After the “end of history”
Francis Fukuyama 02 May 2006 Francis Fukuyama's "end of history" thesis – proposed in a 1989 essay, elaborated in a 1992 book – was the most influential attempt to make sense of the post-cold-war world. In a new afterword to "The End of History and the Last Man", Fukuyama reflects on how his ideas have survived the tides of criticism and political change.
In the seventeen years that have passed since the original publication of my essay, "The End of History?", my hypothesis has been criticised from every conceivable point of view. Publication of the second paperback edition of the book The End of History and the Last Man gives me an opportunity to restate the original argument, to answer what I regard as the most serious objections that were raised to it, and to reflect on some of the developments in world politics that have occurred since the summer of 1989. Let me begin with the question: what was the "end of history"? The phrase is of course not an original one, but comes from GWF Hegel and, more popularly, from Karl Marx. Hegel was the first historicist philosopher, who understood human history as a coherent, evolutionary process. Hegel saw this evolution as one of the gradual unfolding of human reason, leading eventually to the expansion of freedom in the world. Marx had a more economically grounded theory, which saw the means of production change as human societies evolved from pre-human to hunter-gatherer to agricultural to industrial ones; the end of history was thus a theory of modernisation that raised the question of where that modernisation process would ultimately lead. www.openDemocracy.net
Many progressive intellectuals during the period between publication of Marx and Friedrich Engels's Communist Manifesto in 1848 and the end of the 20th century believed that there would be an end of history, and that the historical process would terminate in a communist utopia. This was not my assertion, but that of Karl Marx. The simple insight with which I began was that, as of 1989, it didn't look like this was going to happen. To the extent that the human historical process was leading anywhere, it was tending not toward communism, but toward what the Marxists called bourgeois democracy. There didn't seem to be a higher form of society that would transcend one based on the twin principles of liberty and equality. Alexandre Kojève, the great Russian-French Hegelian, put this rather mischievously when he said that history ended in 1806, the year that Napoleon defeated the Prussian monarchy at the battle of Jena-Auerstadt, thus bringing the principles of the French Revolution to Hegel's corner of Germany. Everything that happened thereafter was just backfilling, as those principles were universalised across the world.
After the “end of history”
The question I have been contrasted by many observers to my former teacher Samuel Huntington, who put forward a very different vision of world development in his book The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order. In certain respects I think it is possible to overestimate the degree to which we differ in our interpretation of the world. For example, I agree with him in his view that culture remains an irreducible component of human societies, and that you cannot understand development and politics without a reference to cultural values.
invented, it became a possession for all of mankind, and was usable whether you were Asian, African, or Indian. The question is, therefore, whether the principles of liberty and equality that we see as the foundation of liberal democracy have a similar universal significance. I believe that this is the case, and I think that there is an overall logic to historical evolution that explains why there should be increasing democracy around the world as our societies evolve. It is not a rigid form of historical determinism like Marxism, but a set of underlying...