Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

"Socialism Ought to Come Back": End of History Author Francis Fukuyama on the Crisis of Liberal Democracy

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

"Socialism Ought to Come Back": End of History Author Francis Fukuyama on the Crisis of Liberal Democracy

Article excerpt

History is having its revenge on Francis Fukuyama. In 1992, at the height of post-Cold War liberal exuberance, the American political theorist wrote in The End of History and the Last Man: "What we may be witnessing ... is the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."

Twenty-six years later, from the US to Russia, Turkey to Poland, and Hungary to Italy, an Illiberal International is advancing. Fukuyama's new book Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (his ninth) seeks to grapple with these forces. But when I met the 65-year-old Stanford academic at our offices in London, he was careful to emphasise the continuity in his thought. "What I said back then [1992] is that one of the problems with modern democracy is that it provides peace and prosperity but people want more than that ... liberal democracies don't even try to define what a good life is, it's left up to individuals, who feel alienated, without purpose, and that's why joining these identity groups gives them some sense of community."

His critics, he said, "probably didn't read to the end of the actual book [The End of History], the Last Man part, which was really all about some of the potential threats to democracy."

Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama was born in Chicago in 1952 (he now lives with his wife in California) to a Japanese-American father (Fukuyama's paternal grandfather emigrated to the US in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese war) and a Japanese mother. He never learned his ancestral language and simply describes himself as American: "It just wasn't fashionable to be ethnic when I was growing up."

Fukuyama, who studied political philosophy under Allan Bloom, the author of The Closing of the American Mind, at Cornell University, initially identified with the neoconservative movement: he was mentored by Paul Wolfowitz while a government official during the Reagan-Bush years. But by late 2003, Fukuyama had recanted his support for the Iraq war, which he now regards as a defining error alongside financial deregulation and the euro's inept creation. "These are all elite-driven policies that turned out to be pretty disastrous, there's some reason for ordinary people to be upset."

The End of History was a rebuke to Marxists who regarded communism as humanity's final ideological stage. How, I asked Fukuyama, did he view the resurgence of the socialist left in the UK and the US? …

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