Have We Reached the End of History as Theorized by Francis Fukuyama?
Sep 21, 2023
Francis Fukuyama, a famous American political scientist and a brilliant philosopher, in 1992 published his notorious “The End of History and the Last Man” book. The main point he makes there is that humanity has reached an ideological, political, and economic end of history. That rather bold statement was a hasty reaction to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transformation of the world’s system of power. Ever since then, his thesis attracted both: passionate supporters and restless critics.
In this paper, I will argue that Francis Fukuyama has overlooked several sociopolitical, historical, and technological patterns and trends that render the larger part of his thesis theoretically unfounded.
The Book and Its Criticism
A respectful political science professor, Francis Fukuyama, proclaimed the end of history in his famous thesis promptly after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In his work, he argues that the Western liberal democracies have achieved an irreversible victory over the authoritarian governance model as represented by the USSR. The world, he said, has become one-polar, with only one superpower, the USA, left to rule and dominate. On the economic front, he argued that capitalism had demonstrated a decisive supremacy over social, or plan-based communist economy.
Shortly after the publication, his work became harshly criticized. The main axes of that criticism pointed towards the following: failure to predict future conflicts, failure to anticipate the rise of alternative models of governance, and economic inequality that would undermine capitalism in a plethora of developing countries.
The Four Principal Patterns Overlooked by Francis Fukuyama
I contend that Fukuyama has failed to take into account several important historical, sociopolitical, evolutionary, and technological patterns that sharply contradict his predictions.
The Evolutionary Pattern
Evolution always exploits variability and competition by making them the principal driving forces of change and development. The ideological end of history by Francis Fukuyama is utopia from an evolutionary point of view. Humans, the institutions they form, states, and societies will never reach an ideological consensus, as long as they continue to be biological species driven by instincts. An ideological end of history is, in a sense, the end of competition, which is never going to happen. There will never be a single religious, economic, or political system as long as there are two or more states, social groups, or communities. This is the law of nature, an evolutionary pattern that was proved to be correct by history itself.
The Sociopolitical Pattern
Francis Fukuyama also failed to take into consideration the cyclic nature of the history of human societies, namely that it repeats itself over and over again. If liberal democracy has won over authoritarianism today, it doesn’t mean it will remain victorious forever. Just as the totalitarian states of the Middle Ages have been the prevailing form of governance for centuries, it is highly likely the same or an updated authoritarian model will eventually come back to defeat the liberal democratic states of the present day.
The Historical Pattern
The major defeat of Germany in WWI led to the rise of the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler some 20 years later. The Germans’ deep feeling of shame and the desire for revenge has brought to this world a far more disgusting political ideology than the one defeated by the Allies in 1918.
If only Francis Fukuyama had hypothesized a little that similar feelings of shame and greed for revenge as experienced by the Post Cold War Russia could give birth to the far more gross outbreak of violence against neighboring democratic Ukraine – the conflict that would eventually endanger the reign of the world’s liberal democracies by an outbreak of authoritarian Russian regime.
The Technological Pattern
Way before Fukuyama’s notorious publication, a whole range of prominent scientists at the end of the 19th century would argue that there was nothing else for science left to discover. Everything in physics, chemistry, biology, and other natural sciences has already been explored by humanity, and there was nothing new to expect going forward. The technological end of history, speaking in Fukuyama’s terms. That was only a few years before Albert Einstein and decades away from Edwin Hubble, Marie Curie, Enrico Fermi, and other big scholarly names and their epochal discoveries.
Francis Fukuyama has committed a similar predictive mistake, though in his case, in the field of political science. Surprising short-sightedness, narrow-mindedness, and poor judgment.
The Last Man Concept Still Holding Its Ground
To be fair, though, one idea from Francis Fukuyama’s thesis did prove to be viable. He envisaged a society of the near future, in which there would be no ideological battles to fight (thanks to the same liberal democracy supremacy and capitalism dominance), hence, man will live a reckless life, preoccupied with only the vital, selfish needs, dominated by consumerism and personal happiness.
Although Fukuyama was not exactly right in the path, or the causes that would lead to such a light-hearted state of mankind, he was nevertheless amazingly insightful in describing its features and characteristics. Today’s man is indeed highly spoiled, carefree, and oftentimes helpless when he is pushed to step out of his consumerist and egocentric comfort zone.
It is easy to evaluate and criticize someone’s insights into the future some 31 years later. Modern history itself is the best evaluator and critic of Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History and the Last Man.” Nevertheless, such predictions and their evaluations are highly useful from scientific and educational points of view.
Based on the discussed four patterns from the current paper, we can say with a significant degree of certainty that Francis Fukuyama had indeed missed a bigger picture when making his bold premises. His overly simplistic and somewhat optimistic postulates didn’t take into consideration the apparent turbulence of the sociopolitical and economic development of mankind, the historical cyclicity, and the violence of the evolutionary process.
All in all, I think his work was indeed a big thing for the time. It was and continues to be a hot discussion topic and a major source for ferocious debates between political science scholars.Have We Reached the End of History as Theorized by Francis Fukuyama PDF File
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