- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Free Press; Reissue edition (March 1 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743284550
- ISBN-13: 978-0743284554
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.8 x 21.4 cm
- Shipping Weight: 440 g
- Average Customer Review: 54 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #39,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The End of History and the Last Man Paperback – Mar 1 2006
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"Awesome...a landmark...profoundly realistic and important...supremely timely and cogent...the first book to fully fathom the depth and range of the changes now sweeping through the world."
-- George Gilder, The Washington Post Book World
"Bold, lucid, scandalously brilliant. Until now, the triumph of the West was merely a fact. Fukuyama has given it a deep and highly original meaning."
-- Charles Krauthammer
"Clearly written...Immensely ambitious...A tightly argued work of political philosophy...Fukuyama deserves to have his argument taken seriously."
-- William H. McNeill, The New York Times Book Review
"Provocative and elegant...Complex and interesting...Fukuyama is to be applauded for posing important questions in serious and stimulating ways."
-- Ronald Steel, USA Today
"Extraordinary...Controversial...A superb book. Whether or not one accepts his thesis, he has injected serious political philosophy into the discussion of political affairs and thereby significantly enriched it."
-- Mackubin Thomas Owens, The Washington Times
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One assumes that only George F. Kennan's "Containment" memo, likewise published under the pseudonym "X", can rival Francis Fukuyama's essay "The End of History"--first published in 1989, in The National Interest--in terms of impact on the public consciousness of a foreign policy brief. Fukuyama's essential argument was not that history, in terms of events and conflicts and the like, had actually come to and end, rather that liberal capitalist democracy represented the final step in Man's political evolution. With its overtones of Cold War triumphalism, the piece set off a huge kerfuffle and turned a State Department cypher into a significant political philosopher almost overnight.
In this book, Fukuyama expands on the ideas in his original essay and introduces several new ones, the most important of which, embodied by the idea of "thymos", is that the greatest threat to the End of History is the fact that people demand recognition. By recognition, he means something fairly broad, but which we all intuitively recognize :
...that part of man which feels the need to place value on things--himself in the first instance, but on the people, actions, or things around him as well. It is the part of the personality which is the fundamental source of the emotions of pride, anger, and shame, and is not reducible to desire, on the one hand, or reason on the other. The desire for recognition is the most specifically political part of the human personality because it is what drives men to want to assert themselves over other men... .
Liberal democracy succeeds brilliantly at fulfilling Man's basic desires--food, clothing, shelter--but it raises several questions. Will Man, once satiated, still have the kind of thymos which has driven the species to achieve technologically and culturally ? Will the most able in society be content to be treated equally with those they consider their inferiors, or will they demand a level of political recognition commensurate with their contributions to society ? Will those at the bottom of the social scale--and liberal democracy does, undeniably, produce a hierarchy from poor to rich--be content to have less than those at the top of the scale, or will they demand that the high be brought low ? Fukuyama seeks to provide answers to these questions, drawing upon thinkers like Plato, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Alexandre Kojeve, and upon the experiences of modern times.
The book is always fascinating, sometimes wrongheaded and frequently brilliant. In the end, the question that animates the discussion is the same that mankind always faces ; which will ultimately triumph, the desire for security or the urge to freedom. There is no more important issue in human history and the ways in which we answer it will, as always, determine our future. Even if he does not arrive at any final answers, Fukuyama adds immeasurably to our understanding of the question and its importance.
GRADE : A+
That said, much of the criticism that the book has received is, in my opinion, misplaced. Fukiyama is not claiming that the capitalist system is some sort nirvana, but simply that history is a directional force that has delivered us to a point in which free market economies have reached a state of efficiency and harmony with human nature and therefore in large part won't be replaced by competing systems. This is not a value judgement, as has been accused by many critics; it's simply a matter of natural selection.
Is Fukiyama saying that a free market economy is *better* than competing systems? Well what he's saying that it is better at *doing certain things*, and this is an important distinction. Fukiyama claims not a moral superiority ("best of all possible worlds") but a functional superiority in which the occasional backtrack (a military coup here, a revolution there) will be shown to be mere blips. History, according to Fukiyama, is asymptotic, and we're approaching the end state.
Much of Fukiyama's argument is philosophical and at such lacks empirical data. So be it; I see this book as more than anything a discussion piece and many of its claims are essentially can't be proved (or will be proved or disproved over the next century or so).
This is a flawed work, but one which makes some interesting points. Fukiyama's discussion on Thymos and the "desire for recognition" as the dividing line between slaves and masters is interesting, but in that I'm not a scholar on Hegel and haven't read the original works I don't know if they've simply been lifted from previous writings.
In the end, reading this book is a lot of work for a little insight, therefore it is with a degree of reluctance that I recommend it. On second thought, a better idea would be to go to your local library and dig up the original 1989 National Interest article; you'll get essentially the same main ideas without having to slog through hundreds of pages of wordy and repetitive text. In some ways this book has changed the way I look at the world, but some of the conclusions I've taken with a grain of salt.
Since its publication, this book has been subject to considerable debate by both adherents and opponents. The book proposes that the liberal democratic system operating a capitalist system is the end point of political history - ie that mankind has settled on a system of government that provides the best approach to regulating human affairs. Given the failure of communism, the failure of dictatorships (of the left and the right), I think this thesis holds true.
What opponents of the book/argument don't understand is that the author (I believe) is not suggesting that liberal democracy is not without its flaws, and occasionally will generate significant governance problems. (Take the seriously flawed Florida election ballot counting process in the Bush vs Gore US Federal Presidential election.) But what the thesis suggests is that the system is signficantly robust to work through problems, and deliver benefits on the other side. This ability to hande internal political problems without course to violence or repression is not a trait readily found in other political systems.
Fukuayma gets 'beaten' up too often for just suggesting that liberal democracy overall is a good thing, that it works, and it has succeeded other political systems because it works and people overall like it. Opponents of this thesis ought to remember that only in liberal democratic systems can opponents of the prevailing political status quo argue for its change or abolition. Try doing that when subejct to a dictatorship!
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