The End of the End of History – God of the Machine
Sep 052002

In the current issue of Policy, Francis “End of History” Fukuyama helpfully reminds us that:

More than ten years ago, I argued that we had reached the end of history: not that historical events would stop, but that History understood as the evolution of human societies through different forms of government had culminated in modern liberal democracy and market-oriented capitalism. It is my view that this hypothesis remains correct, despite the events since September 11: modernity, as represented by the United States and other developed democracies, will remain the dominant force in world politics, and the institutions embodying the Wests underlying principles of freedom and equality will continue to spread around the world.

This is a sort of Hegelian capitalism — the stages of history are lifted from Marx, only with the socialist paradise lopped off at the end. Now I’m all for modern liberal democracy and market-oriented capitalism, which I far prefer to the non-market-oriented kind. What I object to is Fukuyama’s Whiggish doctrine of their inevitable triumph.

Fukuyama hates that word, “inevitable.” Tough. The triumph of capitalism either is or is not inevitable. If it’s inevitable, then we’re channeling Hegel, and the usual objections to historical teleology apply. (Actual history, for instance.) But if world capitalism isn’t inevitable, if it’s just an odds-on favorite because of its big guns and excellent machine tools, then Fukuyama has nothing to be exercised about at book length. He’s just making a prediction, like my prediction that the Steelers will win the AFC Central this year because of their big linebackers and excellent receivers. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t, but nothing in the inner logic of football history obliges it to happen.

And apparently nothing in the inner logic of history obliges capitalism to triumph either, or so Fukuyama now says:

The struggle between Western liberal democracy and Islamo-fascism is not one between two equally viable cultural systems, both of which can master modern science and technology, create wealth and deal with the de facto diversity of the contemporary world. In all these respects, Western institutions hold all the cards and for that reason will continue to spread across the globe in the long run. But to get to the long run we must survive the short run. And unfortunately, there is no inevitability to historical progress, and few good outcomes absent leadership, courage and a determination to fight for the values that make modern democratic societies possible.

Hmm. Doesn’t a “struggle between Western liberal democracy and Islamo-fascism,” no matter how stacked in favor of the West, sound an awful lot like…history? If he wants to renounce “inevitability” at this late date, that’s fine with me. But he isn’t making deep philosophical pronouncements about the teleology of history any more. He’s just picking the Steelers.

  One Response to “The End of the End of History”

  1. Well put! Just as Fukuyama lifts Hegel/Marx’s inevitability of history, Marx lifted religion’s concept of a social/cosmic justice, blaming inequity on Man instead of God. There is no God, no inevitability, and no social, cosmic or otherwise justice. It’s up to us, and there’s no money-back guarantee.

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