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The End of History and the Last Man Paperback – February 1, 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
In a broad, ambitious work of political philosophy, a three-week PW bestseller in cloth, Fukuyama asserts that history is directional and that its endpoint is capitalist liberal democracy.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Fukuyama is false to claim no other democracy in 1776, though the pretense that the Native American, in particular the Haudenosaunee, do not exist and have no rights nor treaties nor land is certainly one school of thought (and, especially, action) in America. Granted, a participatory democracy with communal ownership would doubtless be as unacceptable to the Western man as was the Iranian democracy they kicked over in 1953.
Now while the spread of the liberal democracy may seem impressive, the 2009 coup in Hondouras and various military hijinks abroad by the one nation that supported said coup raises the question whether graduates of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and the military industrial complex Eisenhower warned about represent some final form, or are simply another telling of the Athens trope—democracy at home, empire abroad. More time, as Toynbee indicates, would certainly be in order.
On the economic front, many of the woes of the USSR also apply elsewhere; it is not too difficult in America today to find a hotel, shopping mall, or countryside where "one can find the most abject poverty". Whether abstract principles will suffice to render the rent affordable or reverse the vanishing act of the middle class is an interesting question; Fukuyama is rather optimistic on this point, and appears to hold to the most curious notion of infinite growth on a finite planet. Where are the drawbacks and diminishing returns of flapping with ever increasing acceleration towards the sun?
"none of America's ethnic groups constitutes historical communities living on their traditional lands and speaking their own language, with a memory of past nationhood and sovereignty." How very strange a claim! The Haudenosaunee live on their traditional lands (what is left of them, anyways) and speak their own language and have a past memory of their nationhood and sovereignty. One could weasel out from this falsehood by claiming the Haudenosaunee are a separate nation, which then leaves the awkward fact of America (and Canada) stealing their land and forcing Americaness (or Canadianess) on them.
Science is less cummulative than claimed (and the author seems to mix science and technology?); theories change: in geology neptunism and volcanism were tossed in favor of uniformitarianism tossed in favor of punctuated equilibrium. Global deluge out, tectonics in. Techniques change: tasting chemicals is now frowned upon, and how many slide rules are used in the design of the F-35 fighter? Roles change: there is perhaps a greater demand for environmental geologists than petroleum. And what ever happened to commercial supersonic transport, speaking of accumulation?
As scholars were blind to the fall of the Soviets (which Fukuyama does well document), the claim that "we are now at a point where we cannot imagine a world substantially different from our own" is as blind. Toynbee and others point out that civilizations can rot away from within or fall to ecological challenges, and a failure to imagine a better world is just that, a failure of imagination. Liberal democracies have woes aplenty, and are hardly "free from the contradictions that characterized earlier forms of social organization", given the divide between the Dominant Minority (the 1%) and the Internal Proletariat (the precariat), mounting ecological woes (how fares the Ogallala aquifer?), and the rather rapid consumption of various concentrated energy stores.
A more realistic text with far better predictive value is Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations"; that text better explains such stress points as Turkey, the rise of China, or why America meddles so incessantly in some areas of the world (South America, Africa, and the Middle East) but not others (say, the petro state of Norway).
However, I found it difficult to believe the argument for the directionality of history, based mainly on appeal to scientific method and technological advancement. The argument as to why liberal economies result in liberal democracies was even less convincing.
Having said this it is a very interesting read that opens up many different avenues to explore. Indeed if, like me, you are not educated in social or political philosophy this is a great introduction to some of the great challenges of society today and to several of the great contributors to the underlying ideas of Anglo Saxon liberal democracy.
An excellent book.
Detractors like to make simplistic attacks on this book, but in reality, it is quite nuanced.