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November 08, 2007

Comments

Ellen Dobie

1. In many of his arguments, Fukayama seems to assert that the presence of strong consumer markets in countries around the world proves the power of Western thought. The "ineluctable spread of consumerist Western culture" does not signify "the end point of mankind's ideological evolution" and the "universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government." The mere presence of markets does not prove the superiority of Western culture. It only proves its dominance and lechery. If developing countries' cheap peasant markets that are overrun with feaux-Nike tennis shoes is the end-all be-all, then something is wrong.

2. Fukayama’s argument troublingly toys with linearity. His view that human society has progressed through stages ("tribal, slave-owning, theocratic and finally democratic-egalitarian societies") promotes a dangerous linearity. This linearity argument misses the nuances of political economy. By asserting that history culminates in an absolute moment of a final, rational form of society and state becoming victorious makes a number of assumptions that are not in line with political economic thought. First, it does not allow for different countries to follow different development paths--indeed, is this not the point that Professor DeLong has been trying to teach us throughout this entire course? There is not one model that works for everyone--in fact, there is not one model that works seamlessly for one country. Linearity promotes the idea of “we are here and they are back there,” which is the same ideology that allows for the creation of detrimental policies such as the Western consensus, neoliberalism (in general) and structural adjustment policies. By assuming that one "True" state and economy exists, Fukayama imposes a universalistic paradigm upon all of history that does not allow for flexibility or diversity to exist.

3. Fukayama dangerously resorts to the classic binaries of political economy. Just as Kristen mentioned in her email to the class last week, political economists constantly end up arguing in terms of binaries ("liberalism vs. conservatism," "socialism vs. capitalism" etc.) which leaves no room for a gray area. For example, by only framing his argument through ideologies as failing or succeeding, Fukayama misses the point all together. He does not account for political, economic and social complexities (which I would argue are more important than the strength of any particular ideology.) For example, I would argue that the victory of capitalism over socialism in the 1950s had not only to do with the strength of capitalist ideology over socialist ideology but also the political and economic power that lay behind the two camps. The US led a swift global campaign to fight communism, using its imperialist reach (through force, through economic treaties, through political bribing) to influence certain countries onto the capitalist side. It was not a pure success vs. fail of ideologies as Fukayama so argues. Additionally, I find his "egalitarianism of modern America" argument to be strikingly wrong. He does not see current social/economic/political inequalities as an inherently structural problem, but instead as an inconvenient after-effect of historical processes (such as slavery and racism.) Why do historical processes occur if not as results of structural inequities? A quick overview of society seems to suggest that the majority of social inequalities branch from "underlying legal and social structure of our society": Jim Crow Era policies, structural racism in urban design, education policies, access to public utilities, etc. Fukayama seems to miss the point completely.

So, is he insane? Definitely not. I find Fukayama's arguments very reminiscent of many other authors and public figures we frequently encounter who resort to universal and linear truths to make social reality all the more palatable. But their arguments lack complexity, and their over-reliance on universal truths toe the line between radicalism and intolerance. Especially in America's current political climate, we should be aware of the dangers of creating binary arguments (security vs. terrorism, good vs. bad, Western culture vs. Islam.) Most troubling of Fukayama's arguments is his reliance on ideology over structural analysis, because in doing so he does not account for a healthy amount of complexity that is inherent in the study of political economy.

Megan Roberto

Is it "The End of History?" and human development. Are we so limited in our ability to create original thought and solutions to our political structures that our time is indeed up philosophically? According to Fukuyama and his predecessors Hegel and Kojève, our ability to create solutions has run out and our only hope is that the "prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again." Fukuyama is not crazy or idiotic, he is just unable to thoroughly convince me that the liberal political economic system as he describes it, is the apex of our history.

As Ellen mentions in her article, Fukuyama employs binary analysis. As already mentioned before, binary and linear arguments simplify the complexities of history and the political economic system. One example of this is when attributes all success, such as that of Japan, to "following in the footsteps of the United States [or any liberal model] to create a truly universal consumer culture that has become both a symbol and an underpinning of the universal homogeneous state." His message is clear, all one has to do is join the good side of liberal economies, democracies and materialism for one to be successful. He glosses over the economic and political syncretism and adaptation that Japan and other supposedly liberalized economies (China) have performed to effectively enter the liberal market.

He also glosses over the failures of the liberal economies especially with regards to providing equality to its citizens. Interestingly, he says that history's incongruities stem from human rationalization based in ideology, even though his argument's incongruities stem from his rationalization based in liberal ideology. The best example is when he tries to rationalize the poverty problem that faces a large portion of the black population in the United States using a Utopian view of liberal societies. According to Fukuyama, the United States is a "fundamentally egalitarian and moderately redistributionist" and the problem the black population faces is due to "rather the "legacy of slavery and racism" which persisted long after the formal abolition of slavery." Rationalizing the poverty of a group by relying on the legacy of ideologies such as slavery and racism rather than the faults within the liberal economic system, Fukuyama falls into the trap he previously warns against.


I do not believe this to be the end of history. We are only just beginning. When Fukuyama wrote this piece I highly doubt that he could have predicted the transformations we are witnessing today. While some have mentioned China, other economic challenges are arising that are not purely liberal, politically or economically. If South America's Hugo Chaves and Evo Morales continue their fight to form a more solid (and fairly liberal) economic block with more socialist goals they could be the evolution of liberalism that Fukuyama never predicted.

Aditya Gandranata

In my opinion, Francis Fukuyama is not insane for saying that neoliberalism is the end of history because if we look at it, for now, neoliberalism is the best ideology for a country to have and we can see it through the prosperity of western countries such as United States, United Kingdom, and several other western countries. Everybody was talking about how China is different and how it has become one of the world superpowers even though they are operating under different ideologies than countries like US. We have to remember that one of the reasons why China prospers is because of countries from the west. Investors from the west go to China because of cheap labors and they create employment and put their money into the hands of people from China thus booming their economy. China gets the benefit from neoliberalism ideology even if it is in an indirect way.

I do not agree, however, that neoliberalism will be the end of history because it sounds too good to be true or too utopian. Robert Reich predicted that the income gap between the rich and the poor will grow wider and I think this will create a clash between the upper class and the lower class. Will the poor accept to be poor all the time? I do not think so and when this situation happens, people will think of some other ideology in order to bring equality back in the society (through either the creation of new ideologies or the modification of existing neoliberalism). Like some other people, I also think that neoliberalism is just a start and I always believe that everything can always get better.

Miranda Huey

As Ellen says, Fukuyama is not insane, but rather, has a commonly held yet flawed line of thought. The problem with Fukuyama is that he equates the success of a certain ideology under certain forces of history (and causing the failure of other immediately competing ideologies) as proof that it will win out in the long-run. In a sense, he gauges major world ideologies as if they were in a free-market competition themselves. Although this has a certain appeal, in that they have competed, both through force and by the numbers, this framing is misleading. Ideologies do not in and of themselves compete with each other, but rather, people who have accepted certain ideologies have sometimes attempted to spread them in the fear that other ideologies will threaten their way of life and the continued use of their own ideology. While most people would agree that there are numerous ideologies out there, Fukuyama only focuses on those which have directly attacked capitalism and democratic liberalism. As many have pointed out, their failure in no way means that capitalism will be able to sustain itself. against each other. Rather, it is not just the power of the ideology, but the conditions of the world at certain points in history, which have contributed to the success and power of democratic liberalism. As mentioned in class, it was really the industrialization of the Soviet Union which allowed them to manufacture the tanks to help the Allies win WWII.

Of course, Fukuyama's fundamental argument is: “But at the end of history it is not necessary that all societies become successful liberal societies, merely that they end their ideological pretensions of representing different and higher forms of human society.” Unless one believes that all liberal societies are perfect, it is impossible to think that there are no no ideologies capable of representing different and higher forms of human society, especially if he believes that democracy will continue to have the most power. However, the most liberal countries, he believes, which will ensure that no other will have the power to use the force to threaten this monopoly of being the dominant system. He backs this up by stating that the world will become dominated by economic concerns, since nations, in their self-interest, will not want to oppose others for fear of disrupting economic trade. Of course, as others have stated, this is extremely optimistic. Firstly, as many people have already mentioned, capitalism as it stands leaves a lot of people and countries out. Secondly, most wars before the last century or so have been economic and political, rather than purely ideological. Considering the limited resources that much of material-based capitalism is dependent upon (energy, natural resources, etc.), overpopulation, and other unpredictable events, there is a high probability that there will be wars over oil, water, and/or land.

Salman Ahmed

Francis Fukuyama discusses the idea that history will somehow now come to an “end” with all countries gravitating towards political and economic liberalism. As was mentioned by one of my colleagues, one has to take into account the fact that this essay was written right around the time that Soviet Union roots were beginning to crumble. The world political order of the time was a very clear cut dichotomy between Western liberal ideals and those of the Communist Eastern Block. Francis Fukuyama seeing through his eyes at the time could only predict that the fall of the Soviet Union and the opening up of the Chinese economy would lead to the death of all other ideals besides Western liberalism. It is unfortunate that he did not have the foresight to see the magnitude with which ideologies such as religion and culture would affect socio-economic conditions today.
One critique of his analysis is that it is very Western-centric, very deliberately looking over countries he deems as still being “in history”. For him, the endgame is that all countries will end progress to the point where they are in a state of political and economic liberalism and go no further. We have seen that in fact there is evolution even beyond these simple notions of liberalism into social welfare states which result from dissatisfaction with the outcomes of completely free economies. Also what Fukuyama does not mention is the impact on world resources resulting from all countries being in a neoliberal situation which would catalyze depletion and lead to conflicts in the very near future as Miranda as noted earlier. So in fact, we will not be sitting around thinking back nostalgically on the "exciting" days of conflict. We will very likely be in a state of conflict for survival and history will continue to be written.

Alex Zaman

As several of the previous posters have noted (starting with Ellen), Fukuyama is overly concerned with a linear view on everything that occurs in history, while ignoring many of the complexities associated with the development of political economy. It is this success vs. failure mentality that ultimately undermines his case that we are at the “end of history.” His logic is somewhat parochial since he ironically uses Marx and Hegel’s historicism as the backbone of his reasoning in stating that liberalism represents the concluding step in some sort of ideological progress. The fact that the last half-century has seen a forceful repression of socialist, communist, and fascist principles, coupled with an increased emphasis on economic interests by no means indicates that we are at the end of ideological development. He seems to ignore the fact that most of the countries that have come to embrace liberalism have had roots in their ideals going back centuries. And the fact that countries which once promoted alternative ideologies that are now defunct does not mean that they their entire population has accepted the virtues of capitalism. In this day and age, many countries have allowed capitalistic activity merely as a form of survival.

I don’t think Fukuyama, or the rest of us for that matter, is in any place to comment on a definitive end for political economy and philosophy. What history has shown is that ideologies, cultures, beliefs, institutions, philosophies, economics, and technology are evolving constantly, and nothing short of mass genocide or nuclear warfare is going to put a dent into society’s amorphous development. I still think the development of political economy occurs in cyclical waves, and that we are currently in an idle era where technology and terrorism are trumping all else. Having said all this, I enjoyed reading Fukuyama’s piece because it is bold enough to take a stab at where we are in the grand scheme of things. I think the last fifteen years (since he wrote this) have served to strengthen his argument in most respects, particularly as technology and globalization have given unprecedented credibility to economic interests and the interconnectedness of people across the globe. However, the implications of religion and terrorism are very important today, and could combine forces with nationalism (as he mentioned) in several countries to create a new source of ideological warfare that has the power to threaten the current iterations of liberalism. All in all, it is likely that Fukuyama’s claim can go unchallenged for awhile, due to this era’s technological revolution. But if the conditions are ripe for an ideological shift in the future, mass mobilization might be easier than it was in the past due to interconnected capabilities of technology and the media.

Zaheer Cassim

Sorry for the late reply.

Is Francis Fukuyama insane claiming that history has come to an end? I think not. As Fukuyama explained the days of the communism and fascism are over and the time for neo liberal economics is upon us. Yet, just like Ellen said, there is no one perfect model of capitalism that works for every country. I think the chapter of history is passed us, but we begin a new chapter with how each country finds its own form of capitalism to work with.

Glory said earlier that Fukuyama was wrong, because China follows capitalism but it doesn’t follow the neoliberal political policies that go with capitalism. Fukuyama said, “I want to avoid the materialistic determinism that says that liberal economics inevitably produces liberal politics”(Fukuyama 5). China is one these exceptions that Fukuyama is referring to, but I think the key with China is that ever since they have implemented capitalism, there has been a greater push for better human rights e.g. the legislative branch in China is stronger than before, since companies need assurance that the courts will enforce the law if they have to litigate and this has strengthened to some degree the power of the individual. Point in point, economic new liberalism is promoting neoliberal politics and that what Fukuyama was trying to say.

Miles

As I read some of the postings, my mind changes almost every posting. As I read him, I thought at first that he was a little out there. He said that, “those who believe that the future must inevitably be socialist tend to be very old, or very marginal to the real political discourse in their societies”, I was stunned. I can’t believe that he said that. Its foolish to believe that people who believe in socialism are old or not in touch. I personally think that socialism is a great concept. I believe that socialism has worked in many places and will continue to work. This idea that neoliberalism is the only solution is absolutely ridiculous. I actually believe that liberalism doesn’t work in some places, such as we are seeing in the Middle East. We are trying to impose our standard for government and it doesn’t work because of different religious beliefs and a different way of thinking.
I also disagree with his idea of all wars ending because of the world’s newfound epiphany. I think we are in a secret war with China, because they are catching us in every aspect, and we are trying to maintain our lead. He considers China a democracy, but I see in no way that China is a liberal democracy. People in China are not free and have no say in the decisions that are made.
I do find relevance in Edward’s argument in the fact of markets converging. Like him, I believe that the world is shrinking, and our democracy is starting to spread, even without our threat of war. Money drives the world, and people will always implement a consistent, reliable, fair government if it leads to more money in their pocket.
Unrelated, he was a very interesting read. He brought in many different thinkers to help promote his ideas, which if I can say were out there and all over the place. He said something about black poverty not being associated with liberalism, but rather the “legacy of slavery and racism” which is still lingering from the abolition of slavery.

Carolina Merizalde

Written in 1989, Fukuyama’s account of the “End of the History” denounces that Hegel’s view of history as a series of ideological confrontations is coming to an end since the collapse of the Soviet Union has marked the failure of communism and socialism, the only opponents to liberalism at the time, declaring the absolute triumph of the liberal ideology. In his article, Fukuyama denotes that mankind has reached Hegel’s last stage of “democratic-egalitarian” consciousness and asserts that western liberalism, as THE ‘ideological heritage’ of our past, will now reign all over the world.
As mentioned in previous comments, I agree that Fukuyama underestimates the potential rise of nationalism and religious fundamentalism as powerful contenders of liberalism. He does not address the threat posed by national and religious movements in becoming a driving force in the political realm; in fact, he alleges that Islam is not appealing to non-Muslims. However, these movements have proven to have strengthened at an unprecedented pace during the last decades; Islam now counts with over 1.5 billion followers of the 6.6 billion people in the world.
Moreover, as presented by Jessica Stern, fundamentalist groups are increasingly gaining more power all throughout the globe, further facilitated by globalization. Contesting Fukuyama’s statement, Stern provides evidence which demonstrates that terrorist organizations, mostly cemented in religious fundamentalism, are attracting more and more non-Muslims members. They are followers of these organizations who adhere to this ideology and will, in turn, continue to spread it. In this manner, it becomes evident that religious fundamentalism can turn into a real challenge for the perpetuation of liberalism as exposed by Fukuyama.
In addition, Fukuyama’s argument represents a justification for the universal implementation of economic and political liberalism. Even though he is not saying that “all societies will become successful, liberal societies,” he insists that liberalism will be the only surviving ideology, unlike communism and fascism. Yet, it is important to note that Fukuyama refers to a concept much more elevated than what we have seen in real life. He defends liberalism as what it should be, but not what it has been in its practice. In this sense, I can see his desire to promote the complete diffusion of this ideology worldwide.
Fukuyama is thinking of liberalism in terms of greater equality, individual rights, transparent government, etc… And when people criticize his defense of liberalism, they should take into account that the flaws we have experienced with this ideology are not in its ideals but its implementations. The deviation from these liberal principles is what has caused economic disparity, poverty, and more suffering in the world.
Consequently, one could establish that, to a certain extent, Fukuyama has been misinterpreted. He is not insane, he is just an idealist who believes that, if liberalism is fully implemented according to its ideals, the world would be better off and so this ideology is the ultimate end for any society.
Nevertheless, I consider it dangerous to allege we have reached this point. As delineated in Robert Reich’s book: poverty, a widening gap between skilled and unskilled labor, as well as greater economic disparity have resulted from leaderships under the liberalist regimes. Accepting that we are truly facing the end of history due to liberalism translates into denying ourselves a better future, it is leaving no room for improvement. If we accept Fukuyama’s case, people will cease to seek changes that could make society better. It would be like settling for the past, rather than looking out for the future.

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