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History is directional, and its endpoint is capitalist liberal democracy, asserts Fukuyama, former U.S. State Department planner. In a broad, ambitious work of political philosophy, he identifies two prime forces that supposedly push all societies toward this evolutionary goal. The first is modern natural science (with its handmaiden, technology), which creates homogenous cultures. The second motor of history (which the author borrows from Hegel) is the desire for recognition, driving innovation and personal achievement. Fukuyama's main worry seems to be whether, in the coming of what he considers a capitalist utopia, we will all become complacently self-absorbed "last men" or instead revert to "first men" engaged in bloody, pointless battles. Several of the countries that he christens capitalist liberal democracies--Turkey, the nations of South America--are in fact either oligarchies or police states, and his contention that liberal democracies do not behave imperialistically flies in the face of world and U.S. history. Nevertheless, this self-congratulatory book will probably be popular and widely discussed, like Fukuyama's 1989 National Interest essay, "The End of History?"
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Fukuyama, then deputy director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, first presented this thesis in the foreign policy journal National Interest (Summer 1989), where it attracted worldwide attention. He argues that there is a positive direction to current history, demonstrated by the collapse of authoritarian regimes of right and left and their replacement (in many but not all cases) by liberal governments. "A true global culture has emerged, centering around technologically driven economic growth and the capitalist social relations necessary to produce and sustain it." In the absence of viable alternatives to liberalism, history, conceived of as the clash of political ideologies, is at an end. We face instead the question of how to forge a rational global order that can accommodate humanity's restless desire for recognition without a return to chaos. Fukuyama's views conveniently present the international politics of the present administration. History disappears very early on in the narrative, to be replaced by abstract philosophy. This essay made into a book is pretentious and overblown, though it offers some grounds for speculation. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/91.
- David Keymer, SUNY Inst. of Technology, Utica
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