukuyama’s points. China is not a westernized capitalist nation, although it may expand on a capitalist ideology in order to compete and grow in a largely capitalist world, it does not maintain a neoliberalism government but rather a dual tract socialist-capitalist regime. While China’s government is far from perfect and it has the appearance of morphing into a more westernized nation with the explosive rise of its middle class.

Yelena’s argument is also very sound, stating the qualms with Fukuyama’s argument as it largely is only based on pointing out obvious flaws and benefits appropriate to his ‘ending of history’ adoption of neoliberalism.

My own argument against Fukuyama is that it is nearly impossible to decipher the future from the past. His example of Russia’s failures as a socialist state and later expanse and small growth period post democratic acceptance is flawed. Russia is and incredibly difficult state to run for its sheer expanse, extensive population numbers, and wide spread cultural identities. Following a severe collapse of the tsarist regime, it was logical that a radical left group took the reigns and held it as it boomed during and throughout the early half of the 20th century. As western influence began to strain on the nation, and internal struggle fueled the flames of an already beleaguered country racked by problems stated prior, Russia was doomed to fail. Peristroika and Glasnost were strong on paper but failed to take into account the full extent of the problems facing Russia at hand. Poverty, corruption, and a lack of infrastructure for growth coupled by poor leadership.

If Fukuyama is to argue that only because socialist nations fell like dominos with the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the toppling of centralized fascist governments as the hands of the middle and working classes harboring neoliberalism views, he is wrong. Class struggle will always continue and as people fight for their born rights conflicts will ensue. This can ultimately hurt capitalism as a whole, as the greater expanse of capitalism comes at the expense of the proletariat as Marx and Hegel spoke of.

Roushani Mansoor

I think Francis Fukuyama brings up an interesting point, the idea that there have not been any recent great advances in ideological thought. He believes that we are close to “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution” where the universalization of Western liberal democracy will be the final form of human government.” Fukuyama believes this because there has been a “total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism”. Regarding the overall claim, I would have to disagree with the previous comments claiming his argument is weak; it is not weak in the sense of being an irrelevant issue without plausible evidence. Fukuyama writes on an extremely interesting and valid point and, in isolation, his historical examples make perfect sense.
However, Fukuyama’s logic has inherent faults. For instance, most of the nations he considers politically and economically liberal have not always been so. Who is to say that a liberal government is the end of history? It could quite possibly be the middle of history or even the beginning. While we have seen other types of governments fail, no authentic liberal government has utterly collapsed, but there is always the possibility of that occurring in the future.
Additionally, Fukuyama continually classification of liberalism as Western in nature causes problems for non-Western nations. If Western liberal democracy is the end of history, then it is what all nations should aspire to achieve. Nonetheless, almost all non-Western nations are already opposed to most Western influences, thus will never reach “the end of history” creating a huge division in ideological teachings and beliefs and yet, Fukuyama offers nothing to remedy this situation.
Fukuyama uses Asia as his main battleground for liberalism. He briefly traces out their histories highlighting how many nations failed in alternative forms of government and are now moving towards economic and, albeit more slowly, political liberalism. He then ties his entire argument together by stating, “The central issue is the fact that the People’s Republic of China can no longer act as a beacon for illiberal forces around the world.” While this is true, China is nowhere near to being an economically, much less, a politically liberal. However, Fukuyama does not recognize or credit the forces at work that helped China and other Asian countries transition to states that are more liberal. He just assumes that Western liberal democracy is the end-to-end all, much like Marx believed for Communism’s destiny.
Although I do not agree with how he makes his argument, I agree with Fukuyama’s concern over the end of ideological development. His fatal flaw is using circular logic- he argues that simply because they are no alternatives, liberalism must be the developmental crowning achievement. I guess time will only tell.

Edward Taylor

Is Francis Fukuyama insane? Absolutely not. While I do not agree with his core argument regarding a global convergence to modern neoliberalism, I do think he presents an interesting and strong argument as Roushani stated in the past post. So why do I believe Fukuyama is wrong and that we are far from the endpoint of man’s ideological development? My answer, which was quickly touched on by Yelena, is this idea of convergence. If we look at the world today do we really see convergence to Western liberalism? I would argue no. For example, if we compare liberal market economies (LME’s) to command controlled economies (CMEs) do we see convergence between the two? In my opinion we do not. While there is clearly movement on the ideological spectrum in which these systems sit, it is hard to say that there is a convergence going on between systems. Yelena brought up the very good example of Germany, which has managed to blend social and capitalistic politics to develop their unique economy and political composition. Japan is also an example of this. For instance, in Japan there is no external labor market as there is in the United States. Employees do not jump from job to job on the open market searching for the highest rate of return for their particular skill set. In fact many workers stay with a company their entire working careers thanks to lifetime employment practices. This practice is deeply embedded in their society, and a convergence to a liberal market economy is highly unlikely. Moreover, as globalization continues, I feel there could in fact be a divergence from the Western liberal ideology. Why? Developing countries will cling tight to systems they are comfortable with, and will not simply and freely change to economic and political liberalism. This is probably a good thing. If you keep current with the WTO and the dysfunctional nature of it you will see why. It would be a complete disaster for developing countries to simply open up their markets and try to compete on the global market while very underdeveloped. These countries must practice protectionism, which is very anti-economic liberalism. We all must remember that the United States, a forefather of Westen liberalism, was once a small underdeveloped country with many tariff and non-tariff barriers in place to protect infant industries. Therefore I truly believe that modern neoliberalism is not the endpoint of man’s ideological development. Simply because it is the system we believe to be the best current option does not mean that better alternatives will sprout in the future.

Joyce Yawa Amoah

I agree with the previous commentators that Fukuyama presents a narrow scope of argument almost sounding hegemonic. Just like the young Hegelians Fukuyama narrowly frames history as the conflict of ideas. No I should rather say a battle of ideas. So far as Fukuyama is concerned ‘Western liberalism’ worn the “war of ideas” when the “Cold War” ended. End of story, from now on its Western liberalism for the entire world. You either join the bandwagon or you get run over. Who cares “what strange thoughts occur to people in Albania or Burkina Faso…we are interested in …the common ideological heritage of mankind.” Homogenization! The Albanians and the Burkinabe’s certainly fall outside this realm of the common ideological heritage of mankind.
How disappointing. Maybe I can excuse Fukuyama for being so hegemonic and eager to homogenize the world under the umbrella of Western – liberalism simply because he was writing in 1989. Probably he might have adopted a different attitude had he been writing today, because he would have realized that globalization has changed how the rest of the rest of the world views and reacts to Americanization. Sorry Fukuyama America is no longer the node, because wherever homogenization occurs people at the same time build resistance to preserve their way of life. Sorry Fukuyama, its 2000 and we are living in Jihad vs. McWorld, Oops! Here comes Huntington.

Kent Yamane

I too agree with Yelena, believing that neoliberalism will bring about the “end of history” is a blind way to look at the future. He believes that “The state that emerges at the end of history is liberal insofar as it recognizes and protects through a system of law man's universal right to freedom, and democratic insofar as it exists only with the consent of the governed.” I believe that this may be the dominant belief throughout the world governments but at the same time why limit yourself to this ideal. But at the same time I do not believe that Fukuyama is totally destroying the notion of progress, but he is proposing progress within the confines of liberalism. One can progress and better society within one single ideology. I think there will always be other ideologies, maybe not to the extent of communism and fascism, but people always have ideas and Fukuyama to some extent is denying the individual to express political change.
Fukuyama also proposes that this “end of history” will prevent large scale ideological wars in the future. War is still likely and will happen but they will be for reasons of nationalism, and racial beliefs and to a much smaller scale than ideological wars. He shows how liberalism is so desirable to all the countries that communism and fascism have no choice but to die. I do not see this “end of history” happening any time soon. I think that eventually we will move in this direction because of the way that the economy is run, we will be trading internationally as individuals in markets. Fukuyama shows examples of liberalism taking over, and I think that many people can see the benefits of liberalism, but for it to be the “end of history” is something that I do not know is a reasonable theory.

Helen Louie

Although many of my fellow classmates have argued that Fukuyama is insane because of his argument, I would have to disagree. I agree with Joyce, because applying Fukuyama’s argument to the world today would deem him as insane; however, it was 1989 when “The End of History” was published. If we take the events of the period during 1989 into consideration, his argument would make a lot of sense. The world was divided because of the Cold War between the West and the Communist states, especially between the super powers of Russia and the United States. The victor of the Cold War would have their ideologies spread throughout the world was split into two and the world would either go with Communism or Liberalism. In addition, any opposition by the defeated would have been suppressed by the victors. Moreover, it would be extremely difficult for new ideologies to develop as a result of the strong sentiments of the victors. Therefore, there would be an “end of history” because of the extreme difficulty of advancements in ideological thought.

However, if we take Fukuyama’s argument and apply it to present day, he would be called insane. The world did not meet his expectations and predictions. I agree with Glory and her examples against Fukuyama. I also agree with Roushani’s example of the PRC and how it did not meet Fukuyama’s expectations. In addition, I agree with Kent because large ideological wars will always occur because of human nature and, as Yelena has stated, because of religion. Like many of my classmates, I do believe that Fukuyama did have a very narrow view of the world because he did not take into consideration many other aspects. But I suppose it was hard to because of the world at 1989.

Stephen Yang

The end of history? Hardly. I agree with what Roushani says about how most nations are opposed to certain Western influences, and that many nations in fact will not converge to modern neoliberalism, as Edward elaborated on, but that they would rather cling to whatever is already rooted and ingrained into their society. Though it is true that Western liberal democracy has its appeal, and although the rest of the world, in this modern era of globalization, is becoming more open and adapting certain Western ideas and institutions, it does not mean that neoliberalism will always be the end product, nor will it always be the means, as in China’s case, as Glory points out.

It’s not really Fukuyama’s fault that he assumes history is at an end. I think his error is in assuming that basically there can never be a better ideology than this modern neoliberalism. However, how can anyone say that neoliberalism can’t evolve into something even more ideal? John’s right: you can’t fully decipher the future from the past. It is entirely in the realm of possibility that a non-Western country can find a better political or economic ideology than the current democracy that we tend to favor so much. And who knows, we might end up liking that one better.

However, Fukuyama does not just write a bunch of nonsense, either. Fukuyama makes a good argument…just not about how history is at its end. Had this piece been titled, “How neoliberalism defeats fascism/Marxism-Leninism” or something along those lines, I’m sure we would not be questioning Fukuyama’s sanity.

Nicholas DeGroot

Fukuyama is on to something with his description of a universal consumer culture forming the foundation of homogenous market states. It does feel like that sometimes. On most everything else, yes, the man is close to bonkers. Case in point (and I’ll paraphrase): Fukuyama says America is a classless society. He even points out the growing gap between the rich and poor, especially for black people. Fukuyama dismisses the increase of domestic poverty as a consequence of history having nothing to do the present society, which he says “remains fundamentally egalitarian and moderately redistributionist.” But then, Fukuyama wrote this piece 16 years before Hurricane Katrina.

I disagree with Glory Liu’s reading of James Scott. Scott is critical of government intervention but is by no means a supporter of totally privatized, unregulated, corporate driven, liberal consumer society, as Fukuyama would have the world adopt. Scott called for more careful and precautionary planning that consults the people it impacts most, rather than relying on blind faith is a superior ideology. Fukuyama’s claim in “The End of History” is treading on what Scott calls high modernism. The liberal political economy the Fukuyama envisions meets the four tests that Scott describes.

1) Administration of Commodities: Governments and Corporations work to record the balance of trade, production and consumption. The planning of Fukuyama’s global free economy is more diffuse on this point, but read on.
2) Stubborn and unwavering reliance on a narrowly defined ideology: Check.
3) Backed by an Authoritarian Regime: Fukuyama says that the grievances of smaller states can not be considered in the evaluation of liberal democracy. Sounds like hegemony to me.
4) Defenseless population: On this point Fukuyama gives some attention to potential threats to liberalism. Islamic theocracy, violent ethnic nationalists, and social nationalists are but little threats to the liberal legacy. Still, where the population is not already universally consumerized, Fukuyama claims there is little else for “newly industrializing countries” to do.

I must add that James Fallows would totally disagree with Fukuyama’s assessment of the rise of Japan and South East Asia. But, Glory is right to say that Fukuyama is not totally alone. He has in his camp Friedman, Schumpeter and his son Angell, the boy who couldn’t quite get it right.

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