The End of History and the Last Man

The End of History and the Last Man

"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". In the book, Fukuyama argues that the advent of Western liberal democracy may signal the end point of mankind's ideological 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." [The End of History and the Last Man. (Fukuyama, 1992.)]

This thesis conflicts strongly with Karl Marx's version of the "end of prehistory". ["This social formation constitutes, therefore, the closing chapter of the prehistoric stage of human society." (1859)] . Fukuyama's thesis, coming at the end of the Cold War, is an obvious reference to Marx's phrase. However, Fukuyama draws from the work of the source Marx got the phrase from, the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. In particular, Fukuyama is influenced by the interpretation of Hegel by the French thinker Alexandre Kojève, both arguing that the historical progression has led towards secular free-market democracy (conceived in terms of a multi-party system of political representation). Fukuyama seems to have been pointed in Kojève's direction by the prominent Straussian political philosopher Allan Bloom, who taught Fukuyama.

Fukuyama's thesis

Fukuyama's thesis consists of three main elements. [It has been suggested, somewhat implausibly, that the origins for the term "end of history" (though not the thesis) might lie with "1066 and all that" by WC Sellar and RJ Yeatman (copyright 1930). Chapter 62 describes how history comes to an end when America becomes 'top nation' and refers to this point as 'The End of History'. Sellar and Yeatman's book is a unique parody of history books and was not meant to be taken seriously.]

* First, there is an empirical argument. Fukuyama points out that since the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, democracy, which started off as being merely one among many systems of government, has grown until nowadays the majority of governments in the world are termed "democratic". He also points out that democracy's main intellectual alternatives (which he takes to be various forms of dictatorship) have become discredited.

* Second, there is a philosophical argument examining the influence of thymos (or human spiritedness). Fukuyama argues that the original battles for prestige among the first men of history, and the willingness of some to risk their lives in order to receive recognition from another is an unnecessary form of human behaviour within a democracy. In essence; the roles of master and slave are rationally understood by both parties to be unsatisfying and self-defeating. This follows the work of Hegel and an anglo-saxon tradition typified by John Locke's ideas on self preservation and the right to property.

* Finally Fukuyama also argues that for a variety of reasons radical socialism (or communism) is likely to be incompatible with modern representative democracy. Therefore, in the future, democracies are overwhelmingly likely to contain markets of some sort, and most are likely to be capitalist or social democratic.


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.

The most basic (and prevalent) error in discussing Fukuyama's work is to confuse 'history' with 'events'. Fukuyama does not claim at any point that events will stop happening in the future. What he is claiming is 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 have 'temporary' setbacks (which may, of course, last for centuries).

*Some argue that Fukuyama presents 'American-style' democracy as the only 'correct' political system and that all countries must inevitably follow this particular government system; however, many Fukuyama scholars claim this is a misreading of his work.Fact|date=August 2007 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 organisation. 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." [Francis Fukuyama. (2007-04-03). [ The history at the end of history.] The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-06-18]

Arguments in favor of Fukuyama's thesis

* Empirical evidence has been used to support the theory. Freedom House argues that there was not a single liberal democracy with universal suffrage in the world in 1900, but that today 120 (62 percent) of the world's 192 nations are such democracies. They count 25 (19 percent) nations with 'restricted democratic practices' in 1900 and 16 (8%) today. They counted 19 (14 percent) constitutional monarchies in 1900, where a constitution limited the powers of the monarch, and with some power devolved to elected legislatures, and none today. Other nations had, and have, various forms of non-democratic rule. [ [ Democracy's Century: A Survey of Global Political Change in the 20th Century] . Freedom House, Inc. (2003). Retrieved 2008-06-18.]
* The democratic peace theory argues that there is statistical evidence that democracy decreases systematic violence such as external and internal wars and conflicts. This seems compatible with Fukuyama's theory, but hardly with the increasing class conflicts that Marx predicted.
* 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 [ [ Global Conflict Trends.] Center for Systemic Peace. (2007-09-26). Retrieved 2008-06-18.]

Criticisms of Fukuyama's thesis

There have been many criticisms of the "end of history" thesis. Some of these include:

*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 U.S. 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 liberal hegemony is criticized by Derrida:

:Derrida's contention is not directed to the relative number of poor which is declining worldwide. Some researchers have found empirical evidence that democracies are better at reducing poverty as compared with non-democracies. [Halperin, Myers, Siegle, Weinstein. (2005).]

:Derrida goes on to analyze Fukuyama's book as taking part in the intellectual branch of current Western Hegemony and the spreading 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.

*"Environmentalist". There is also the argument by the environmentalist movement. They argue that relentless growth will conflict directly with the already defined scarce resources the Earth has.

*"Libertarianism". Some radical libertarians (represented by Hans-Hermann Hoppe) argue that democracy failed the classical liberal tradition by subordinating individual rights (especially private property) to the public interest, and that democracy is actually a decline of civilization compared to monarchy (see "").

*"Islamic fundamentalism". Some critics state that Islamic Fundamentalism (as represented by Osama Bin Laden for example) stands in the same relation to 21st century democracy as, for example, Stalinism and Fascism did in the 20th century (i.e. as a fundamental intellectual alternative). Fukuyama discusses this briefly in "The End of History". He argues that Islam is not an Imperialist force like Stalinism and Fascism: i.e. that it has little intellectual or emotional appeal outside the Islamic 'heartlands'. Fukuyama points to the economic and political difficulties that Iran and Saudi Arabia are facing, and argues 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 (with the recent instance Afghanistan), they were easily dominated by the powerful Western states. Benjamin Barber wrote about this in "Jihad vs. McWorld", as a direct response to Fukuyama's claim. Barber claims that there is only one alternative to "McWorld", and that is Fundamentalism, or Jihad.

*"Marxism". Marxism is another "end of history" philosophy. 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 etc., 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.

*"Clash of civilizations". Samuel P. Huntington, in his essay and book, "The Clash of Civilizations," argues 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.

*"Rise of Authoritarian Capitalism". Azar Gat, Professor of National Security at Tel Aviv University, argues in his "Foreign Affairs" article "The Return of Authoritarian Great Powers" that (the spread of) liberal democracy, as argued by Fukuyama, faces two challenges: radical Islam and rising authoritarian powers, two challenges which could "end the end of history". [A. GAT, "The End of the End of History" in "Foreign Affairs", July/August 2007.] The first threat he considers less significant as radical Islamic movements "represent no viable alternative to modernity and pose no significant military threat to the developed world". The second challenge he considers more significant: the rise of nondemocratic great powers China and Russia, operating under authoritarian capitalist regimes, could pose a viable rivalling model which could inspire other states.

*"Chavismo". Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has argued against "the end of history": he argued his case in his September 2006 address to the United Nations General Assembly. [ [ Text of Hugo Chávez's address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 2006] ] As recently as August 2006, Fukuyama has written in response to Chávez's argument, his main point being that Chavismo is only possible due to the unique oil reserves of Venezuela, so will not spread. [Francis Fukuyama. (2006-08-06). [ "History's Against Him"] . The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-06-18.]


:"See also: Transhumanism"Fukuyama himself later conceded 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 the liberal democracy.

Publication history

* Free Press, 1992, hardcover (ISBN 0-02-910975-2)
* Perennial, 1993, paperback (ISBN 0-380-72002-7)

ee also

* Clash of civilizations
* Sociocultural evolution
* Democratic peace theory



* cite book
title = Specters of Marx: State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International
author = Jacques Derrida
year = 1994
publisher = Routledge
isbn = 0415910455

* cite book
title = The End of History and the Last Man
author = Francis Fukuyama
year = 1992
publisher = Free Press
isbn = 0029109752

* Morton Halperin, Joanne J. Myers, Joseph T. Siegle, Michael M. Weinstein. (2005-03-17). [ The Democracy Advantage: How Democracies Promote Prosperity and Peace] . Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. Retrieved 2008-06-18.

* cite book
title = 1066 and All That
author = W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman
year = 1930
publisher = Methuen
isbn = 0413772705

External links

* [ The Essay]
* [ Islam and America... Friends or Foes?]
* [ Introduction to Text]

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