Saturday, March 7, 2009

Fukuyama and Historical Inevitability

It seems to me worth noting at this point (in our discussions of Marxism-Leninism and Stalinism) that Francis Fukuyama’s thesis, contained in his The End of History and the Last Man, assumes that apples are going to drop from the tree, much like Lenin’s apples. However Fukuyama’s apples are Liberal Democratic and not Communist. He wrote his book in 1992 when it became clear that Marxism-Leninism as epitomized by the Soviet Union had failed. The two rivals of Liberal Democracy, Fascism and Communism had failed; therefore, Fukuyama, following the philosophy of the Russian Kojeve, argued that Hegel had been right after all. Marx argued that Hegel was partially right, but wrong in thinking that Capitalism was the “end of history.” Marx argued that the true end was Communism. But with the failure of Communism, Fukuyama argued that Hegel was right after all: Capitalism, vitalized as Liberal Democracy, was indeed the end of history.

Fukuyama’s thesis was the cornerstone of belief for the Neocons, but just as Davies believed that Marx would have been appalled at Lenin’s application of his theories; so was Fukuyama appalled at the Neocon application of his. Both Marx and Fukuyama believed in historical inevitability. Neither believed that aggressive force was needed to achieve results. Both believed that the apples would fall from the trees.

To further contrast Lenin and the Neocons, we see that Lenin engaged in a well-thought-out revolution in Russia. He became the head of the Russian revolution and was allowed to experiment to his heart’s content. In the case of the Neocons, they never had any real power. They argued and possibly influenced some people in the Bush 43 administration, but the exportation of Liberal Democracy (Fukuyama’s apples turned to activism) was never the prime goal for the removal of Saddam Hussein. And if anyone ever truly entertained the hope that Iraq could be turned into a “Liberal” democracy, that hope died in the wrangling to the Iraqis as the formed the sort of government they wanted; which was largely democratic but decidedly not Liberal.

Beyond that, it turned out that Saddam Hussein wasn’t quite as dangerous as we imagined him to be. He was dangerous but mostly to his neighbors and that wasn’t sufficient justification to erstwhile isolationist Americans who needed a really good reason to go to war. Even though Iraq is turning into a success story, the way we went about achieving that success did not meet our high standards; so it is being presented and understood to be a failure. As nonsensical as that seems, the net effect is that the Neocon project of helping Fukuyama’s apples drop from the trees is largely dead. If Fukuyama’s thesis is to come to pass, it will have to be as a result of future falling apples. He might see this happening as historical necessity, but perhaps the rest of us can say that Liberal Democracy is the most economically efficient system in the world today. And after we say that we can say that some nations, most notably China and Russia, are exploring the idea of achieving the benefits of the Liberal Democratic economy without having to become either as Liberal or as Democratic as the Western Democracies. If they can make their variants work, that would seem to me to be damaging to Fukuyama’s thesis. That is, if the Chinese-Russian variants truly turn out to be viable, and they remain antagonistic to Western Liberal Democracy; then history is still alive and well in the world.

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