Sean Illing in Vox:
Francis Fukuyama is easily one of the most influential political thinkers of the last several decades.
He’s best known for his 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man, which arrived on the scene as the Cold War was ending. Fukuyama’s central claim was that liberal democracy had won the war of ideas and established itself as the ideal political system. Not every society around the world was a liberal democracy. But what Fukuyama meant by declaring it “the end of history” was that it was only a matter of time. The claim made a big splash.
Now, 30 years later, Fukuyama’s written a new book called Liberalism and its Discontents. It’s both a defense of liberalism and a critique of it. It does a great job of cataloging the problems of liberalism, but also argues that liberalism is still the best option there is. Fukuyama writes about some very current challenges, like the American right’s move toward authoritarianism, and the resurgence of nationalism around the world. The upshot: It’s not clear that liberal democracy really is the end of history. I reached out to Fukuyama for a recent episode of Vox Conversations. We discuss the promise of liberalism, whether he thinks it’s failing, and if there’s anything he’d like to revise about his end of history thesis.