What we learned this week

  • What should we make of Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man, 25 years on?


  1. Could you not retitle this: What I read in the Guardian this week.

    Well, Fukuyama still seems fairly secure. There doesn’t seem to be any coherent alternative to globalised liberal market capitalism. I hear assertions of “there must be something better!” but nothing that isn’t a retread of a previous failure or wishy washy tinkering..

    Of course Hegel did not say there was any end point in history, both Marx and Fukuyama asserted their own endings. So something could come down the track, but at present there isn’t anything like the rights of man, nationalism, capitalism or liberalism out there. Not saying nothing new will come, but I can’t see it now.

  2. Hmm, yes. I did this one in a hurry and didn’t give it the usual attention. Apologies.

    I think Fukuyama stands up better now than a lot of people expected at the time, or than when I read him a few years later when everyone was saying that 9/11 had thrown everything into question. That’s partly because he always gave himself a get-out clause, which is the smart way to write about the future. It’s the end of history (but there may be more history to come). It’s the end of ideology (but maybe the end of ideology will create new ideology).

    I do think the focus on big alternatives is too limited though. I don’t see any coherent alternative either, but I do see the inherent unsustainability of liberal market capitalism – as least as currently configured. It looks likely that capitalism will reach a point where it has nowhere left to go, collapsing under the internal strains of debt, inequality and ecological stress. At that point we are truly in a post-ideological age – not one dominated by a single eternal ideology, but in a place where we know that no single ideology can ever be big enough.

    To me one of the dangers of where we are today is that people will lose faith in the capitalism we have and attempt to revert to previous failures. The future is hybrid, as far as I’m concerned.

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