The end of history

Written in 1989, Fukuyama's article represents a different aspect of the civilization exclusivity question than might be currently perceived, given the more recent developments in political circumstances around the world. "The End of History?" provides readers with a theory about modernization while discussing the rise and fall of major ideologies such as absolutism, fascism and communism, and suggests that human history should be viewed in terms of a battle of ideologies which has reached its end as Western liberal democracy becomes universal. Yet it is reasonable to say that, in fact, humans have such unique identities, in a constant struggle for power and survival, that despite any progression into a seeming consensus in ideological terms, one must not negate the fact that what we have in common can be just as much reason to fight as are our differences.

He argues that although its realization is still in process in the material world, the idea of Western liberalism has triumphed in many senses, as has been demonstrated by the worldwide growth of Western consumerist culture and the gradual movement towards democratic or liberal reforms in countries that previously embraced alternate ideologies. However, we must acknowledge the fact that some countries such as Turkey, under Ataturk, have undergone serious transformations in their journeys towards democracy and Westernization, yet are gradually returning to their old ways due, in part, to of a sense of loss in terms of their national unification and traditional values.

Undeniably, there is a potentially universal set of values and unions that were developed in the West, which seems to become more and more influential as liberal democracy and capitalism continue to exist. Yet, it is absurd to think that age-old cultures as deeply rooted as that of China, or of those in the Middle East will be overcome by the integrating forces of modernization and that -theoretically all humans will "stand under one flag." There are so many values and traditions held up by these civilizations whose continuation would not be accommodated by the establishment of secular, liberal democratic governance. There is a contagious aspect to individualism, and historically, it has proved to be something worth fighting for.

Certainly, there has long been an indisputable connection between Protestantism and capitalism, as they offer a mutual appeal on a fundamental level: they are both deeply rooted within the same cultural backgrounds. Yet although such political ideologies are widely accepted in the Western world, this is not to say that disillusionment and instability are not still possible if the liberal model gets tarnished in battle, and will become much less convincing when attempting to sell such ideals to sceptical newcomers. There are, of course, questions of efficiency and the prospect of losing a level of independence when under direct comparison with other countries.

To evaluate whether, according to Fukuyama's specifications, history and the evolution of new ideologies really has begun to end, Fukuyama looks next at whether any core conflicts of human life remain that could only be resolved by a political-economic structure other than modern liberalism. In terms of mankind's "common ideological heritage", two such alternatives have been fascism and communism. The seemingly self-destructive nature of fascism was revealed during World War II, and its failure has deflated further fascist movements.

More recently, communism's case against liberalism has weakened with the rise of equality in the legal and social structure of the classless West, and so has support for communism in the West, and elsewhere. By extent of the Hegelian view, world-wide embracing of consumer culture can be seen as a move towards economic liberalism, and political liberalism would logically follow. Those countries still under communism are only an anomaly on the international front, but the important fact is that there are still people who continue to believe in the ideology. Fukuyama expects that because this group is a minority, that this will result in a mounting pressure for change as alternatives to Western liberalism are exhausted. Yet Fukuyama fails to recognize the potential for the emergence of new ideologies as neo-liberal priorities in the West become much less focused on the basics of economics, but more on concerns such as environmental issues, human rights and things that are much less materialistic than the economic necessity which he uses to justify his arguments.

With the leading countries in a post-history state it is commonly thought there will still be little result because national interest is always a much stronger force than ideological theory. Nationalist inspired expansionism similar to that seen in nineteenth century Europe is what we are supposed to expect from "de-ideologized" countries. But the fact that they believed in imperialism disqualifies them from being considered truly liberal, and Fukuyama argues it was different forms of ideology that they used to justify their imperialism. Since fascism's defeat in World War II all expansionism has been done in establishment of defence against others with overtly-expansionist ideologies.

After liberalisation of market and economy, expansionism is supposed to disappear, yet this is not the case if we look at the (limited, but nonetheless considerable) globalization and Westernization of regions as different from ours as parts of the third world. The label does not mean that all actions of countries which identify themselves as liberal and democratic are consistently living up to the expectations laid out by the implications of their supposedly chosen ideology. There will always be a human passion for recognition of superiority and a struggle for some form of power over others.

It is true that communism is losing its power as a truly accepted ideology, and that without a significant alternative a common market it has potential to continue to grow and large scale ideological conflict might fade away. But Fukuyama suggests that conflict will continue on another level. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, among other things, brought about a sort of end of alternatives to Western, liberal democracies. But until then, those areas that have not yet reached the end of history will continue to be in conflict with those that have. Nationalist conflict and ethnic conflict have not played themselves out yet, and Fukuyama predicts they will result in increases in terrorism. Through this and the anti-materialistic, pro-diversity priorities around which new paradigms are forming, it is possible that new ideologies will emerge, and that such conflict will simply make for new approaches to politics from the different sides of the battle - a sort of reincarnation on the ideological front. As we move to economic conflict instead of the powerful and inspiring conflicts of history, Fukuyama supposes a state of incredible tediousness may even "serve to get history started once again."

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