Forward with Fukuyama

Daniel Luban in The Point:

ScreenHunter_1259 Jul. 17 17.41Francis Fukuyama was 36 years old in 1989 when “The End of History?” made him a star. At the time, there was little in his biography to mark him as anything more than another ambitious young Cold War technocrat. He had been hired by the RAND Corporation directly out of graduate school at Harvard (where he wrote a dissertation on Soviet foreign policy under the famous political scientist Samuel Huntington) and, aside from two stints at the State Department, had remained at RAND ever since, producing geopolitical analyses whose readership did not extend beyond the national security bureaucracy.

But Fukuyama had always been philosophically curious—a bent nurtured by his undergraduate teacher, the Straussian guru Allan Bloom, and maintained throughout his time in the policy world—and the argument he made reflected that. Delivering the original lecture before a University of Chicago audience that included Bloom, he argued that the scientific revolution had unleashed unprecedented productive energies for satisfying human desire, energies that only capitalism could properly harness. On its own, this scientific-economic logic could lead “equally well to a bureaucratic-authoritarian future as to a liberal one,” as he put it in his book-length elaboration, The End of History and the Last Man (1992). But humans are more than just desiring creatures seeking material satisfaction; they are also valuing creatures seeking recognition as equals, and only liberal democracy could satisfy this drive for recognition. The demise of fascism and communism left no coherent ideological challenges to liberal capitalist democracy, which stood revealed as history’s endpoint.

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