Friday, February 24, 2006

Francis Fukuyama's Dead End of History

/ neocons / departing /
In this past Sunday's New York Times, Francis Fukuyama, of End of History fame, announces his departure from the neocon camp, attacking the policies that the neoconservatives have implemented these past years:

"The End of History," in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.

Fukuyama's article is interesting - but the alternative he proposes, although certainly not as catastrophic as the position he criticizes - seems nearly as removed from the "on the ground" political reality, as well as from some aspects of the history of American foreign policy - or how these look from outside the viewpoints of a narrow circle of elite powerbrokers in the US.

Tom Paine's Patrick Doherty notes:

...In detaching himself from the messy parameters (parameters that both anger our friends and limit America's options) and focusing only on a lofty theory of power and interests, Fukuyama is failing to examine whether the challenges facing our country go beyond a question of how we pursue our national interests and therefore to ask whether those challenges are instead rooted in the very composition of those national interests . In other words, can we even talk about promoting democracy in the Middle East if the U.S. refuses to lead the world away from petroleum dependence? Can we even talk about ending poverty in Africa when our own economy is dependent upon unsustainably consuming African resources? Can we talk about free trade when we face such enormous differences in standards of living, notably between the U.S. and China?...

But I would also note, on a more philosophical level, that there is no recognition that what Fukuyama calls his "Marxist" view of history (which is in reality pre-Marxian, from a common source: Hegel) is plagued by the same sin of naive Marxism (certainly of early Marx) but in the other direction: History not as a prelude to the new world that will arrive, but a prelude to the most perfect order which now exists. An apologetics of the established order of things, which is presented as the apex of social development. A Right-Hegelianism with the USA as the new, improved, Prussia. This idea of course traces its ideological roots in Christianity and tries to find support in some sort of Darwinian evolutionary rationale.

Although this thesis is in principle unprovable (but its variants are shot-down with each social order that fails to close history), what we do know of historical processes (natural and social) does not suggest that any such end, any final state exists, or will exist at some point (although very long periods of societal "stasis" are quite probable). Yet this teleology becomes not just unfounded but comical, exactly as the elites of each successive variants of social organization use it as justification of their privileges. Apparently, Dr. Pangloss lives on.

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