The Un-End of History

In openDemocracy, Francis Fukuyama has a new afterword for his 1992 book The End of History. A number of thinkers respond: David Scott, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Anthony Pagden, Talal Asad and Saskia Sassen. Fukuyama:

I have been contrasted by many observers to my former teacher Samuel Huntington, who put forward a very different vision of world development in his book The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order. In certain respects I think it is possible to overestimate the degree to which we differ in our interpretation of the world. For example, I agree with him in his view that culture remains an irreducible component of human societies, and that you cannot understand development and politics without a reference to cultural values.

But there is a fundamental issue that separates us. It is the question of whether the values and institutions developed during the western Enlightenment are potentially universal (as Hegel and Marx thought), or bounded within a cultural horizon (consistent with the views of later philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger). Huntington clearly believes that they are not universal. He argues that the kind of political institutions with which we in the west are familiar are the by-product of a certain kind of western European Christian culture, and will never take root beyond the boundaries of that culture.

So the central question to answer is whether western values and institutions have a universal significance, or whether they represent the temporary success of a presently hegemonic culture.