End of Whose History?

Kishore Mahbubani in the New York Times:

China-india The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall has just been celebrated. For many, that momentous event marked the so-called end of history and the final victory of the West.

This week, Barack Obama, the first black president of the once-triumphant superpower in that Cold War contest, heads to Beijing to meet America’s bankers — the Chinese Communist government — a prospect undreamt of 20 years ago. Surely, this twist of the times is a good point of departure for taking stock of just where history has gone during these past two decades.

Let me begin with an extreme and provocative point to get the argument going: Francis Fukuyama’s famous essay “The End of History” may have done some serious brain damage to Western minds in the 1990s and beyond.

Mr. Fukuyama should not be blamed for this brain damage. He wrote a subtle, sophisticated and nuanced essay. However, few Western intellectuals read the essay in its entirety. Instead, the only message they took away were two phrases: namely “the end of history” equals “the triumph of the West.”

Western hubris was thick in the air then. I experienced it. For example, in 1991 I heard a senior Belgian official, speaking on behalf of Europe, tell a group of Asians, “The Cold War has ended. There are only two superpowers left: the United States and Europe.”

More here. [Thanks to Kris Kotarski.]