Have we truly reached the End of History?

Investigating Fukuyama's thesis 20 years after

Bachelor Thesis, 2012
34 Pages, Grade: First





2.1. Introductory notes
2.2. Fukuyama’s conception of “liberal democracy”
2.3. The collapse of nationalism in the “end of history”
2.4. The empirical presupposition that all alternatives to liberalism have been eliminated
2.5. The normative assertion that liberalism is superior to all ideological alternatives
2.6. The validity of a modern form of socialism as a suitable alternative to “unviable” liberal democracy





In many capitalist centres around the world, protests against the failures of capitalism are taking place, as inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement which started in New York. As government bails out corporations and banks, unemployment levels in the United States are at its highest and discontent over corporate greed is high. The recent unrest in America challenges the central thesis made by Francis Fukuyama in his book The End of History . The Fukuyama thesis did not predict the end of the world, but the end of ideological contestations, particularly the rivalry between socialism and capitalism, of liberalism and collectivism. When the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union collapsed, Fukuyama asserted that this was proof that liberal democracy is history’s ultimate destiny, not communism. Two decades after, the spectre of Marxist communism seems to still haunt. Economist Nouriel Roubini vindicated Marx in an article Is Capitalism Doomed? because the latter’s prophesy that “financial intermediation run amok and redistribution of income and wealth from labour to capital could lead capitalism to self-destruct” has come true. This begs the question:

Twenty years after Fukuyama ’ s declaration, can we still say that it is “ the end of history ” ?

The current unrest at the heart of capitalist America provides a strong impetus for the conduct of this research. The issues raised here are not only important to decision-makers who engage in public policy or foreign affairs. These questions are of high interest academically. Social activists will also find investigation of these questions crucial. Although Fukuyama has gained more critics than unqualified supporters in recent years, he has claimed that the major assumptions of his thesis have been distorted or misinterpreted. Hence, an objective of this paper is to include Fukuyama’s subsequent rejoinders and scholarly work to provide clarity into some of the contentious points he claims have been distorted by critics.

This paper also seeks to contribute to the theoretical debates on whether “a new world is possible” with progressive or modern forms of socialism.

In view of the above, the thesis statement needs to be formulated as follows:

Human civilization has not truly reached the end of history, because there is still a wide range of problems which prevent liberal democracy from being predominant in the world ”.

The overall objective of this paper is to investigate the viability of Fukuyama’s “end of history” thesis 20 years after its declaration. In order to ensure the coherence and logical consistence of the ongoing study, a set of research objectives need to be determined. Taking into account the key tenets of Fukuyama’s political philosophy, the research objectives may be enumerated as follows:

1. To expound on Fukuyama’s apprehension of “liberal democracy”.
2. To examine the suggested collapse of nationalism in the “end of history”.
3. To evaluate the empirical presupposition that all alternatives to liberalism have been eliminated.
4. To construe the normative assertion that liberalism is superior to all ideological alternatives.
5. To ascertain whether a modern form of socialism will be a suitable alternative to liberal democracy if liberal democracy is researched as unviable. Apart from the above, the current study is conceived to verify a number of research hypotheses. The following research hypotheses are going to be tested: a) - Nationalism does not inherently contradict to liberal democracy ; b) - Liberal democracy is impotent to actualize the principle of economic equality ; c) - A modern form of socialism may substitute the economic constituent of liberal democracy ; d) - The limited nature of global liberalism is exemplified by the Arab Spring .


2.1. Introductory notes

The principal significance of the current chapter lies in its capability to demonstrate all relevant to the research objectives opinions, approaches, and judgments of previous authors. However, the current chapter is not composed to merely depict the already comprehended findings in respect of Fukuyama’s thesis, but rather to attain the research objectives by means of the critical evaluation of the secondary data. Furthermore, the available researches are considered to be helpful in grasping the meaning of Fukuyama’s arguments.

2.2. Fukuyama’s conception of “liberal democracy”

The initial success of the current thesis lies in the clarification of how Fukuyama understands “liberal democracy”. The concept of “liberal democracy is the central idea of the author’s “end of history”. According to Francis Fukuyama (1992), the consensus about the legitimacy of liberal democracy as a system of government has been motivated by its superiority over different rival ideologies, such as hereditary monarchy, fascism, and communism (p. xi). Moreover, Fukuyama (1992) argues that liberal democracy may constitute the “end point of mankind’s ideological evolution” and the final form of human government” (p. xi). In the researcher’s opinion, the superiority of liberal democracy lies in its freedom from substantial deformities and irrationalities. Also, the author fancies that various internal contradictions characterize all forms of government, with the exception of liberal democracy. Thus, Fukuyama is disposed to think that the system of liberal democracy forms the acme of perfection.

To elaborate further, Francis Fukuyama (1992) differentiates between different philosophical interpretations of liberal democracy. Thus, according to the author of the “end of history”, the Hegelian understanding of the contemporary liberal democracy distinguishes significantly from the Anglo-Saxon theoretical basis of liberalism, represented in Britain and the United States. To Fukuyama’s way of thinking, in the Anglo-Saxon system of governance the rights and liberties are regarded as the means of securing the private sphere in order to facilitate the enrichment and satisfaction of the desiring parts of people’s souls, whereas the Hegelian liberal democracy emphasizes the rights, as the “ends in themselves”, because only the recognition of the status and dignity truly satisfies human beings, contrary to material prosperity (Fukuyama 1992, p. viii).

Taking into consideration, the Hegelian accent on the desire to recognition, as the key element of liberal democracy, Fukuyama (1992) reckons that the contemporary liberal democracy substitutes the irrational desire to be recognized as superior than others with the a rational concept “to be recognized as equal” (p. xx). In this connection, Fukuyama (1992) considers liberal democracies to be governments of equal nations with the lack of impetus to war. Such equality creates reasonable grounds for all nations to recognize and respect one another’s legitimacy. Hence, it follows that the human civilization has reached the end of history because liberal democracy has certainly resolved the question of recognition “by replacing the relationship of lordship and bondage with universal and equal recognition” (Fukuyama 1992, p. xxii).

After the aforesaid understanding of liberal democracy has been elucidated, it is prudent to review other scientific approaches to the matter of liberal democracy in order to verify the accurateness of Fukuyama’s conception. Thus, according to Clarke (1998), Fukuyama’s apprehension of liberal democracy lies in the advocacy of “universal homogenous state”, which consists of both the equalized political and economic spheres (p. 193). Moreover, the author states that Fukuyama’s vision of liberal democracy is utopian and millenarian. In Canada, the aforesaid sense of liberalism is supplemented by the firm, aggressive approach of Trudeau. Trudeau’s solidarity with Fukuyama’s superiority of liberal democracy consists in his criticism of French nationalism in Canada as a genuine manifestation of irrationality (Clarke 1998, p. 193). The condemnation of the irrationality by Trudeau may be juxtaposed with Fukuyama’s criticism of the irrational recognition, which incites to be greater than the others.

Apart from the above, Clarke (1998) makes attempts to ascertain the meaning and value of liberalism by investigating the issues of race and ethnicity. Therefore, in the researcher’s opinion, the matter of liberalism is consistent with Seer’s racial judgments. According to Seers, the final resolution to racism consists in assimilation (Clarke 1998, p. 205). Also, Clarke (1998) brings together Seers’ sentimental liberalism and Lantagne’s “chequebook ethnocentrism” (p. 205). The relevance of Clarke’s reflections on the questions of racism, nationalism, and xenophobia lies in the fact that Fukuyama (1992) strives to justify liberal democracy as the final destination, while Clarke (1998) rejects any alternatives to liberalism. Clarke (1998) considers the policy of assimilation to be an efficient mean of fighting racism. On the other hand, Fukuyama (1992) accentuates on the rational recognition of being equal among others. Hence, it follows that the concept of assimilation and the idea of being equal among others are identical.

However, Clarke (1998) disagrees with Fukuyama’s reciprocity between liberalism and history. To Clarke’s point of view, Fukuyama’s liberal democracy predicts that the history will fade away in the end. Dissenting from the above-mentioned opinion, Clarke (1998) asserts that it is impossible for the history to merely disappear, because it affects everything and everybody, leaving inevitable traces. Moreover, Clarke (1998) suggests that the history of human civilization is dialectic, which means that the struggle of the coexisting opposites is eternal. Thence, the transformative influence of nationalism and liberalism on each other is both irreversible and unresolved. The aforesaid dialectical approach to the matter of liberal democracy denies the crucial superiority of liberal democracy in the end of history.

To continue, John Fonte (2002) offers his own interpretation of the concept of liberal democracy. The author’s considerations are particularly expressed in the article “Liberal Democracy vs. Transnational Progressivism”. According to Fonte (2002), liberal democracy may be defined as a “self-governing representative system comprised of individual citizens who enjoy freedom and equality under law and together form a people within a democratic state” (p. 2). Thereby, Fonte’s version of liberal democracy enfolds two structural components of the system: 1) - a people that is formed by individual citizens who enjoy freedom and equality under law; 2) - the self-governing representative system of the people in the form of democratic nation-state.

Thence, in his definition of liberal democracy, Fonte (2002) speaks nothing about the issue of recognition. Nevertheless, the author of the “Liberal Democracy vs. Transnational Progressivism” accentuates on equality as an inalienable requirement for liberal democracy. In this light, Fonte (2002) resembles Fukuyama’s rejection of the desire to be greater than the others.

To continue, Fukuyama (1992) advocates the self-governing representative system of peoples, which is mentioned in Fonte’s definition of liberal democracy. According to Fukuyama (1992), democratic states are less willing to unleash wars against one another because “self-governing peoples are more reluctant to accept the cots of war than despotism” (p. 282).

Also, Fonte (2002) supplements his definition by the claims that liberal democracy must actually manifest itself as the set of individual rights, democratic form of majority rule, and national citizenship (p. 2). However, the researcher is disposed to think that an innumerable number of conflicts in the last forty years diminishes the practical value of liberal democracy and doubts the notion of the liberal democratic nation-state by contesting the statement that the “end of history” has been already reached.

Also, some researchers consider the concept of liberal democracy to be a stringently economic phenomenon. In this case, only economic dimensions of liberal democracy must be taken into consideration if the viability of Fukuyama’s thesis is about to be verified. From the economic perspective, liberal democracy coincides with the phenomenon of capitalism. Thence, analyzing the contemporary status of liberal democracy, some investigators are prone to believe that capitalism is doomed beyond controversy. Therefore, liberal democracy is doomed as well.

To put it briefly, Nouriel Roubini (2011) delineates the drawbacks and limitations of capitalism by explicating Karl Marx’s reasoning with regard to the fatal influences of both globalization and financial intermediation on capitalism. Moreover, Roubini (2011) reckons that the global redistribution of income and wealth from labour to capital may lead capitalism to self-destruction. Roubini’s evaluation of capitalism creates reasonable grounds for the assertion that Fukuyama (1992) disregards the negative forces of globalization in his claim that liberal democracy is likely to dominate in the “end of history”. Such insensibility to economic shortcomings of liberal democracy make Fukuyama’s thesis incomplete. To sum up, Fukuyama’s conception of liberal democracy corresponds with the existent definitions of the term. Nevertheless, some researchers accentuate on the limitations of the economic dimensions of liberal democracy. Nevertheless, the following discussions are conceived both to fill the gap regarding the economic appropriateness of liberal democracy and to propose the viable alternative to the “vicious” capitalism.


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Have we truly reached the End of History?
Investigating Fukuyama's thesis 20 years after
London Metropolitan University
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Moatez Chaouachi (Author), 2012, Have we truly reached the End of History?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/197627


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