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November 08, 2007


Evan Fleming

In responding to Fukuyama’s “End of History” article and reading a few of the comments that have been previously made I find it extremely interesting that there has been a divergence of sentiment in regard to whether the ideas that are presented by Fukuyama are ‘insane’. Just as an aside I don’t find it coincidental that this is the second article that we have responded to that was written just after the end of the Cold war (the first being from Reich) and it is interesting to see how these writers were able to foresee what they believed the political and economic future of the world would be.

In understanding Fukuyama’s argument, it is crucial that we determine what he means by the word history and how in which it has come to an end. The phrase is cliché, but true, history repeats itself and the fascist, communist, and socialist ideals that have challenged what was thought to be democratic liberalism 100 years ago, had still remained prevalent just before the publishing of this article. I believe Fukuyama’s ‘end of history’ refers to the fact that the various ideologies that have historically threatened liberalism and democracy have proved themselves to be unsuccessful and frankly, inadequate in addressing the issues in contemporary economics and politics. These threatening political ideologies were driven by the legacies of historic political success, and because of their inability to accomplish the kinds of things that liberal democracy can, their historic momentum has come to an end. I think that this is what Fukuyama means by ‘end of history’.

In assuming this logic, he is obviously not insane and makes a few very valid arguments. I agree with Allison in that the democracy will become more and more prevalent in the long term. The sovereign nations of the world are increasingly hopping on the liberal democratic bandwagon and there are few mechanisms or barriers that will slow it down. However, I do believe that Fukuyama underestimates the challenges that nationalism and especially religion pose to the success of liberal democracy as a global phenomenon. Julia alluded to the fact that 1/5 of the world believes itself to be apart of the nation of Islam and this number associates itself with a tremendous amount of power. I believe that religion is a mechanism in creating nationalism, and in nationalism there is always possibility for imperialism, political expansion, and (I know this is a stretch) possibly a more benign form of fascism. I think that in this sense, history still has a significant amount of time left before we can begin talking about an end.

Jelena Djukic

It may be too harsh to call Fukuyama “insane” (as several people already pointed out), because he wrote this piece shortly after Communism collapsed. At the time there was a strong sense of Western victory over the Communism, which for decades represented the greatest opponent to the Western ideology. For that reason, Fukuyama claims that history has come to an end, specifically “the end point of mankind's ideological evolution” and “the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” In my understanding, he comes to this conclusion because Communism was the only ideology that could challenge the Western Liberalism, and since it lost the battle, the victorious Western Liberalism was an obvious path to choose as the right one.
Even though on instances I see the point Fukuyama attempts to make; that there is not much further than “universal state” that human society can go in terms of developing new ideologies, I would have to agree with Julia that he dismisses the great potential religion can have. Several times throughout the article he mentions that the Soviet threat is gone and that the only ideologies that can challenge Western liberalism are nationalism (race, nationality…) and religion. However, he also claims that they are not strong enough to do so. Clearly, the events such as 9/11 and war the U.S. is fighting now may suggest otherwise, which is what Stern is exploring in her book when talking about the Islamic fundamentalism. In my opinion, Fukuyama underestimates the power religion can have in our society. Today, in the U.S. the number of fundamentalist Christians is growing and their rejection of other religions and Islam in particular is going to extreme. As an example, small kids ages around 4-5 are thought that there is only one right way (Christianity) and that anything that contradicts it is wrong and should therefore be rooted out.
Even though one may view Fukuyama’s arguments as “insane” such as the one that there is no need for government because “there is no struggle or conflict over “large” issues”; at the end of his article he does state that “centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started again”. In my opinion this statement puts into question stability of this new state that human society found itself in, implying that we cannot simply be satisfied by cooperating but rather need tensions and incentives to go further or maybe back into history.

Beth Dukes

Personally, I wouldn’t’ go so far as to call Fukuyama insane, but with the luxury of hindsight, declare him a bit too narrow-minded. As others in the class have already pointed out, Fukuyama fails to adequately address (and predict) the potential of nationalist and religious movements in becoming a driving force in the political sphere when he claims ultimate victory for liberalism.

To me, this mistake comes from his inability to see the world as anything beyond mere paradoxes—perhaps the result of, as Irina claims, his excitement about the historical events of his immediate present. In his essay, Fukuyama questions: “IF WE ADMIT for the moment that the fascist and communist challenges to liberalism are dead, are there any other ideological competitors left? Or put another way, are there contradictions in liberal society beyond that of class that are not resolvable?”, indicating that he is unable to look past the struggle between two opposing ideologies—“communism” and “liberalism”—which marked the second half of the twentieth century, to see that the relationship between political ideologies can be much more complex than mere opposition. As Samira pointed out, Zakira draws on this idea of complex relationships between ideologies when showing that perhaps certain elements of “liberalism” are incorporated into political systems whose ideology is fundamentally “illiberal”.

Finally, I’d like to point out that, in many ways, Fukuyama’s argument sounds like that of another thinker whom our professor previously qualified as “completely wrong”. I’m surprised that I am the first to ask if the argument that “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” sounds familiar. To me, there is a striking similarity between this aspect of Fukuyama’s argument and the central thesis of Angell’s piece. The difference in the two arguments is that Angell sees this transition to peace as a positive one coming from the goodness of people’s hearts, whereas Fukuyama sees it as a cold one, which will lead to a period where “there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history.” Despite these differences, the parallel between Angell and Fukuyama in falsely predicting peace is an interesting consideration, as it forces us to examine the feasibility of peace and the nature of conflict in any historical context.

Wei Shao

It is a bit harsh to call Fukuyama insane. In fact, I believe that it is quite unreasonable to even criticize his ideology, given the time period during which it was written. Following the fall of Soviet communism after the Cold War, Fukuyama was simply over-optimistic in regards

Christina Adranly

Fukuyama argues that liberalism--capitalist economic and democratic political institutions--has "won," so to speak. He presents a fascinating, well-thought out argument that does a good job explaining the situation at the historical juncture in which he was writing. As previous posters have mentioned, it is easy to correct this theory in retrospect.

It is impossible to have an end of history; by its very nature, history evolves and will evolve. There will always be political and economic developments that change the course of history, and new systems that emerge to challenge and potentially overthrow the dominating system. So far, there has not been a cohesive alternative to capitalism, though we can see now that liberalism is not the only answer.

Two examples today challenge liberalism, and Fukuyama's vision of liberalism as the "end-all-be-all." Islamism, for example, has experienced considerable success in propagating its ideology, specifically an anti-Western sentiment, and continues to be a powerfuly unifying force in the Middle East. China also has been able to manipulate liberalism, embracing capitalist foreign trade and other economic institutions while maintaining a centralized state. Using this uniquely tailored system, China has presented a legitimate challenge to the West's strictly liberal democratic political economy, and is close to surpassing the United States. Whether or not these alternatives will be able to actually surpass capitalism is still under question, however the systems presented surely negate liberalism's unquestioned continuation.

Wei Shao

*sorry accidentally posted without finishing

It is a bit harsh to call Fukuyama insane. In fact, I believe that it is quite unreasonable to even criticize his ideology, given the time period during which it was written. Following the fall of Soviet communism after the Cold War, Fukuyama was simply over-optimistic in regards to his Hegelian outlook on the future of the world: a world of social democracy. However, as he noted, a world of democracy would mark the end of human history, which should not be taken literally as the end of human race, but rather should be interpreted as the end of human progress. This view, given the luxury of hindsight, proved to be wrong, and would be correct by Fukuyama himself later in 2002 in his book Our Posthuman Future, in which he corrects his argument and states that technology will continue human development, but will alter our humanity beyond recognition.
However, there is credibility in what he calls the end of human history. Following the Cold War, over 60% of the countries in the world today are in some way or another considered democracies. As a result of the growing global liberal democracy, warfare and conflicts have been reduced and there has been more prevalent global peace than before. This contradicts Marx's view of increasing class conflict resulting from liberalization. But is the modern neoliberalism truly the end of human history? Surely it is not, but it is a new chapter in human history marked by growing peace and prosperity (I do say this with heightened optimism).

Rowena Tam

There is a fine line between genius and insanity; Fukuyama lands in the middle. That leaves him to be defined as both intellectual and somewhat sane. For his time period, he analyzes what so far has happened and throughout American history and that is that western liberalism is triumphant. But in the words of Niels Bohr “prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” So there was no way for him to foresee the emergence of China as a capitalist communist that will (as it looks for the time being) surpass even the US. He talks of Russia and China “not likely to join the developed nations of the West as liberal societies any time in the foreseeable future.” And that is where he is mistaken. Clearly, China is emerging as a worldwide superpower but not much has changed within its political system.

So Fukuyama is wrong to believe that western liberalism will always be triumphant. His optimism is quite a breath of fresh air, but on a pessimistic level, his thinking is just too hopeful. Western political economy cannot be the pinnacle of economic evolution. There are too many other alternatives that may not have surfaced, and it is not until we get to the final end can we resolutely say who is the winner.

Sarah Dryden

Is modern neoliberalism the last state of political consciousness? In a nutshell, I think it’s doubtful.

Fukuyama’s argument is essentially that there are no longer any issues that can’t be solved by applying modern liberal democratic principles. He goes on to argue that all of the strongest challenges to this ultimate solution (communism, fascism, religious fundamentalism, and nationalism) have been proven unworkable. But who is to say that other challenges won’t surface in the coming years? It wouldn’t be the first time that a fully integrated political economic system was uprooted and transformed into something altogether alien. The change from absolute monarchy to democracy was a radical and unimaginable switch of ideology, a reflection of the population’s changing environment. If industrialism has the power to spawn a new economic system of liberalism and capitalistic laissez-faire, who is to say a new movement or era won’t necessitate a system that is yet again completely different?

Julia points out the fault that Fukuyama hardly addresses the strength of fundamentalist religious movements, simply saying it holds “little appeal for non-Muslims,” and that it fails to be of “universal significance.” Perhaps in 1989 he could not have predicted the importance of fundamentalist movements now in the 21st century, and they have indeed become the newest polarizing opposition to liberalism. The religious movements are particularly important because they represent the very difference of “sphere of consciousness,” or ideology that Fukuyama asserts that all political economic systems are built on. The ideological differences that make coexistence in a globalized world seem impossible pose a very real challenge that may ultimately bring an end to neoliberalism as we know it.

Hegel himself asserts that we cannot see or conceive of our next level of consciousness. No Renaissance king could imagine a system where his people were so involved in public policy; perhaps our era is no different. Just because liberalism is particularly relevant to current issues and environments does not necessarily mean it will continue to be so. Our next level will almost certainly build on liberalism, just as liberal democracy was built over the ashes of mercantilism and absolute monarchy.

Jay Bessette

Francis Fukuyama is not insane he just points out what seemed to be the obvious in 1989. His view is that the world was converging on one system of government that showed the most potential to have sustainability in the long run and he was right. Before the French Revolution the possibility of a Western Liberal Democracy could never have been thought of but due to the enlightened thinkers of that time the idea spread to the US which was able to capitalize on the framework of “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”, and make it the model for success. It is an easy sell because the US as the only superpower in the world and therefore the system that is used in the US must be the correct system.

Fukuyama does a good job of presenting the alternatives to WLD by acknowledging such movements as Fascism as a weak alternative which faded out shortly after World War II and also communism which held the biggest threat toward a free world but the ideology behind communism was failed and its strengths were facades that kept the cold war afloat for 50 years but at the expense of millions of lives. Communism never achieved any of its goals and the truths of its failures are still coming forward today.

Fukuyama also had no idea that within 10 years of his book, the UN would come out with the Millennium Development Goals that within its framework discloses that it will “spare no effort to promote democracy” which in itself dictates that coupled with globalization, WLD is not going away anytime soon. However today’s form of government is based on the current mindset which always has the ability to adapt and change under new experiences and discoveries. If you take the example today that Prof. Delong spoke of between Regan and Gorbachev, if you consider finding new life outside our solar system than can unite our world in a way never conceived of before, it is possible for an entirely new form of government to emerge when we realize how small our differences really are.

Thomas Whaet

Francis Fukuyama was not insane. Like Ziwei said he may be “shortsighted,” “misguided,” and I might add perhaps over zealous, in his thinking. But on the whole, I am surprised to find myself to agree with most of what he argues—some exceptions is the Islamo-Fascist thing, etc, etc.

Fellow classmate Allison Moore is right 100% in her statement that Fukuyama never claimed that “events” (ie non liberal democracy) will never happen in the future—he allows for so called “setbacks.” In the previous posts many classmates are confused by this, and I believe it is that confusion which is most responsible for them calling him “insane”

As Ziwei also pointed out, Liberal Democracy has it problems, to say the least. One would have to be living in a bubble to deny this fact. That said, Fukuyama again never said Liberal Democracy would preclude negative things from happening. I agree with Fukuyama when he says Liberal Democracy provides the best type of governance available—yeah I realize that is a loaded statement. In a nutshell, the problem with Liberal Democracy, such as the poverty and inequality that can stem from the system that many classmates have talked of, has nothing to do with the system, just the implementation of it (as Dave Koken also argued). One could argue that the system is flawed because its nature fosters such rampant “mis-implementation” to occur, but I think that argument is ridiculous. It’s way to easy to blast Liberal Democracy without giving forth another system that has provided the results (I would say positive overall) this system has created—I swear I’m not a neo con!!!:))

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