Day By Day

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fukuyama, Twenty Years After

Twenty years ago Francis Fukuyama set off an immense wave of controversy with the publication in "The National Interest" of an essay titled The End of History? He followed this up with a small book The End of History and the Last Man.

What Fukuyama argued was that two centuries of experience since the French Revolution have shown conclusively that liberal democracy is the best of all forms of government and that the evolution of societies will inevitably tend toward that best form. The collapse of the Soviet empire shortly after the publication of his initial essay seemed to dramatically confirm his predictions as did an impressive wave of democratization that followed in its aftermath. Since then the rise of theocratic Islamism and a socialist backlash against democratic liberalism have called his thesis into question. What does Fukuyama think now? Read this interview in the Christian Science Monitor and find out.


Michael Moynihan has a nice essay over at on the continuing historical debate over the end of the Soviet empire.
Twenty years ago this month... the Berlin Wall, that monument to the barbarism of the Soviet experiment, was finally breached. The countries held captive by Moscow began their long road to economic and cultural recovery, and to reunification with liberal Europe. But in the West, where Cold War divisions defined politics and society for 40 years, the moment was not greeted as a welcome opportunity for intellectual reconciliation, for fact-checking decades of exaggerations and misperceptions. Instead, then as now, despite the overwhelming volume of new data and the exhilaration of hundreds of millions finding freedom, the battle to control the Cold War narrative raged on unabated. Reagan haters and Reagan hagiographers, Sovietophiles and anti-communists, isolationists and Atlanticists, digested this massive moment in history, then carried on as if nothing much had changed....
And the debate continues today, and probably will indefinitely. I have often asserted that those who look to history as the final judge on the meaning of our experience will be frustrated. There is no such thing as an objective authority and that goes for historians as much as for contemporary pundits who write the "first draft" of history. All historical accounts, no matter how scholarly, are the products of ideology, expediency, and bias and history, rather than being an impartial judge or teacher of truth, is a continuing dialogue in which nothing is finally settled.