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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 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]

Some see his thesis conflicting with Karl Marx's version of the "end of prehistory".[2]. Some scholars identify the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel as the source of Fukuyama's language, by way of Alexandre Kojève. Kojeve argued that the progress of history must lead towards secular free-market democracy, (conceived in terms of a multi-party system of political representation). It is conjectured that Fukuyama learned of Kojève through his teacher Allan Bloom.


Highlights of Fukuyama thought

  • History should be viewed as an evolutionary process
  • Events still occur at the end of history
  • Pessimism about man's future is warranted because of man's inability to control technology
  • The end of history means liberal democracy will become the only form of government for all States. This form of government will be the last form of government.

Fukuyama's thesis

Fukuyama's thesis consists of two main elements.[3]

  • The empirical argument: Since the beginning of the 19th Century, there has been a move for States to adopt some form of liberal democracy as its government.
  • The philosophical argument: Fukuyama examines the influence of thymos (or human spiritedness). His argument is democracy hinders risky behavior. Enlightened rational thought shows that the roles of master and slave are unsatisfying and self-defeating and hence not adopted by lofty spirits. This type of argument was originally taken up by Hegel and John Locke.


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.[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."[4]

Arguments in favor of Fukuyama's thesis

This graph shows the number of nations in the different categories given by Freedom House in their survey Freedom in the World for the period for which there are surveys, 1972-2005. Nations are categorized as "Free", "Partly Free", and "Not Free". Freedom House considers "Free" nations to be liberal democracies.
  • 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.[5]
  • 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.[6][7]

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:
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'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.[9]
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.[8]
  • 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.
  • Muslim fundamentalism. Some critics state that Muslim 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. But in his article "They Can Only Go So Far" Fukuyama says:

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.

  • 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.
  • Illiberal democracy. Fareed Zakaria argued that the spread of democracy might not be accompanied by the triumph of free-markets, rule-of-law, and separation of powers.
  • 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".[10] 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 rival model which could inspire other states.

Posthuman future

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)

See also


  1. ^ The End of History and the Last Man. (Fukuyama, 1992.)
  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. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Francis Fukuyama. (2007-04-03). The history at the end of history. The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-06-18
  5. ^ Democracy's Century: A Survey of Global Political Change in the 20th Century. Freedom House, Inc. (2003). Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  6. ^ Global Conflict Trends. Center for Systemic Peace. (2007-09-26). Retrieved 2008-06-18. Archived version
  7. ^ Human Security Report
  8. ^ a b Derrida, 1994.
  9. ^ Halperin, Myers, Siegle, Weinstein. (2005).
  10. ^ A. GAT, "The End of the End of History" in Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007.
  11. ^ Text of Hugo Chávez's address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 2006
  12. ^ Francis Fukuyama. (2006-08-06). "History's Against Him". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-06-18.


External links

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