May 18, 2011


Misunderstanding the End of History (Daniel Honan, May 16, 2011, Big Idea)

What's the Big Idea?

Francis Fukuyama wrote a book called The End of History in 1991, a which he told Big Think has "probably been one of the most misunderstood titles every concocted." Of course, the title wasn’t actually Fukuyama's invention. It comes from the German philosopher, Friedrich Hegel. Fukuyama says the main source of misunderstanding "was that people interpreted “End” as termination, you know, finishing." However, “End” in that sense meant the goal or the objective of history.

The End of History is a key concept of Marxism: the belief that "history was progressive and it was going to end in a communist utopia." Fukuyama also argued that history is progressive, but in his view, the collapse of the Soviet Union proved that communism would not be the final stage of man’s political development.

Instead, the end of history seemed to be stopping at the stage before communism, "which the Marxists called Bourgeois Liberal Democracy." That is the political system of the United States and other western democracies, the model system that emerging democracies would inevitably follow.

What's the significance?

Anyone who is concerned about how the tumultuous Arab Spring and other political upheavals will resolve themselves will be heartened by Fukuyama’s argument. It may not happen overnight, but history is leading us inexorably toward a state where democratic capitalism has completely won out.

Fukuyama says those who reject his argument must answer this question: "If you don’t believe that this is the end of history, what’s beyond? You know, are we going to evolve into a Taliban-style Islamic republic? I really doubt it. Are we going to evolve into a Chinese Authoritarian Dictatorship? Well I sort of doubt that also, at least for America and Europe and other places that are wealthy democracies today." that many imagine this to be an unalloyed good, whereas the reality is that you can already see that for secular societies that have reached the End it just means a more comfortable death.

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Posted by at May 18, 2011 8:06 PM

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