Thursday, November 8, 2007

The End of History and the Last Man

Francis Fukuyama. The End of History and the Last Man. New York: The Free Press, 1992

Reviewed by T. Hatch

This is one of those books that are often mentioned en passant that through repeated and casual use comes to represent a facile shadow of itself (much like Gibbon’s Christians running the Roman Empire into the ground or Weber’s Calvinists single-handedly launching modern capitalism). Accordingly, the demise of the Soviet Union signaled the triumph of capitalism and the end of history.

Fukuyama is at his core a conservative Hegelian. As such he attempts to rescue Hegel from the Marxist mob that had held the venerable philosopher hostage for a century and a half; the Marxists ran roughshod with Hegel’s all ready radical notion of historicism. As victims of the Enlightenment both Fukuyama and the heroic Hegel see history as the progress of humanity towards higher levels of rationality and freedom. Following this path of reason history ended with the establishment of the modern liberal state (an event that arguably occurred long before the 1989-1991 epoch). Nonetheless Fukuyama attempts to establish a “coherent and directional universal history of mankind.” Metanarratives seem to die hard.

What distinguishes Fukuyama from many conservatives, especially the Natural Right crowd associated with the late Leo Strauss a.k.a. the neoconservatives, is that he does not display an overt animus to either modernity or political liberalism. In this he violates the ideology inherent in the weltanschauung of the Weekly Standard orbit. It may be merely coincidental then that Fukuyama broke with the neocons on the righteousness of the US invasion of Iraq. Perhaps a more felicitous title might have been The End of History and the Lonely Man.

2nd floor D16.8 .F85 1992

Find other books by Fukuyama at the Grinnell College Libraries

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