Summary of Primacy of Culture by Francis Fukuyama

Topics: Sociology, Democracy, Society Pages: 5 (1460 words) Published: April 16, 2003
By Francis Fukuyama

Democracy's Future –

Francis Fukuyama argues that for any new ideology or political trend to emerge that rival those of liberal democracy, it requires the precursor of developments at the level of civic society and culture. Accordingly, he sees the only civic society, and culture that seems poised to do so is Asia. Fukuyama bases his judgment on the claim that for the consolidation of democracy, there must exist four levels of change: On the first level is Ideology, followed by Institutions, then Civil Society, and finally, Culture.

At the level of ideological change, believes about the merits and demerits of democracy and its encumberent market structure, must first be rationalized. Thus, democracy is legitimized. Among the four elements, ideology is the most volatile, as change can occur practically overnight. However although ideology may change it does not guarantee the consolidation of democracy.

As ideology changes, institutions that are compatible to and necessary to execute the mandates of the newly adopted ideals are set in place. These may include constitutions, legal systems, party systems, and market structures et al. Although institutional change are manipulate able by public policy, its change is not as swift as ideological change.

Civil Society flourishes out of the existence of democratic political ideals. They however are less manipulated by public policy, and tend to be spontaneously created. Civic Society also develops more where there is less state control, and less where there is an exercise of more state power. For there to be strong civil society, there must first be a good cultural foundation of support.

Fukuyama correctly views culture as the deepest level of these four precursors to consolidating democracy. He defines culture as "a-rational ethical habit passed on through tradition." Containing family structures, religion, moral values, ethic consciousness, civic-ness, and particularistic historical traditions.

What does all this mean? For democratic transition to occur, ideology must change to one of accepting democracy as good and viable. Institutions will also change to accommodate the new democratic ideals; ideals which in turn create an environment that fosters civic society; however it is culture, the most resilient to change, that ultimately affects civil society, which in turn is needed for democratic institutions to work. Thus, Fukuyama infers that cultural stability is key to ideological stability, and thus where there exist a strong cultural identity such as exist in the "paternalistic Asian authoritarianism" system, there exists a possible rival to liberal democracy. Competitors To Democracy

The second section of this essay addresses the competitors to liberal democracy. Fukuyama names four serious contenders to liberal democracy. These are: Asian authoritarianism, extreme nationalism or fascism, Islam, and a revived neo-Bolshevism. The author goes on to explain that each of these alternatives has problems as a worldwide ideological movement, and points out that they all have problems integrating into the increasingly technological global economy.

Delving into the individual ideologies, the author explains the case of Fascism using Serbia as an example of an extreme nationalist state, and accredits the problems of these types of societies to their tendency to emphasize ethnic security. This emphasis causes conflict and war and destroys the country's economy, which is the modern basis of power. He then explains that there is evidence that this conflict is a short-term threat to a democracy, and that it is part of a transition period.

Moving to Islamic fundamentalism, Fukuyama points out that it's wave has not receded among nations in the Middle East, however there is great amounts of discontent in these countries. He states that while some of them have inherited natural resource wealth, such as mining products...
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