Francis Fukuyama 's The End of History
Briefed and Edited: Ahmad Reza Taheri
We witness the end of human ideological evolution and see the universalization of western liberal democracy as the final form of human government. But, this is not to say that there will be no events and conflicts in the world. We should note that process of liberalism is still going on and it's incomplete.
Have we in fact reached the end of history? Are there, in other words, any fundamental contradictions in human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure?
In the past century, there have been two major challenges to liberalism: fascism and communism.
Fascism was destroyed as a living ideology by World War Two. After the war, it seemed that German fascism and other European and Asian variants were bound to self-destruct.
On communism, Marx believed that liberal society contained a fundamental contradiction that could not be resolved within its context, that between capital and labor, and this contradiction has constituted the chief accusation against liberalism.
But, class issue has actually been successfully resolved in the West. However, this is not to say that there are not rich and poor people in the USA. Or that the gap between them has not grown in recent years rather these are legacy of previous concepts. For example, black poverty in the USA is not the inherent product of liberalism, but is rather the legacy of slavery and racism which persisted long after the formal abolition of slavery.
As a result, the appeal of communism in the developed western world is lower today than any time since the end of the First World War. Thus, those who believe that the future must inevitably be socialist tend to be very old or very marginal to the real political discourse of their societies.
True, due to the strength and adaptability of the indigenous cultures in Asia, it became a battleground for variety of imported Western ideologies early in this century. But, we should not forget that today or in the near future essential elements of economic and political liberalism are adopted by the Asian states.
Though economic liberalism has been more successful than political liberalism in Asia, political liberalism has been following economic liberalism very slowly.
But the power of the liberal idea would seem much less impressive if it had not infected the largest and oldest culture in Asia, China.
In 1978, the Chinese communist party set about decollectivizing agriculture for the 800 million Chinese who still lived in the countryside. The role of the state in agriculture was reduced to that of a tax collector while production of consumer goods was sharply increased in order to give peasants an incentive to work. China could extend the reforms to other parts of the economy. Of course, this is not to say that China is a liberal democracy.
Anyone familiar with the outlook and behavior of the new technocratic elite now governing China knows that Marxism have become virtually irrelevant as guides to policy. The pull of the liberal ideas continues to be very strong as economic power devolves and the economy becomes more open to the outside world. There are over 20000 Chinese students in the U.S. and other Western countries, almost all of them the children of the Chinese elite. It is hard to believe that when they return home to run the country they will be content for China to be the only country in Asia unaffected by the larger democratizing trend.
Reports from USSR shows that people don't truly believe in Marxism Leninism any more. Even the same is true about the Soviet elite. There is a consensus among the dominant school of Soviet economists that central planning is the root cause of economic inefficiency and that if Soviet system is ever to heal itself it must permit free and decentralized decision making with respect to investment, labor, and prices.
At the end of history, it is not necessary that all societies become successful liberal societies, merely that they end their ideological pretensions of representing different and higher forms of human society.
If we admit for the moment that the fascist and communist challenges to liberalism are dead, are there any other ideological competitors left? Or put another way, are there contradictions in liberal society beyond that of class that are not resolvable?
Two possibilities suggest themselves: religion and nationalism.
Modern liberalism itself was historically a consequence of the weakness of religiously based societies which could not provide the minimal preconditions of peace and stability.
In the contemporary world, only Islam has offered a theocratic state as a political alternative to both liberalism and communism. But the doctrine has little for non-Muslins, and it is hard to believe that the movement will take on any universal significance.
Other less organized religious impulses have been successfully satisfied within the sphere of personal life that is permitted in liberal societies.
The other threat can be nationalism. But, it should be noted that the vast majority of the world's nationalist movements do not have a political program beyond the negative desire of independence from some other group or people, and do not offer anything like a comprehensive agenda for socioeconomic organization.
As such, they are compatible with doctrines and ideologies that do offer such agendas. Certainly, a great deal of the world's ethnic and nationalist tension can be explained in terms of peoples who are forced to live in unrepresentative political systems.
What are the implications of the end of history for international relations?
Clearly the vast bulk of the third world remains very much mired in history, and will be a terrain of conflict for many years to come. But, let us focus for the time being on the larger and more developed states of the world who after all account for the greater part of the world politics. Russia and china are not likely to join the developed nations of the West as liberal societies any time in the foreseeable future.
There is a very widespread belief among many observers of international relations that underneath the skin of ideology is a hard core of great power national interest that guarantees a fairly high level of competition and conflict between nations.
New political thinking describes a world dominated by economic concerns, in which there are no ideological grounds for major conflict between nations, and in which consequently, the use of military force becomes less legitimate. The death of Marxism Leninism from China and Russia means the growing "common marketization" of international relations.
This does not by any means imply the end of international conflict per se. Conflicts between states still in history, and between states at the end of history would still be possible. There would still be a high and perhaps rising level of ethnic and nationalist violence, even in parts of the post-historical world and terrorism will continue to be an important item on the international agenda.
But, large scale conflict must involve large states still caught in the grip of history, and they are what appear to be passing from the scene.
The end of history will be a very sad time. The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one's life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. 17 August 2021.
Francis Fukuyama. The End of History. The National Interest, Summer 1989.