Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

History Begins Again

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

History Begins Again

Article excerpt

"Second Thoughts" by Francis Fukuyama, and "Responses to Fukuyama" by Harvey Mansfield et al., in The National Interest (Summer 1999), 1112 16th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.

Ten years ago, in a new journal called the National Interest, an obscure researcher from the RAND Corporation ventured to suggest that with the West's victory in the Cold War, the end of History was in sight. Not history, in the ordinary sense of the unfolding story of man's sad stumble through the centuries, but capital-H History, in the Hegelian-Marxist sense of the progressive evolution of human political and economic institutions. And the "end" that Francis Fukuyama discerned was not socialism, as Marxists had supposed, but bourgeois liberal democracy and capitalism. There would be no more grand world conflicts over ideas and ideologies. His bold thesis still stirs controversy. Now, Fukuyama says that he was wrong - but not for reasons his critics suggested.

Neither the stalling of reform in Russia nor the economic crisis in Asia, says Fukuyama, now a professor of public policy at George Mason University, invalidate his conclusion "that liberal democracy and a market-oriented economic order are the only viable options for modern societies." Instead, he writes, the "true weakness" in his argument was this: "History cannot come to an end as long as modern natural science has no end; and we are on the brink of new developments in science that will, in essence, abolish what [philosopher] Alexandre Kojeve called 'mankind as such'" - human nature itself.

Within the next few generations, Fukuyama believes, genetic engineering made possible by the biotechnology revolution will allow "what the radical ideologies of the past . . . were unable to accomplish": the creation of "a new type of human being." It may well be possible, for example, "to breed less violent people, or people cured of their propensity for criminal behavior. …

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