Imagine a world where the nominal head is cut off from the generals in command of the armed forces. Imagine a world in which the conduct of military policies would be hampered by bureaucracy and stilted by top-heaviness. These problems could also affect other areas of government: when the inefficiency and reach of one-man rule meets an authoritarian state’s near infinite reach, we are more susceptible to the intrusion of powers that are ever more willing to interfere in our affairs and less capable of doing so well. Similar economic crises are evident in the gross misallocations of resources. Row upon row of empty housing is threatened with demolition or eviction due to a lack of tenants who can afford it (or families who could purchase). Children go hungry, and men stay at home because they lack work. Culture is also stifled by the top-down impositions of regime-approved values. This does nothing to unleash man’s natural creativity but only suffocates.
Francis Fukuyama warns that this world will become a reality if there is no liberal democracy. This is a big criticism of Fukuyama’s theory that the world exists under free democracy.
The essay published in the Atlantic this week by the elder statesman of American politics philosophy again defends the “End of History” thesis he first presented in a 1989 essay to the National Interest and then expanded on in a 1992 book. Fukuyama’s theory appears very straightforward at first, but it becomes more complex as you reflect on it.
Fukuyama claimed that the end to history, first conceived by Hegel at end of the French Revolution, was finally here with the defeat of Soviet communism. The endpoint of human development was capitalism and liberal democracy, which were tied up with capitalism. All progress has been to this point and there is no other way (except perhaps backward).
Fukuyama was a bit sceptical enough to end his essay’s title with a question mark. His thesis was also presented as a kind question: “Whether it makes sense to once again speak of a coherent, directional History for mankind that will eventually lead most of humanity to liberal democracy.”
Through years of challenge, Fukuyama has qualified the original bold thesis to the point of non-existence–including as early as the 1992 book, which effectively abrogated the triumphalist thesis with its “Last Man” addendum. The first essay admitted that it was impossible to exclude the sudden appearance or unrecognized contradictions within liberal societies. This is the truth.
This term was borrowed from Thus Spake Zarathustra. However, Fukuyama’s last man not Nietzsche’s. Nietzsche’s final man is a sadistic creature incapable of achieving anything beyond comfort. Fukuyama’s final man is a normal man at history’s end. He hasnothing but comfort, but he has the drive to greatness, megalothymia . That is his nature. Fukuyama wondered if stronger forces such as nationalism or religion could draw the soul away liberalism.
Liberal extremists such as the Bulwark’s Jonathan V. Last or Bill Kristol, who are Nietzschean, and not Fukuyaman last men, are now terrified of recent developments. In response to Fukuyama’s Atlanticessay, the Bulwark asked: “What if it is the beginning of history and liberalism loses?”
Kristol picked up on some of Last’s key questions: “What is the problem if a large portion of the citizenry decides that democracy is not for them? Democracy gives power to over-groups that they hate.” Subtle: “What happens if a large percentage of citizens in democracy decide that they want illiberalism?” They are not complacent, deluded or misinformed, but because they know who their enemies are.
They are wrong and unmotivated, but they have a point. Let’s forget about the friend-enemy stuff. Instead, let’s say that “some large percentage of the citizenry decided that democracy is not for them… Not because they are complacent or deluded or mistaken, but because they see clearly.”
Fukuyama’s theory about democratic triumphalism, which, despite its limitations, it that, has been put through the ringer. Its most extreme claims are all dead, and even those who marched for it are beginning to realize that they were too optimistic.
Fukuyama now turns to more pragmatic arguments. Maybe the stuff about liberal democracy written inside men’s heads was a bit overstated, but look at the alternative!
Fukuyama, following Alexandre Kojeve’s lead, cited the European Union to be the best representation of his ideal liberal megastate. There is no doubt that Fukuyama, fresh from his service in the Reagan Administration, had in mind the United States when he wrote “The End of History?” In 2022, neither the U.S. or the E.U. will be there. Fukuyama is an excellent model of governance, not to mention resolving human nature’s contradictions.
Fukuyama, in apparent contradiction to Western democracies sees new illiberal power as weak and vulnerable to shocks. Their leaders lack understanding and their structures are inefficient. They are incredibly poor at assessing their state’s capacity. A large percentage of the population doesn’t support their government. The cutting-edge production methods are not suitable for human society. China’s “massive housing developments [are] being dynamited to ensure that there is no one who can buy them.” Iran’s liberal protestors have taken to the streets, often leading to clashes with police and violent demonstrations. Turn your back to Angel and let your heart melt.
The Ukraine war is perhaps the most notable contrast between East and West. In September, Putin declared that he would send more Russian soldiers to death for the sake of a little country. It is believed that thousands of draft-eligible Russians fled the border to avoid being drafted. Vladimir Putin’s empire, which is made of paper, has no loyalty. It sends boys from Kansas to Kandahar to be killed in order for a gender studies program.
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Fukuyama writes that Putin’s legitimacy was based on a social agreement that promised stability to citizens in return for political passiveness. But the regime broke that contract and is now feeling the consequences.
It seems that there are two things that distinguish illiberal civilizations and their enlightened counterparts. They feel the consequences of breaking their promises of stability and some prosperity in return. Second, too many men are blinded by their idiotic wars.
It might be worth entertaining a return to the past in Crimea, Kabul, Taiwan, or the American plains, hollers, and hollers, from which farmers’ sons are drawn.