Fukuyama says history is still ending
History hasn’t even begun to end, and when it ends, you’ll know it, because it’s gonna end so hard that everybody in the world is gonna feel it
I’ve noticed that the establishment has pulled back from putting forth positive arguments in favor of its vision for society, adopting instead a critical repose focused on purely negative critical assessments connecting various enemies and ideas with taboos. The rationales for the taboos are never discussed. (This is also known as the Damon Linker style of argument.)
The pose shift seems to have begun in 2016 when establishment pundits were absolutely blindsided by Trump. But now that stasis is returning, establishment pundits are once again feeling comfortable enough to venture forth with their positive arguments for what the world should look like.
Along these lines, Francis Fukuyama just posted some 10/10 bait in the Atlantic. Although we’ve mentioned Straussians recently, we’ve only touched upon Fukuyama in passing by noting his connection to the Braver Angels project.
Fukuyama is famous for his End of History thesis, developed in a book which nobody reads but everyone talks about. (Full disclosure: I’ve never read The End of History and the Bug Man or whatever it’s called, so that means nobody else has).
His article in the Atlantic is a survey of evidence in support of the thesis that history is ending, which I understand to be a metaphor for the irreversible global triumph of the abstraction “liberal democracy”.
Historically, predictions of a future “win” are often precipitated by a conditional win in the present that stokes a significant amount of optimism for the team. In antiquity, the relative success of the Maccabbean revolt unleashed a torrent of predictions that the Son of Man would be arriving soon to bring closure to history. But predictions about the end of history can also be fueled by a sense of weakness in the present. As Judaean fortunes declined in Jerusalem, culminating in the destruction of the second temple, predictions of the ultimate triumph of God over the pagan empires persisted.
The second kind of end of history predictor looks to the future to preserve his sense of superiority or omnipotence in the present. “We may have taken a lot of Ls recently that totally undermine our worldview”, he says to himself, “but trust the plan our perfection will be revealed to the world at a future date.” You can see the cynical end of history predictor in Talcott Parsons as we surveyed here, who conceded that while not everyone was seeing the perfection of the American social gospel at that time, the future would witness the delivery of the world from status inferiority and primitive authoritarian institutions.
I think Fukuyama’s new article is more motivated by enthusiasm. Until recently, Fukuyama had been writing about other topics like identity (I intend to review his recent book), but I suspect the recent setbacks for Putin in Ukraine and populism in the United States put a spring in his step, giving him the confidence necessary to write this article.
Fukuyama doesn’t really define liberal democracy in the article except negatively in comparison to what modern “authoritarian” and “strongman” regimes are not. He suggests the weakness of the authoritarian regimes are the following:
they don’t permit public discussion or debate
they don’t have a “mechanism of accountability”
they don’t permit the level of freedom people want.