“Ichweißjetztnichts von Rätseln. Allesgeschieht: Das ist die ganze Weisheit.[i]”
(I do not know anything about riddles now. Everything happens: that is the whole wisdom)
“It is easy to make fun of Fukuyama’s notion of the “End of History:’ but most people today are ‘Fukuyamean’.[ii]”
Over the past few years, Conservative thinker and famed ‘End of History’ theorist Francis Fukuyama has attempted to defend his 1989 thesis from backlashes of what he has termed as ‘the rise of populist nationalism[iii]’. This has taken him to an extent to admit the incompleteness of his theory – possibly due to the fact that it did not account for all aspects of politics of democracy[iv].
When he first published his thesis in its essay format as part of the Summer edition of the National Interest magazine in 1989, Fukuyama introduced it by pondering over the ‘flow of events of the past decades’ which suggested to him that ‘something very fundamental has happened in the world history[v]’. Fukuyama’s thesis symbolized the fall of the Berlin Wall as the triumph of Western Liberal Democracy – which, if more crudely put, meant that American styled Democratic Capitalism could finally be the blueprint for nations all over the world – now that the Iron Curtain was no more. Dealing with the ‘common ideological heritage of mankind[vi],’ Fukuyama half-heartedly accounted for the death of each competing ideology of the day to show that only Liberalism remained as a survivor amidst the playground of political ideologies in the 20th century. Playing the ‘End of History’ contortionist, he attempted the impossible by claiming that America at the time was, what Marx envisioned – yes, Karl Marx – a truly ‘classless’ society as the inequality rife in the society was not due to the legal or social structure of the country but rather based in the cultural differences on either side of the divide.
What was then an essay titled ‘End of History?’ became full-fledged book in 1991 and continues to turn heads till date. Nevertheless, one wouldn’t find it too tough to imagine Fukuyama, a frequenter at the infamous RAND Corporation’s Political Science Department, espousing his views on world order in a book which also ‘just so happened to be’ a vehemently triumphalist account of global order favouring the side he was employed by. But it must be said, Fukuyama was not up to anything special as most of his readers might be led to believe today. He was merely tilting the axis of Hegelian interpreter Alexandre Kojève’s ‘End of History’ thesis. It was a reading that Derrida remarked of being that of a ‘young, industrious, but come-lately reader’ of Kojève.[vii] Derrida, paying more attention to what Fukuyama was saying and how it was being said, went on even further to compare Fukuyama’s work to a ‘new gospel’ in the tradition of ‘End of History’ evangelists.
Regardless, a little less than 30 years since the first exposition of his thesis, Fukuyama ponders again. The difference is that today his thesis is under threat not only from academic critiques and dismissals by fellow thinkers and intellectuals, but simply due to his triumphalist approach being challenged by events such as Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring among others – events, the likes of which, he had said would still persist in the International sphere – but continue to show that Western Liberalism is not finding the foundation that he thought it would. These events pose a significant challenge to Fukuyama’s thesis regarding its economic and political agenda. Western Liberal ideas along with strains of Free-market and Capitalism have failed to have the truly global effect that he touted them to have. What is more is that within places where Capitalism reigns with any certain mixture of democracy, there are disillusionments with its results, efficiency and reason for existence leading to protests against austerity measures and public spending. It is then fair to say that Fukuyama’s triumph is far from being achieved in the real and global sense.
Which then brings us to the logical question – if Fukuyama is yet to become the victor of global politics and international relations, where and why has his thesis reigned for so long?
Here, I believe, that Fukuyama’s ideas are consolidated as part of everyday liberal university education. Not merely as syllabus prescriptions and recommended readings in innumerable amount of courses but rather in two different yet perfectly reconciling ways.
Firstly, it imposes itself as what Michel Foucault termed the ‘political rationality’ of governance at the University. Wendy Brown in her recent book ‘Undoing the Demos’ has eloquently extended Foucault’s notion of political rationality (or ’governing rationality’) to show how neoliberalism – the precise ideology that Fukuyama was rooting for – has become ‘the normative form of reason from which governing is forged[viii]’. These normative order of reasons, she says, do not only ‘legitimately govern’ our lives but also ‘structure life and activity as a whole[ix]’. She strengthens her claim by showing how in lieu of educating ‘human capital,’ this rationality begins to erode the curriculum in order to structure life on Neoliberalism’s own terms.
Secondly, in so far as Fukuyama’s work was bound to be the ideology (as part of the US State Department’s policy making unit), it is also assimilated in the teaching of the ‘know-how’ at the university in order to ensure ‘subjection to the ruling ideology’, as suggested by Althusser in his seminal essay ‘Ideology and State’[x]. Specified by Althusser, universities and schools are two of the many Ideological State Apparatus (ISA) which function primarily through ideology and then through repression – albeit both are used to discipline and control ‘not only the shepherd but also their flocks’[xi].The University is hence the ‘mediator’ between Individuals and the system of power. The mediating work herein is with regard to show that although with its innumerable follies and failings, there is no better system to Western styled Democracy that facilitates Free-Market economy. In this regard, the work output, publications, teachings, myriad seminars, conferences etc. are all under the strong influence of Fukuyama’s central ideas, which further guide and shape research and learning in the universities.
Then, of course, one ought to ask why does the onus lie on Law Schools and Universities of Law in particular?
It is here that I recall Brown’s invocation of Foucault to remark that it is the ‘juridical which gives form to the economic’[xii]. The orthodoxy observed with regard to Fukuyama’s works in the pioneering legal institutes and universities has been the real undoing of any critical thought in subjects which relate to the International politics, International Law and World order. His work has actively undermined the unpredictability of politics in our times and enforced a hegemonic ideal that is seen as a pinnacle of political development – if there was ever such a thing. It is then surprising how Fukuyama’s ideas fail to hold the same water today, and yet, his ‘End of History’ thesis is still held up to standards of being a verifiable question if not a global reality for some. Although the ’eternal marriage of capitalism and democracy,’ where the former repeatedly undermines the latter to the extent of being absolutely incompatible, is being exposed to show clear contradictions today, Fukuyama is not being questioned at our universities – perhaps we still live in his fantasy land. The truth is however far from his fiction, a truly universal and homogeneous liberal state cannot exist with capitalism, competitive or otherwise.
While we deal with Fukuyama’s legacy in the universities across the globe, it is perhaps more potent to remember that today he is part of a bigger problem. The public utilities and services are falling faster than ever into the hands of private institutions and austerity is rife among nations that struggle. The world today also faces ecological and environmental crisis at a stage that seems impossible to recover from. It would be hard to argue against the notion that these are problems which are a consequence of our International politics. We must look to a more radical approach in terms of resolving these issues. It would be timely here to remember that when Fukuyama’s book was published in 1991, the question mark that was placed at the end of the title in the original essay of 1989 was gone – it was no longer a question – and thus, due to some cruel poetry at the publishers’, we did not see it as one. We ought to return the question to its rightful place. It must not be forgotten that Fukuyama, with all his critics and wrongful assumptions, still remains an honest and negotiable conservative intellectual. But there must be no orthodoxy to his works – it is time for the end of ’End of History’.
[i]Musil, Robert. The Confusions of Young Törless. Wiener Verlag1906
[ii]Zizek, Slavoj. First As Tragedy, Then As Farce. Verso 2009
[iii]Fukuyama, Francis. ‘The Rise of Populist Nationalism’ (Credit-Suisse, 23 January 2018) <https://www.credit-suisse.com/corporate/en/articles/news-and-expertise/francis-fukuyama-the-rise-of-populist-nationalism-201801.html> accessed 1 February 2018
[iv]‘The man who declared the ‘end of history’ now fearful of the very fate of liberal democracy’ (National Post, 9 February 2017)<http://nationalpost.com/news/world/the-man-who-declared-the-end-of-history-now-fearful-of-the-very-fate-of-liberal-democracy> accessed 1 February 2018
[v]Fukuyama, Francis. The end of history?. The National Interest.1989 (16), 3.
[vi] Ibid, 7.
[vii]Derrida, Jacques. Specters of Marx. Routledge 1994. 70.
[viii]Brown, Wendy. Undoing the demos: Neoliberalism’s stealth revolution. MIT Press. 2015. 115
[ix] Ibid 117.
[x] Althusser, Louis. Lenin and Philosophy and other Essays. NLB. 1971. 133
[xi] Ibid 145.
[xii]Brown, Supra 151.
Note: To understand Kojève’s concept of ‘End of History,’ read Boris Groys’ comment here.
Shantanu Singh is a student of law at Gujarat National Law University.
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