Francis Fukuyama The End Of History 1989 Essay Scholarships

The End of History and the Last Man is a 1992 book by Francis Fukuyama, expanding on his 1989 essay "The End of History?", published in the international affairs journal The National Interest.[1] In the book, Fukuyama argues that the advent of Westernliberal democracy may signal the endpoint of humanity's sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government.

What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.[1]

Fukuyama's position contradicts that of Karl Marx, who predicted that communism would displace capitalism.[2] Fukuyama himself identifies on some level with Marx, but more strongly with the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, by way of Alexandre Kojève. Kojève argued that the progress of history must lead toward the establishment of a "universal and homogenous" state,[3] most likely incorporating elements of liberal or social democracy; but Kojève's emphasis on the necessarily "post-political" character of such a state (and its citizens) makes such comparisons inadequate, and is irreducible to any mere "triumph" of capitalism.[4]


  • History should be viewed as an evolutionary process.
  • Events still occur at the end of history.
  • Pessimism about humanity's future is warranted because of humanity's inability to control technology.
  • The end of history means liberal democracy is the final form of government for all nations. There can be no progression from liberal democracy to an alternative system.


According to Fukuyama, since the French Revolution, democracy has repeatedly proven to be a fundamentally better system (ethically, politically, economically) than any of the alternatives.[citation needed]

The most basic (and prevalent) error in discussing Fukuyama's work is to confuse "history" with "events".[citation needed] Fukuyama claims not that events will stop occurring in the future, but rather that all that will happen in the future (even if totalitarianism returns) is that democracy will become more and more prevalent in the long term, although it may suffer "temporary" setbacks (which may, of course, last for centuries).

Some argue[who?] that Fukuyama presents "American-style" democracy as the only "correct" political system and argues that all countries must inevitably follow this particular system of government. However, many Fukuyama scholars claim this is a misreading of his work.[citation needed] Fukuyama's argument is only that in the future there will be more and more governments that use the framework of parliamentary democracy and that contain markets of some sort. Indeed, Fukuyama has stated:

The End of History was never linked to a specifically American model of social or political organization. Following Alexandre Kojève, the Russian-French philosopher who inspired my original argument, I believe that the European Union more accurately reflects what the world will look like at the end of history than the contemporary United States. The EU's attempt to transcend sovereignty and traditional power politics by establishing a transnational rule of law is much more in line with a "post-historical" world than the Americans' continuing belief in God, national sovereignty, and their military.[5]

Arguments in favour[edit]

An argument in favour of Fukuyama's thesis is the democratic peace theory, which argues that mature democracies rarely or never go to war with one another. This theory has faced criticism, with arguments largely resting on conflicting definitions of "war" and "mature democracy". Part of the difficulty in assessing the theory is that democracy as a widespread global phenomenon emerged only very recently in human history, which makes generalizing about it difficult. (See also list of wars between democracies.)

Other major empirical evidence includes the elimination of interstate warfare in South America, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe among countries that moved from military dictatorships to liberal democracies.

According to several studies, the end of the Cold War and the subsequent increase in the number of liberal democratic states were accompanied by a sudden and dramatic decline in total warfare, interstate wars, ethnic wars, revolutionary wars, and the number of refugees and displaced persons.[6][7]


Critics of liberal democracy[edit]

Some have argued against the book due to an ideological disagreement with the concept of liberal democracy.

Jacques Derrida criticized Fukuyama in Specters of Marx (1993) as a "come-lately reader" of Alexandre Kojève "in the tradition of Leo Strauss", who already described US society in the 1950s as the "realization of communism". According to Derrida, Fukuyama—and the quick celebrity of his book—is but one symptom of the anxiety to ensure the "death of Marx". Fukuyama's celebration of liberalhegemony is criticized by Derrida:

For it must be cried out, at a time when some have the audacity to neo-evangelize in the name of the ideal of a liberal democracy that has finally realized itself as the ideal of human history: never have violence, inequality, exclusion, famine, and thus economic oppression affected as many human beings in the history of the earth and of humanity. Instead of singing the advent of the ideal of liberal democracy and of the capitalist market in the euphoria of the end of history, instead of celebrating the ‘end of ideologies’ and the end of the great emancipatory discourses, let us never neglect this obvious macroscopic fact, made up of innumerable singular sites of suffering: no degree of progress allows one to ignore that never before, in absolute figures, have so many men, women and children been subjugated, starved or exterminated on the earth.[8]

Derrida goes on to analyze Fukuyama's book as taking part in the intellectual branch of current Western hegemony and the spreading of its "New Gospel": "This end of History is essentially a Christian eschatology. It is consonant with the current discourse of the Pope on the European community: destined to become a Christian State or Super-State, this community would still belong therefore to some Holy Alliance." He claims that the book uses a "sleight-of-hand trick" of making use of empirical data whenever it seems to suit its message, while appealing to an ideal whenever the empirical data contradicts it. Derrida points out that Fukuyama himself sees the real United States and European Union as imperfect compared to the "ideals" of liberal democracy and the free market. Even the author understands that such ideals are not demonstrated by empirical evidence or ever could be demonstrated empirically. They belong entirely to the realm of philosophy or religion, owing their birth to the Gospels of Philosophy of Hegel. And yet Fukuyama still uses a movement toward empirical observations, which he himself grants are imperfect and incomplete, to validate an idea that is purely idealistic and transcendent of any empirical reality or possibility.[8]

Certain versions of Marxism can be conceived as "end of history" philosophies. Therefore, Marxists like Perry Anderson have been among Fukuyama's fiercest critics. Apart from pointing out that capitalist democracies are still riven with poverty, racial tension, and the like, Marxists also reject Fukuyama's reliance on Hegel. According to them, Hegel's philosophy was fatally flawed until Marx "turned it on its head" to create historical materialism. Fukuyama argues that even though there is poverty, racism, and sexism in present-day democracies, there is no sign of a major revolutionary movement developing that would actually overthrow capitalism. While Marxists disagree with Fukuyama's claim that capitalist democracy represents the end of history, they support the idea that the "end of history" will consist of the victory of democracy: communism, in the Marxist view, must necessarily involve a form of direct democracy.

Former Venezuelan PresidentHugo Chávez argued against "the end of history": he argued his case in his September 2006 address to the United Nations General Assembly.[9] Shortly before that, in August 2006, Fukuyama wrote in response to Chávez's argument, his main point being that Chavismo was only possible due to the unique oil reserves of Venezuela, and thus would not spread.[10]

Radical Islam, tribalism, and the "Clash of Civilizations"[edit]

Various Western commentators have described the thesis of The End of History as flawed because it does not sufficiently take into account the power of ethnic loyalties and religious fundamentalism as a counter-force to the spread of liberal democracy, with the specific example of Islamic fundamentalism, or radical Islam, as the most powerful of these.

Benjamin Barber wrote a 1992 article and a 1995 book, Jihad vs. McWorld, that addressed this theme. Barber described "McWorld" as a secular, liberal, corporate-friendly transformation of the world and used the word "jihad" to refer to the competing forces of tribalism and religious fundamentalism, with a special emphasis on Islamic fundamentalism.

Samuel P. Huntington wrote a 1993 essay, "The Clash of Civilizations", in direct response to The End of History; he then expanded the essay into a 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. In the essay and book, Huntington argued that the temporary conflict between ideologies is being replaced by the ancient conflict between civilizations. The dominant civilization decides the form of human government, and these will not be constant. He especially singled out Islam, which he described as having "bloody borders".

After the September 11, 2001, attacks, The End of History was cited by some commentators as a symbol of the supposed naiveté and undue optimism of the Western world during the 1990s, in thinking that the end of the Cold War also represented the end of major global conflict. In the weeks after the attacks, Fareed Zakaria called the events "the end of the end of history", while George Will wrote that history had "returned from vacation".[11]

Fukuyama did discuss radical Islam briefly in The End of History. He argued that Islam is not an imperialist force like Stalinism and fascism; that is, it has little intellectual or emotional appeal outside the Islamic "heartlands". Fukuyama pointed to the economic and political difficulties that Iran and Saudi Arabia face and argued that such states are fundamentally unstable: either they will become democracies with a Muslim society (like Turkey) or they will simply disintegrate. Moreover, when Islamic states have actually been created, they were easily dominated by the powerful Western states.

In October 2001, Fukuyama, in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, responded to the declarations that the September 11 attacks had disproved his views by stating that "time and resources are on the side of modernity, and I see no lack of a will to prevail in the United States today." He also noted that his original thesis "does not imply a world free from conflict, nor the disappearance of culture as a distinguishing characteristic of societies."[11]

In a 2008 Washington Post opinion piece, Fukuyama wrote:

Democracy's only real competitor in the realm of ideas today is radical Islamism. Indeed, one of the world's most dangerous nation-states today is Iran, run by extremist Shiite mullahs. But as Peter Bergen pointed out in these pages last week, Sunni radicalism has been remarkably ineffective in actually taking control of a nation-state, due to its propensity to devour its own potential supporters. Some disenfranchised Muslims thrill to the rantings of Osama bin Laden or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the appeal of this kind of medieval Islamism is strictly limited.[12]

The resurgence of Russia and China[edit]

Another challenge to the "end of history" thesis is the growth in the economic and political power of two countries, Russia and China; China has a one-party state government, while Russia, though formally a democracy, has been described by some as de facto authoritarian.[13]

Azar Gat, Professor of National Security at Tel Aviv University, argued this point in his 2007 Foreign Affairs article, "The Return of Authoritarian Great Powers", stating that the success of these two countries could "end the end of history".[14] Gat also discussed radical Islam, but stated that the movements associated with it "represent no viable alternative to modernity and pose no significant military threat to the developed world". He considered the challenge of China and Russia to be the major threat, since they could pose a viable rival model which could inspire other states.

This view was echoed by Robert Kagan in his 2008 book, The Return of History and the End of Dreams, whose title was a deliberate rejoinder to The End of History.[15]

In his 2008 Washington Post opinion piece, Fukuyama also addressed this point. He wrote, "Despite recent authoritarian advances, liberal democracy remains the strongest, most broadly appealing idea out there. Most autocrats, including Putin and Chávez, still feel that they have to conform to the outward rituals of democracy even as they gut its substance. Even China's Hu Jintao felt compelled to talk about democracy in the run-up to Beijing's Olympic Games."[12]

Failure of civil society and political decay[edit]

In 2014, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the publication of the original essay, "The End of History?", Fukuyama wrote a column in The Wall Street Journal again updating his hypothesis. He wrote that, while liberal democracy still had no real competition from more authoritarian systems of government "in the realm of ideas", nevertheless he was less idealistic than he had been "during the heady days of 1989." Fukuyama noted the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Arab Spring, both of which seemed to have failed in their pro-democracy goals, as well as the "backsliding" of democracy in countries including Thailand, Turkey and Nicaragua. He stated that the biggest problem for the democratically elected governments in some countries was not ideological but "their failure to provide the substance of what people want from government: personal security, shared economic growth and the basic public services... that are needed to achieve individual opportunity." Though he believed that economic growth, improved government and civic institutions all reinforced one another, he wrote that it was not inevitable that "all countries will... get on that escalator."[16]

Twenty-five years later, the most serious threat to the end-of-history hypothesis isn't that there is a higher, better model out there that will someday supersede liberal democracy; neither Islamist theocracy nor Chinese capitalism cuts it. Once societies get on the up escalator of industrialization, their social structure begins to change in ways that increase demands for political participation. If political elites accommodate these demands, we arrive at some version of democracy.

Fukuyama also warned of "political decay," which he wrote could also affect established democracies like the United States, in which corruption and crony capitalism erode liberty and economic opportunity. Nevertheless, he expressed his continued belief that "the power of the democratic ideal remains immense."[16]

Following Britain's decision to leave the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016, Fukuyama feared for the future of liberal democracy in the face of resurgent populism,[17][18][19] and the rise of a "post-fact world",[20] saying that "twenty five years ago, I didn't have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward. And I think they clearly can." He also warned that America's political rot was infecting the world order to the point where it "could be as big as the Soviet collapse".[19]

Posthuman future[edit]

See also: Transhumanism

Fukuyama has also stated that his thesis was incomplete, but for a different reason: "there can be no end of history without an end of modern natural science and technology" (quoted from Our Posthuman Future). Fukuyama predicts that humanity's control of its own evolution will have a great and possibly terrible effect on liberal democracy.

Publication history[edit]

See also[edit]



External links[edit]

  1. ^ abFukuyama, Francis (1989). "The End of History?". The National Interest (16): 3–18. ISSN 0884-9382. JSTOR 24027184. 
  2. ^"This social formation constitutes, therefore, the closing chapter of the prehistoric stage of human society." Preface to 'A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy' (1859)
  3. ^Strauss's term, from the Strauss-Kojève correspondence, published in Leo Strauss, On Tyranny (University of Chicago Press, 1961)
  4. ^Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit, (Basic Books, 1969), "Note to the Second Edition," p. 159.
  5. ^Francis Fukuyama. (2007-04-03). The history at the end of history.The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-06-18
  6. ^"Global Conflict Trends". Center for Systemic Peace. 2017. Retrieved 2017-10-05. 
  7. ^"Human Security Report 2005". Human Security Report Project. Retrieved 2017-10-05. 
  8. ^ abDerrida, 1994.
  9. ^"Text of Hugo Chávez's address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 2006". Archived from the original on 2006-10-05. 
  10. ^Francis Fukuyama. (2006-08-06). History's Against Him. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  11. ^ abHistory Is Still Going Our Way, Francis Fukuyama, The Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2001
  12. ^ abThey Can Only Go So Far, Francis Fukuyama, The Washington Post, August 24, 2008
  13. ^Dmitry Medvedev's Russia still feels the cold hand of Vladimir Putin, Andrew Osborn, The Daily Telegraph, March 7, 2010
  14. ^A. GAT, "The End of the End of History" in Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007.
  15. ^Return of the Dog Pack (review of The Return of History and the End of Dreams), Michael Burleigh, Literary Review, May 2008
  16. ^ abFukuyama, Francis (June 6, 2014). "At the 'End of History' Still Stands Democracy". The Wall Street Journal. 
  17. ^Ishaan Tharoor (2017-02-09). "The man who declared the 'end of history' fears for democracy's future". Washington Post. 
  18. ^Francis Fukuyama (2017-02-09). "The man who declared the 'end of history' now fearful of the very fate of liberal democracy". National Post. 
  19. ^ abFrancis Fukuyama (Jan 2017). "America: the failed state". Prospect Magazine. 
  20. ^Francis Fukuyama (2017-01-12). "The Emergence of a Post-Fact World". Project Syndicate. 

Francis Fukuyama is one of the giants of post-Cold War political thought. His essay "The End of History," published in 1989 just before the Berlin Wall came down, provided the perfect framework for thinking about a new world order in which the old face-offs between competing ideologies were ending and liberal, capitalist democracy was sweeping the planet.

Twenty-odd years on, though, we continue to live in a world where democracy, prosperity, and law and order are unevenly distributed, and in his latest book,The Origins of Political Order—the first of a planned pair—Francis Fukuyama asks the obvious question: Why?

The answer, he suggests, lies not in philosophy, which drove so much of the argument of "The End of History"—expanded into a book,The End of History and the Last Man, in 1999—but in history itself. And lots of history: This book is extraordinary in its breadth, ranging from the Qin dynasty in third century B.C. China to the eve of the American and French revolutions some 2,000 years later. Along the way, Fukuyama takes in the history of ancient India, the medieval Mamluks, and the Ottoman Empire, the anthropology of Africa, the politics of Papua New Guinea, and plenty more besides. It is a tour de force.

At the heart of this remarkable book is the idea of "getting to Denmark." By this, Fukuyama means creating stable, peaceful, prosperous, inclusive, and honest societies (like Denmark). As in his "End of History" essay, Fukuyama treats this as the logical endpoint of social development, and suggests that Denmarkness requires three things: functioning states, rule of law, and accountable government.

The problem, though, is that this trinity cannot simply be willed into existence. As we have seen in the last few months, overthrowing authoritarian rulers (such as the ones who have cursed the Middle East for so long) does not instantly unleash open societies. Fukuyama suggests that if politicians outside the West are to lead their countries toward Denmark, rather than toward somewhere like Iran, they need to understand—and replicate—the processes that have worked in the past. And that means understanding the history of political order.

Fukuyama is surely right about this, and The Origins of Political Order provides a much-needed primer to this history. He argues that "depatrimonialization"—basically, getting kinship out of politics—is the key to development. The complex societies of antiquity and today's tribal societies, Fukuyama points out, have one thing in common: patrimonialism. Rulers treat the state as an extension of their family, sharing out the important positions among their relatives. Patrimonialism, Fukuyama insists, closes off the road to Denmark.

The first recognizably modern and depatrimonialized state, he argues, was China under the Qin dynasty in the third century BC. While fighting a series of brutal wars against neighboring patrimonial states, the Qin First Emperor (he of the famous Terracotta Army) separated government from the royal family, creating an awesomely powerful state with an efficient bureaucracy. However, the First Emperor was famously unaccountable, burying scholars alive and chopping people in two as the mood took him, and recognizing no law other than his own triumphant will.

By contrast, Fukuyama suggests, we might look at ancient India. Here, where warfare played a smaller role, the rise of Brahmin priests embedded kings in tangled networks of religious obligations—but at the price of preventing governments from centralizing enough power to function properly. India and China, he insists, are not parts of an undifferentiated "orient." Each followed a different path of state formation, getting one part of the package right but the rest of it wrong; and the consequences of these differences persist to this day, in China's over-mighty state and India's chronic chaos.

Some of the most fascinating sections of this book are Fukuyama's comparisons of China and India with the neglected but important societies of medieval Islam, but his argument really gets going when he turns to medieval Europe. Here, he suggests, the Concordat of Worms that ended the long struggle between popes and emperors in 1122 created a unique balance between royal power and religious tradition. This enmeshed states in networks of accountability to nonstate actors, just as had happened in India, but it also left states strong enough to function—like those in China. Western Europe began getting the best of both worlds; and the rise of common law in England gradually added rule of law, the third ingredient in the modern mix, to a unique European blend. By the 17th or 18th century, Western Europe was well on the way to Denmark (as it were).

Fukuyama is content to leave a question mark over the reasons for Europe's uniqueness, emphasizing "historically contingent circumstances of European development" and "the extreme fragmentation of power in Europe." But whatever the causes, he argues, the great empires of Asia never managed to bring the three vital ingredients together. As a result, all saw power being repatrimonialized by the second millennium A.D., as pushy aristocrats and royal relatives took over pieces of the state and turned them into private fiefdoms. By the 1770s, Fukuyama concludes, the West was very different from other parts of the world, and poised for the political and industrial revolutions that will form the subject of the second volume of his work.

He tells a fascinating story—and a very different one from the older, more familiar tale that sees the Greeks inventing democracy and good government in the fifth century B.C. and then, with Roman help, passing them down to modern Europeans and their overseas colonists.

Some 19th- and 20th-century Westerners concluded from this older theory of history that the only way to become modern was to become European, by—for instance—accepting European colonial rule until the necessary values had been learned. Others, including Marx and Lenin, instead decided that non-European societies must be shocked out of their slumber by revolutionary vanguards that would shatter the old, fossilized order, at whatever cost. This vision of history was not, of course, the only reason why Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and the Kims of North Korea visited such horrors upon their peoples; but it bears a heavy burden of responsibility.

Fukuyama draws a more optimistic lesson from history. If today's developing societies can recreate the kind of balance between state power, independent judiciaries, and accountability to nonstate actors that prevailed in 17th-century Western Europe, he suggests, they too will get to Denmark.

Specialist historians will, of course, want to argue with Fukuyama over whether he has really got the history right. Taking on so much of the past in 500 pages is an epic achievement, and—not surprisingly—there are plenty of places that Fukuyama's analysis might be challenged.

The most important, I suspect, is the idea that Qin China was the world's first modern state, which perhaps overstates Qin's similarity to early modern Europe while understating its similarity to other empires of the first millennium B.C. All across Eurasia, from China to the Mediterranean, climate change and population growth drove the rise of much bigger, more bureaucratic, and less patrimonial empires in the first millennium B.C. Qin China was neither the first of them—that honor should go to Assyria, in the eighth century—nor the most developed (Rome in the first few centuries A.D. surely takes the laurels here).

This, of course, is all ancient history; but it matters. If this alternative view of antiquity is correct, we should not trace current differences between China, India, the Middle East, and Europe back to the empires of the first millennium B.C., because the similarities between these empires far outweighed the differences. We should also think twice before following Fukuyama in concluding that Europe has been leading the world in moving toward a modern political order for nearly 1,000 years—or that this modern order is the product of historical contingencies.

In this alternative view, Eurasian empires all followed similar rhythms, with state power, accountability to nonstate actors, and the rule of law all broadly advancing across the first millennium B.C. and then retreating in the early first millennium A.D. as invaders such as the Huns poured in from the steppes of central Asia. After "Dark Ages" of various lengths and depths, which saw repatrimonialization everywhere, the package of state power, accountability, and rule of law resumed its advance all across Eurasia, beginning in China in the sixth century, in India and the Middle East in the seventh-eighth century, and in Europe in the 10th century.

Europe remained for centuries the country cousin of Eurasia, similar to the grander civilizations of Asia in its social structures but backward in crafts and scholarship and poor in resources and technology. Only in the 15th century, on this reconstruction, did Europe begin to diverge—but not because it had stumbled several centuries earlier onto the perfect balance between state power, the rule of law, and the accountability of rulers to nonstate actors. A different catalyst gets credit: As soon as ships were invented that could be relied upon to cross oceans (as happened in the 13th-14th centuries), the fact that Western Europe was geographically so much closer to the resources of the Americas than was any other part of the Old World began pushing Europe down a distinctive path.

This way of looking at the past suggests that the creation of a modern political order in Western Europe happened rapidly, in the 17th-18th centuries, rather than gradually, over the long period since the 11th century; and that it was driven by the new wealth and market economy generated by Atlantic trade, not by the accidental outcomes of struggles between popes and emperors in Germany and kings and commoners in England during the Middle Ages.

And if that is true, it might point us toward an even more optimistic conclusion than Fukuyama's—that there is no need for 21st-century politicians to try to reproduce a delicate balance between state and civil society that Europeans created slowly, accidentally, and violently across 700 years. Rather, history's lesson is that from the first millennium B.C. to the third millennium A.D., ordinary people have successfully—and quite quickly—restructured their societies to respond to the challenges that economics thrusts upon them. Responding to the problems and opportunities that Atlantic trade created in the 17th and 18th centuries, Western Europeans rebalanced state power, rule of law, and accountability; responding to the challenges of global trade in the 20th and 21st centuries, other countries may well repeat the act.

These are the kind of questions that Fukuyama's new book forces us to think about. It is an intellectual triumph—bold in scope, sound in judgment, and rich in provocations; in short, a classic. And perhaps the most delightful thing of all is that the author of "The End of History" is now stepping forward as the champion of history's importance.

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