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The End of History?


The End of History? Paul Bacon SILS, Waseda University IR201 Summary of main argument In The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama controversially argued ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The End of History?

The End of History?
  • Paul Bacon
  • SILS, Waseda University
  • IR201

Summary of main argument
  • In The End of History and the Last Man, Francis
    Fukuyama controversially argued that that the end
    of the Cold War signals the end of the
    progression of human history.
  • Fukuyama famously argues that
  • What we may be witnessing in not just the end of
    the Cold War, or the passing of a particular
    period of post-war 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.

Hegel and Marx
  • We now have the answer to one of the most
    fundamental questions of political science how
    best to organize human society.
  • Fukuyama's thesis is an obvious reference to
  • However, Fukuyama reverts back to the work of
    Marx's original source, Hegel (and especially
    Hegel as interpreted by the French thinker
    Alexander Kojeve).
  • Both Hegel and Marx offer teleological theories.

A common misunderstanding
  • The most basic error in discussing Fukuyama's
    work is to confuse history with events.
  • Fukuyama does not claim at any point that events
    will stop happening in the future.
  • What Fukuyama is claiming is that in the future
    (even if totalitarianism returns, or if
    fundamentalist Islam becomes a major political
    force) democracy will become more and more
    prevalent in the long term.
  • However, democracy may experience temporary
    setbacks (which may, of course, last for
  • Fukuyama argues that 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.

  • Fukuyama's thesis consists of two main elements.
  • First, Fukuyama points out that the number of
    democratic states has expanded to the point where
    the majority of governments in the world are
  • He also argues that democracy's main intellectual
    alternatives, which include Nazism, Fascism,
    Communism, nationalism and religion have been

  • Second, there is a philosophical argument, taken
    from Hegel.
  • Hegel sees history as consisting of the dialectic
    between two classes the Master and the Slave.
  • Ultimately, this thesis (Master) and antithesis
    (Slave) must result in a synthesis, in which both
    manage to live in peace together.
  • This can only happen in a democracy.
  • The Platonic idea of thymos and the struggle
    for recognition are important here.

The end of history when?
  • Fukuyamas thesis is often misinterpreted and
  • For example, it is frequently claimed that
    Fukuyama believes that history ended in 1989
    (with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of
    the Cold War).
  • In fact, following Kojève, Fukuyama believes that
    history ended in 1806, with the Battle of Jena.
    (Napoleon on horseback).
  • Since the French Revolution of 1789, democracy
    has repeatedly proven to be a fundamentally
    better system (ethically, politically,
    economically) than any of the alternatives.

Criticisms of the End of History thesis
  • Some critics have suggested that Islamic
    fundamentalisms such as Wahaabism (as represented
    by the Saudi Arabian government, the Taliban and
    Bin Laden) offer an intellectual alternative to
    liberal democracy.
  • However, Fukuyama argues that Islam has little
    intellectual or emotional appeal outside the
    Islamic heartlands.
  • In order to provide genuine competition for
    liberalism, a competing belief system must have
    global appeal.
  • Moreover, when Islamic states have actually been
    created (for example in Afghanistan), they were
    easily defeated militarily by the powerful

Criticisms of the End of History thesis
  • Marxism is another End of History philosophy.
  • Therefore Marxists have been amongst Fukuyama's
    fiercest critics.
  • Marxists claim that capitalist democracies are
    still riven with poverty, inequality and racial
  • They also reject Fukuyama's reliance on Hegel.
  • According to them, Hegel's philosophy was fatally
    flawed until Marx turned it on its head to
    create historical materialism.

Criticisms of the End of History thesis
  • Fukuyama concedes that there is poverty, racism
    and sexism in present-day democracies.
  • However, he argues that there is no sign of a
    major revolutionary movement developing that
    would actually overthrow capitalism.
  • Whether such a movement will develop in the
    future remains to be seen.

The Environmentalist Challenge
  • There is also the environmentalist challenge.
  • Environmentalists argue that the capitalist
    economies' propensity towards growth will
    eventually collide with the Earth's natural
    limits to growth.
  • Some radical alteration in the socio-economic
    situation of the West would then have to take

The Clash of Civilizations
  • Numerous other intellectuals and thinkers have
    disagreed with the End of History thesis.
  • For example, Samuel Huntington, in his essay and
    book, The Clash of Civilizations argues that
    temporary conflict between ideologies is being
    replaced by the ancient conflict between
  • The dominant civilization decides the form of
    human government, and the dominant civilization
    will not remain the same over time.

A justification of US style democracy?
  • Some argue that Fukuyama presents
    American-style democracy as the only correct
    political system and that all countries must
    inevitably follow the this example.
  • However, many Fukuyama scholars claim this is a
    misreading of his work.
  • Fukuyama's argument is only that in the future
    there will be more and more governments that use
    the framework of parliamentary democracy and that
    contain markets of some sort.
  • There will remain a substantial variety of
    different political systems that remain broadly
    democratic and free market oriented.

The Whig interpretation of history?
  • It has also been argued that Fukuyama's notion of
    The End of History is merely a Hegelian
    articulation of the Whig interpretation of
  • However, as the latter sections of his book make
    clear, Fukuyama is no liberal optimist.
  • Instead, Fukuyama is a pessimist, influenced by
    Nietzsche, who sees the end of history as being
    ultimately a sad and emotionally unsatisfying
  • In the book, Fukuyama also raises the question of
    whether we have in fact reached the end of
  • Nietzsches conceptions of the Last Man and the
    First Man are important here.