I haven’t read his infamous book, the End of History and the Last Man, but as I’ve come to understand, it is because of that book that most people - most social democrats and liberals, at least - hate Fukuyama. I have, though, read his latest work, Political Order and Political Decay, and I think it’s a wonderful book, encompassing sociology, modern history, economics and political science. Every argument he’s made in the book made perfect sense when I researched it later.
From a liberal point of view, why is Fukuyama a hated figure?
I don’t know about “most people” or “most liberals”, etc. I’ve never heard of him. Never heard anyone else referencing him either (from either side of the political spectrum). I don’t doubt that SOME people know/hate him but I’m not sure it’s a lot.
Edit: According to Wiki he’s a founding member of the neoconservative movement so I guess it’s pretty obvious that he’d be polarizing. His first book came out when I was around 18 or 19 though so he wouldn’t have been on my radar back when he was “big”.
I don’t think he’s really a hated figure. I think it’s just that a lot of people disagree with his views. I’ll admit I personally wasn’t into his “end of history” argument; the ideological conflict between communism and the west was really a pretty short term event in terms of history. Some people just saw it as a huge historical event because they happened to have lived through it. A couple hundred years from now, the Cold War will be a footnote in history texts.
A lot of people ridiculed him, perhaps rightly, for the “end of history” hypothesis.
(I think a “weak” end of history principle may be valid: look at “Red China” suddenly shifting to a mercantilist economy, and doing just firecrackers with it. A billion people who were under abject totalitarian control have broken – a little – into self-determinism and marketeering. Elsewhere, too: forty years ago, South America was a cesspool of dictatorships. Now…not so much. We really are seeing, universally, the benefits of popular democracy. Africa will get there eventually, last to the table, alas.)
I don’t think he’s hated. I think he’s remembered mostly for ONE argument (that secular, liberal democracy and capitalism were the future and that before long just about every nation would embrace them, leading to the End Of History), an argument that turned out to be way off the mark. Hence, many people who remember his earlier prediction are inclined to dismiss whatever he says now.
astorian: But is it really “way off the mark?” With China liberalizing, a billion more people have a certain kind of freedom than they had when Fukuyama first published.
Yes, obviously, the “strong” version of the argument is flawed. But as a “weak” projection, I think there is some value here. History has shown that hammer-and-tongs tyranny cannot work with a high-tech civilization.
(North Korea can stand the people up and march them to work, then march them home at night and make them sleep – and it can put together a sick mimicry of a high-tech society. But how many North Koreans can program a computer, even at the simplest BASIC level of skill? How many North Koreans can take apart an alarm clock and put it back together again. Technical skills are suppressed nearly as tightly as dissent: they can’t afford anyone having the power to think.)
I think you’re making the same mistake Fukuyama makes. You’re saying, ‘this hasn’t happened…therefore it never will’. It’s assigning special status to the time in which you’re living.
There’s no proof at all that a high-tech society can’t be run by a dictatorship. We’ve only had a high-tech society in part of the world for a few decades. Hardly time to discover anything about how societies can grow and develop without it. There’s plenty of history to go. Thinking anything else is a strange, now-centric notion that should be avoided by serious analysis.
I think the biggest amount of criticism for the book is simply based on the grandiosity of the title, which isn’t really quite reflected in the content. But then we probably wouldn’t be talking about it a couple decades on if it were titled “Democracy Works Better Than Everything Else We’ve Tried and Seems to Work Okay Most of the Time. Usually.”
Of course among leftist intellectuals, their major problem is that the whole thing is predicated on the idea that the end of the Cold War means the defeat of Marxism. The whole “end of history” title is a bit of a riff off of the Marxist progression of history, which of course emphatically does not stop at democratic capitalism. Another major criticism from the left is that his claim that at least most countries will eventually come around to liberal free-market democracy contradicts the leftist anti-globalization idea that the rich Western democracies only exist by the exploitation of poorer countries.
In addition to what Trinopus said, I think the really important point of the work is that the clash of ideologies that defined the 20th century is over. Communism was the last major ideological rival to democracy and capitalism and, if we agree the end of the Cold War was its demise, it seems no other opposing ideology has taken its place. There’s local movements of rage like radical Islam, but those don’t have any real traction outside the particular communities they cater to. I think the only real counter-argument is that maybe Russia and China represent a “capitalism without liberal democracy” alternative to the west’s “capitalism and liberal democracy” but I think the jury’s still out on what direction those two countries are really going in and how sustainable they’ll prove.
I think you’re making the mistake of fixating on the title. Despite the title, he is not literally claiming it is the end of history and that liberal democracy will be the dominant paradigm until the sun burns out. Just for the foreseeable future, which I would argue doesn’t include whatever hypothetical distant future society you can dream up.
But, also, I’m looking at the liberalization of China, the liberalization of South America, the liberalization of much of south-east Asia, and even some instances of the liberalization of Africa. There really is a world-wide trend toward increased democratization.
I suppose, although I would hold it to be tautological: a high-tech society needs highly educated personnel, and such people have an awkward habit of thinking for themselves. You can beat inventiveness and genius into only a very small number of people. The break-up of the USSR and the liberalization of China are, I think, good examples of how high-tech is (mostly) inconsistent with tyranny.
(Anyway, all historical reasoning is “now-centric.” Can’t avoid it! Now is the only time in all of history against which we can make comparisons with past events. Show me the future, and we’ll talk.)
I regard Francis Fukuyama as a smart and interesting writer, but when you are known primarily for ONE thesis, that thesis had better be right, or you’re going to be dismissed.
He got a lot right in The End of History, but we now know there were and ARE a lot of viable alternatives to liberal democracy, and that MILLIONS of people around the world prefer those alternatives.
There are plenty of people around the world who’ve seen liberal democracy in action and have decided they’d prefer a theocracy or a nationalistic strongman. And their numbers are probably growing, rather than shrinking.
That’s not a happy development! I wish Fukuyama had been right!
Really though? I mean obviously the various opponents of democracy are still out there, but they haven’t really had a huge amount of success since the end of the Cold War. Dozens of countries have gone from dictatorship to at least somewhat functional democracies since the 1990’s, but how many countries can you think of that have gone the other way in that time period? There’s some that have gone in and out of military rule like Thailand or Egypt, but there really aren’t any new dictatorships out there. All the overtly authoritarian governments that still exist in the world are holdovers from the 20th century.
Certainly many of the world’s democracies are deeply flawed, but the fact that 21st century authoritarians have to make at least somewhat plausible pretensions of representative government I think underscores Fukuyama’s point. Modern dictators mostly call themselves democrats, not communists or fascists or whatever else, because there are simply no credible ideological alternatives to democracy left. (Although maybe theocracy can still work on a regional level, as ISIS are trying to demonstrate.)
It’s quite possible that more people than ever are involved in anti-democratic movements, but that’s frankly because there’s a lot more democracy out there. The way I see it, you’ve got all these relatively small movements of rage that are extremely active right now in their opposition to liberal western-style democracy precisely because it’s been spreading so very rapidly in the post Cold War world.