March 21, 2006


In full pursuit of democracy (Tod Lindberg, March 21, 2006, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Mr. Fukuyama, in "The End of History and the Last Man," posited classically liberal, democratic capitalism as the final answer to the question of how the world's political economy would be organized, a system beyond the reach of serious challenge by any ideological competitor. Going forward, how the challenge of radical Islam fits into this scheme is an unsettled question. But the more important element of Mr. Fukuyama's analysis was his twofold explanation of why democraticcapitalism prevails.

The first element was simply its success: The command economies of the Soviet era were failures, and the productive capacity of the West (broadly construed) outstrips that of all other economic "models." Insofar as a serious challenge to the democratic capitalist order would require resources at a level that could be competitive, other systems, such as communism and national socialism, are simply unable to generate them over the long run.

That's the material element. But Mr. Fukuyama also explored another avenue, this time of a "spiritual" nature, underlying the material circumstances. He described democratic capitalism as the system that best satisfies people's desire for mutual recognition as free and equal human beings, a desire Mr. Fukuyama described as fundamental.

As far as I am able to make out (without yet having read his new book), Mr. Fukuyama now regards the first element of his explanation as decisive and the second as problematic. In reviewing his previous work, he has characterized "The End of History" as essentially a thesis about globalization. The element of psychic satisfaction is much diminished.

That becomes a problem because the Bush administration is all about the psychic satisfaction of liberal democracy. As the new National Security Strategy itself notes, "we believe that the desire for freedom lives in every human heart and the imperative of human dignity transcends all nations and cultures." Hence the administration's stated goal of "ending tyranny" and democratic transformation.

Now, good things, in the administration's reckoning, follow from this: "Governments that honor their citizens' dignity and desire for freedom tend to uphold responsible conduct toward other nations." But the point is that this analysis begins from a Fukuyamian premise no longer embraced by Mr. Fukuyama, who has become much more interested in the vexing questions of cultural impediments and individual psychological impediments to acceptance of democracy as a form of satisfaction.

Isn't Mr. Fukuyama stuck arguing that suicide bombing is a viable long term competitor to liberal democracy for providing psychic satisfaction?

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 21, 2006 1:31 PM

Well, we are stuck arguing that it is not. And certainly I'd rather hope that it is not, but that's a question for the ummah to answer, not us.

Posted by: joe shropshire at March 21, 2006 2:44 PM

All the suicide bombers didn't save the Japanese Empire. That tactic is a literal and figurative dead end.

Posted by: Mikey at March 21, 2006 3:41 PM


Stuck? It's an easy argument to defeat. The folks at Massada lost.

Posted by: oj at March 21, 2006 7:40 PM

Yes, the Roman Empire still celebrates Masada Day on April 1st. How silly of me.

Posted by: joe shropshire at March 21, 2006 8:43 PM

Well, obviously. The Roman Empire still celebrates Masadah Day, no?

Posted by: joe shropshire at March 21, 2006 8:49 PM

There is a Rome to celebrate. There are no Zealots.

Posted by: oj at March 21, 2006 10:13 PM