Fukuyama: History Ended But Not Yet Over
Francis Fukuyama reminds us again that, while his (in)famous 1992 book The End of History and the Last Man argued that free market democracy had emerged as the winner of the ideological dialectic, he is fundamentally opposed to spreading democracy through outside intervention and should not be accused of being “the intellectual foundation for the Bush administration’s policies.”
To be sure, the desire to live in a modern society and to be free of tyranny is universal, or nearly so. This is demonstrated by the efforts of millions of people each year to move from the developing to the developed world, where they hope to find the political stability, job opportunities, health care, and education that they lack at home.
But this is different from saying that there is a universal desire to live in a liberal society – that is, a political order characterised by a sphere of individual rights and the rule of law. The desire to live in a liberal democracy is, indeed, something acquired over time, often as a byproduct of successful modernisation.
Moreover, the desire to live in a modern liberal democracy does not translate necessarily into an ability to actually do so. The Bush administration seems to have assumed in its approach to post-Saddam Iraq that both democracy and a market economy were default conditions to which societies would revert once oppressive tyranny was removed, rather than a series of complex, interdependent institutions that had to be painstakingly built over time.
Long before you have a liberal democracy, you have to have a functioning state (something that never disappeared in Germany or Japan after they were defeated in the second world war). This is something that cannot be taken for granted in countries like Iraq.
Further, as we’ve seen time and again, elections do not necessarily translate into “democracy,” let alone a modern liberal society. Absent liberal cultural norms, elections can result in variations of the “one man, one vote, one time” phenomenon seen so often in Africa and Latin America or, as in places like the Palestinian territory, the election of thugs or theocrats.