Monday, April 02, 2007


"IN WATCHING the flow of events over the past decade or so, it is hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental has happened in world history. The past year has seen a flood of articles commemorating the end of the Cold War, and the fact that "peace" seems to be breaking out in many regions of the world. Most of these analyses lack any larger conceptual framework for distinguishing between what is essential and what is contingent or accidental in world history, and are predictably superficial. If Mr. Gorbachev were ousted from the Kremlin or a new Ayatollah proclaimed the millennium from a desolate Middle Eastern capital, these same commentators would scramble to announce the rebirth of a new era of conflict.

And yet, all of these people sense dimly that there is some larger process at work, a process that gives coherence and order to the daily headlines. The twentieth century saw the developed world descend into a paroxysm of ideological violence, as liberalism contended first with the remnants of absolutism, then bolshevism and fascism, and finally an updated Marxism that threatened to lead to the ultimate apocalypse of nuclear war. 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.

The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism. In the past decade, there have been unmistakable changes in the intellectual climate of the world's two largest communist countries, and the beginnings of significant reform movements in both. But this phenomenon extends beyond high politics and it can be seen also in the ineluctable spread of consumerist Western culture in such diverse contexts as the peasants' markets and color television sets now omnipresent throughout China, the cooperative restaurants and clothing stores opened in the past year in Moscow, the Beethoven piped into Japanese department stores, and the rock music enjoyed alike in Prague, Rangoon, and Tehran.

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. This is not to say that there will no longer be events to fill the pages of Foreign Affair's yearly summaries of international relations, for the victory of liberalism has occurred primarily in the realm of ideas or consciousness and is as yet incomplete in. the real or material world. But there are powerful reasons for believing that it is the ideal that will govern the material world in the long run. To understand how this is so, we must first consider some theoretical issues concerning the nature of historical change....

WHAT ARE the implications of the end of history for international relations? Clearly, the vast bulk of the Third World remains very much mired in history, and will be a terrain of conflict for many years to come. But let us focus for the time being on the larger and more developed states of the world who after all account for the greater part of world politics. Russia and China are not likely to join the developed nations of the West as liberal societies any time in the foreseeable future, but suppose for a moment that Marxism-Leninism ceases to be a factor driving the foreign policies of these states - a prospect which, if not yet here, the last few years have made a real possibility. How will the overall characteristics of a de-ideologized world differ from those of the one with which we are familiar at such a hypothetical juncture....

THE PASSING of Marxism-Leninism first from China and then from the Soviet Union will mean its death as a living ideology of world historical significance. For while there may be some isolated true believers left in places like Managua, Pyongyang, or Cambridge, Massachusetts, the fact that there is not a single large state in which it is a going concern undermines completely its pretensions to being in the vanguard of human history. And the death of this ideology means the growing "Common Marketization" of international relations, and the diminution of the likelihood of large-scale conflict between states.

This does not by any means imply the end of international conflict per se. For the world at that point would be divided between a part that was historical and a part that was post-historical. Conflict between states still in history, and between those states and those at the end of history, would still be possible. There would still be a high and perhaps rising level of ethnic and nationalist violence, since those are impulses incompletely played out, even in parts of the post-historical world. Palestinians and Kurds, Sikhs and Tamils, Irish Catholics and Walloons, Armenians and Azeris, will continue to have their unresolved grievances. This implies that terrorism and wars of national liberation will continue to be an important item on the international agenda. But 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.

The end of history will be a very sad time. The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one's life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. In the post-historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history. I can feel in myself, and see in others around me, a powerful nostalgia for the time when history existed. Such nostalgia, in fact, will continue to fuel competition and conflict even in the post-historical world for some time to come. Even though I recognize its inevitability, I have the most ambivalent feelings for the civilization that has been created in Europe since 1945, with its north Atlantic and Asian offshoots. Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again
". Francis Fukuyama, "The End of History", in The National Interest (Summer 1989).

"For all of its stumbles of the last few years, the United States remains a rich and powerful country, with plenty of margin to absorb setbacks and make up for mistakes. The large part of the world that is modernizing successfully is dependent on us for continued progress, and perhaps for that reason is far less anti-American than those regions mired in conflict and stagnation. There are real risks out there today, but it may help to take a deep breath and assess calmly where we stand. Terrorists use the tools they do because they are weak and have no others. Americans need to remember that we are the 800 hundred pound guerrilla: we have choices, but we need to take care when we throw our weight around" (Francis Fukuyama, in:

As anyone who was in Graduate School in the Humanities, or an undergraduate in the same, in the pivotal anno domini 1989, will recall Francis Fukuyama's essay in the(then) neo-conservative periodical, the National Interest, and the thunder clap made by it in intellectual circles. While it was very comme il faute, to look down upon the not very coherent, metaphysical concoction, put together by Fukuyama (two parts late Hegel, one part Marx, three parts Kojeve...), that cannot gainsay the fact that for much of the succeeding decade, up to in fact anno domini 2001, Fukuyama's proclaimed thesis about the unchallenged intellectual hegemony of Liberal Democracy in the contemporary world, was accepted de facto as correct.

Since the 11th of September, A. D. 2001, many have found Fukuyama's thesis to be rather questionable in light of the overt challenge to Liberal Bourgeois dispensation, by contemporary Islamic Radicalism. Fukuyama himself has expressed for quite awhile now, anxiety about both the reductionist purposes put to his original thesis, and to the mischief made from it, by his one time allies in the neo-conservative movement. While originally a (reluctant) supporter of the Iraqi adventure, in the last year or so, Fukuyama has broken decisively with both the foreign policy of the Bush regime, and, with his former neo-conservative confrerence(for Fukuyama's view of contemporary events, see his contributions to the online journal American Interest, in

According to Fukuyama, it was a deliberate mis-reading of his original thesis, to posit that he was an adherent of, or an advocate for the American model, as the summit of human or societal achievement `a la Hegel and Napoleon after the battle of Jena (or the Prussian State after the fall of Napoleon). He never had any brief for either America's place in the world as the sole hegemon, or for the triumph of America's particular form of Capitalism. On the contrary, like his intellectual guide Kojeve, he now states that it is the European Union, which he regards as the most likely future model for most nation's worldwide. How plausible is this rejoinder? I for one seem to recall, that most of the fanfare for Fukuyama's thesis came from many on the neo-conservative and conservative side of the American polity. And, yes indeed, it was most definitely an American, rather than merely Liberal Democratic, future which was being posited if not necessarily by Fukuyama, than by his neo-conservative confreres. Indeed, if Fukuyama was taken aback by the celebratory nature inspired by the original article, one does not recall that he either toned down or amended his argument, when he published it in book form three years later in 1992.

However, one may indeed concede that it is always better late than never for the sinner to confess his sins, state his 'mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa', and proclaim his Apologia. Which is in some sense what Fukuyama does below in an article originally published in the Beirut newspaper the Daily Star ( Please read and enjoy:

I was misread on the finality of liberal democracy

By Francis Fukuyama

"Fifteen years ago in my book "The End of History and the Last Man," I argued that, if a society wanted to be modern, there was no alternative to a market economy and a democratic political system. Not everyone wanted to be modern, of course, and not everyone could put in place the institutions and policies necessary to make democracy and capitalism work, but no alternative system would yield better results.

While the "End of History" was essentially an argument about modernization, some people have linked my thesis about the end of history to the foreign policy of President George W. Bush and American strategic hegemony. But anyone who thinks that my ideas constitute the intellectual foundation for the Bush administration's policies has not been paying attention to what I have been saying since 1992 about democracy and development.

Bush initially justified intervention in Iraq on the grounds of Saddam Hussein's programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, the regime's alleged links to Al-Qaeda, as well as Iraq's violation of human rights and lack of democracy. As the first two justifications crumbled in the wake of the 2003 invasion, the administration increasingly emphasized the importance of democracy, both in Iraq and in the broader Middle East, as a rationale for what it was doing.

Bush argued that the desire for freedom and democracy were universal and not culture-bound, and that America would be dedicated to the support of democratic movements "with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." Supporters of the war saw their views confirmed in the ink-stained fingers of Iraqi voters who queued up to vote in the various elections held between January and December 2005, in the "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon, and in the Afghan presidential and parliamentary elections.

Inspiring and hopeful as these events were, the road to liberal democracy in the Middle East is likely to be extremely disappointing in the near to medium term, and the Bush administration's efforts to build a regional policy around it are heading toward abject failure.

To be sure, the desire to live in a modern society and to be free of tyranny is universal, or nearly so. This is demonstrated by the efforts of millions of people each year to move from the developing to the developed world, where they hope to find the political stability, job opportunities, healthcare, and education that they lack at home.

But this is different from saying that there is a universal desire to live in a liberal society - that is, a political order characterized by a sphere of individual rights and the rule of law. The desire to live in a liberal democracy is, indeed, something acquired over time, often as a byproduct of successful modernization.

Moreover, the desire to live in a modern liberal democracy does not translate necessarily into an ability to actually do so. The Bush administration seems to have assumed in its approach to post-Saddam Iraq that both democracy and a market economy were default conditions to which societies would revert once oppressive tyranny was removed, rather than a series of complex, interdependent institutions that had to be painstakingly built over time.

Long before you have a liberal democracy, you have to have a functioning state (something that never disappeared in Germany or Japan after they were defeated in World War II). This is something that cannot be taken for granted in countries like Iraq.

The "end of history" idea was never linked to a specifically American model of social or political organization. Following Alexandre Kojeve, the Russian-French philosopher who inspired my original argument, I believe that the European Union more accurately reflects what the world will look like at the end of history than the contemporary United States. The EU's attempt to transcend sovereignty and traditional power politics by establishing a transnational rule of law is much more in line with a "post-historical" world than the Americans' continuing belief in God, national sovereignty, and their military.

Finally, I never linked the global emergence of democracy to American agency, and particularly not to the exercise of American military power. Democratic transitions need to be driven by societies that want democracy, and since the latter requires institutions, it is usually a fairly long and drawn out process.

Outside powers like the US can often help in this process by the example they set as politically and economically successful societies. They can also provide funding, advice, technical assistance, and yes, occasionally military force to help the process along. But coercive regime change was never the key to democratic transition".


At 9:49 PM, Blogger Nouri said...

Funny thing, I just bought Fukuyama's last book on this very topic (America at the Crossroads). He seems to be stating what he did in the book, and every other time that I've read his clarifications as to the meaning of The End of History. Funny place he's found himself in, isn't it?


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