Not yet the end of history


Social Sciences room 122 teemed with enough listeners to create condensation on the windows, crowded aisles, and a slew of camera flashes. They were there Tuesday afternoon to hear Francis Fukuyama, the Bernard L. Schwartz professor of international political economy at Johns Hopkins University, give a talk called The End of History Fifteen Years Later. In his address Fukuyama amended claims in his groundbreaking book, The End of History and the Last Man (Penguin, 1992), and discussed his newest work, State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century (Cornell University Press, 2004).

“I think The End of History needs to be rewritten,” the scholar-prognosticator admitted. “The modernity of the liberal West is difficult to achieve for many societies around the world.” Islamic radicalism, the United States and Europe’s ideological split over the Iraq war, and the notion of politics as an autonomous machine have all clashed with Fukuyama’s original thesis that human history as a struggle between warring ideologies was at a close, with the world settled on liberal democracy.

“My thesis ended as a question,” he noted. “The theory is about modernization and the coherent processes of economic, political, and social development and interconnectedness.” Nevertheless, Fukuyama defended his ideas about modernization’s universality and liberal democracy as correlative. “Modernization is like the scientific revolution—both can break out of their cultural homeland,” he said. “However, to maintain a liberal political order, there must be a fundamental separation between religion and state formation.”

The talk was part of the 2005 John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy Winter lecture series.

By Bianca Sepulveda, AB’04

February 9, 2005