Fukuyama's "The End of History and the Last Man"
Jim Blair

The End of History and the Last Man
by Francis Fukuyama
The Free Press, 1992.

This is a very impressive book, with 48 pages of footnotes and a 10 page bibliography. It deals with many aspects of culture, history and political, social and economic philosophy. But the central thesis is quite simple.

In the 1960's I was a student at the U of Wisconsin, a hotbed of radical Left activism. There were often debates between the various socialist factions and sometimes liberals and even conservatives took part. It seemed clear to me that the proponents of free market economics ("running dogs of Capitalism" as they were known then) had the best logical arguments for their case. They compared different countries and different times in history to see what policies had worked best. They were so effective that by the time I graduated they were referred to as "the intellectual Swiss Guard for the Economic Royalists".

Most socialists then had a simpleminded plan for some benevolent government agency to run the country and eventually the world. It would cure poverty and injustice, if only we would recognize the need to give them absolute power.

Is history going anywhere?

But the most cryptic and compelling case made on the Left came from Marxists, who said the whole debate of socialism vs capitalism was moot. There were Laws of Nature which dictated the development of social systems. History was not a series of random events but a progression, rather like embryology. There were stages of which a society must follow in sequence. Individual people couldn't change the direction of History, they could only assist or resist the movement. And Karl Marx had discovered the sequence: from primitive to agricultural to feudalism to capitalism and then on to socialism and finally to Communism, the final state of society. The end point of History. And for each stage of society, there is a set of human values suited to it. Feudal Man is not the same as Capitalist Man. There was a First Man and there would be a Last Man.

Our discussions about whether socialism or capitalism was "better" was like a group of young children arguing that being a child was better than becoming an adult. Maybe it is. No job pressure. Play all day. But so what? They will grow up.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Marxism has dropped off of most peoples horizon. But the idea of History as a progression remains. It is the claim of this book that there is a Universal History. But the end point is the Liberal Democracy political system and Capitalism. The type of society that exists in the USA, Canada, Western Europe and Japan.

There have been numerous discussions on the net about USA vs Europe or Canada, etc. When you consider the range of societies in human history (Kingdoms, Communism, Theocracy, Military Rule, etc) the differences between these liberal democracies is minor. They are just variations of the same system. And they started from very different social structures. Fukuyama sees a convergence towards a common society: The End of History. The world is not there yet. Several Asian nations (Singapore, Indonesia, even China) have accepted Capitalism but not liberal democracy. Yet - he thinks they will.

What else is there?

The only real alternative social structure to rival it today is the Islamic Republic. It exists in Iran and has strong support in Egypt, Algeria and other countries with mostly Muslim populations. He thinks it has no future as a movement because it has no appeal outside of the Muslim world. But he does not consider a rebirth of religious states, of which the Islamic Republic would be one of several. There are those in the US who would support the concept of a Christian Nation. There were Catholic Nations (the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella). Israel is torn between those who want a liberal democracy and those who want a Jewish State.

The book gives several reasons why the capitalist liberal democracy will satisfy human needs for both wealth and recognition, and thus be a stable system. Socialism has lost its luster. Communism has fallen. Are we within sight of the End of History? Do we in the West represent the Last Man?

Essays on related topics...

World History
Title Author
Did Reagan Defeat The USSR? Jim Blair
That's HISTORY, Man! Jim Blair

General Futurology
Title Author
Progress from 1950 to the Present Jim Blair
"2020 Vision" Jim Blair
Will China Again Lead the World? Jim Blair
"The End of Work" Jim Blair
Fukuyama's "The End of History and the Last Man" Jim Blair
Negative Population Growth Jim Blair
The 'Right' Level Of Population Growth and Immigration Jim Blair
That's SCIENCE, Man! Jim Blair
"The Future Of Capitalism" Jim Blair
Challenges Facing The World In 2000 Steve Kangas [off site]
The World Isn't Going To Hell In A Handbasket Steve Kangas [off site]

Number of unique visits to Big Issue Ground so far...

visits so far...