Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Fukuyama's Fumble

Francis Fukuyama, signatory to Project for the New American Century, has continued to distance himself from mainstream neoconservatism with a piece in the New York Times entitled 'After Neoconservatism'.
Leon Hadar has dealt with its some of its more cringeworthy aspects (HT - Antiwar), but there is one section in it that just cannot pass without comment.
Fukuyama writes,
"Many people have also interpreted my book "The End of History and the Last Man" (1992) as a neoconservative tract, one that argued in favor of the view that there is a universal hunger for liberty in all people that will inevitably lead them to liberal democracy, and that we are living in the midst of an accelerating, transnational movement in favor of that liberal democracy. This is a misreading of the argument. "The End of History" is in the end an argument about modernization. What is initially universal is not the desire for liberal democracy but rather the desire to live in a modern — that is, technologically advanced and prosperous — society, which, if satisfied, tends to drive demands for political participation. Liberal democracy is one of the byproducts of this modernization process, something that becomes a universal aspiration only in the course of historical time."
If that was his argument, then the behaviour of a significant minority of British Muslims proves him wrong.
Those people have achieved whatever desire Fukuyama believes they might have to live in ' a modern — that is, technologically advanced and prosperous — society'. He might be correct in thinking that the freedoms enjoyed in such societies 'drive demands for poltical participation' - but being a democracy ideologue, he hasn't factored in the operation of other, ideological actors like multiculturalism.
If you are permitted to live in one type of society and behave as if you're in another, as British Muslims have been, then the recent finding that 40% of British Muslims want Sharia law, announced on the very same day that Fukuyama's article was published, is a reasonably forseeable outcome.
As a way of doing things, democracy is no different from flossing or waiting until the traffic stops before crossing the street. They are all examples of best practice, the ways of doing things in certain situations which are most likely to produce satisfactory long-term outcomes.
But the nature of recent human history should at least have shown a historian like Fukuyama that Mankind has no inherent democratic instinct. Man is an inherently savage, tribal beast, his sole blessings being self-awareness, opposable thumbs and the occasional ability to learn from his mistakes. One of his most recent clangers has been to believe those who offer grand, sweeping solutions to that most complex of human interactions, inter-tribal relations; and should we ever require concrete evidence of our own stupidity, then our failure to immediately renounce all ideology after the Second World War's 60 million bodycount should be ample enough.
That 40% of a population who have at their fingertips every commodity they could ever want and could not develop for themselves say they want to be governed by a savage Seventh century code in 21st Century Britain shows how tribal culture trumps enlightened reason every single time.
Being generous to Fukuyama, one could interpret his conclusion as a plea to make societies 'technologically-advanced and prosperous', and if his thesis is correct then democracy will follow. But the price of the process required to produce that outcome, the international labour arbitrage commonly mistitled 'globalisation', inflicts too many costs on those citizens of stable societies who lose their jobs so that undemocratic societies may advance and prosper. The stable societies are impoverished and weakened by globalisation to the same degree that the unstable are enriched and strengthened.
Globalisation's stated aim is to raise the incomes of the Third World - the evidence shows that its effect is the levelling of global incomes. However, its most ardent advocates don't realise that a levelling of incomes in the First World to the level of the Third might have other consequences, such as profound civil unrest when Westerners realise just how closely their governments have colluded in their impoverishment by their confusion of corporate profit motive with market theory. Western Man's primal survival instinct might just then kick in; and it is profoundly to be hoped that globalisation will not have to be stopped at a Marston Moor or Gettysburg.
The only alternative to sending the opportunities our cultures have created to those unstable societies which require them in order to advance and prosper is to enable their citizens to live within our borders, so they can see how we do it. This exercise is neither costless nor temporary, and one can only wonder what a grand-sweep historian like Fukuyama really thinks of the ornery, stubborn, libelled old Minutemen, wandering the Arizona desert carrying unlicensed clipboards with extreme prejudice.
Fukuyama can certainly weave a delicate web of brilliantly-spun words; but the fragility of his conclusions is more an occasion for pity rather than scorn.


Blogger Dr Leo Strauss said...

Nice piece -- I agree with much of it except for the dismount at the end.

Unfortunately, the ideological blinkers of the Fukuyamas of the world deserve not only scorn but active measures of rebuttal; the implications of unrestrained ideology unleashed in open defiance and disdain for empirical perspectives all too clear 2001-2006.

Fukuyama is ultimately an AgitProp pamphleteer who uses historical arguments (frequqently out of context, no surprise there), rather than a 'historian' as understood before the current AgitProp era. In this, he is but a small step above Tom Friedman in his middle brow efforts, although without Friedman's malapropisms.

You might find my take on Fukuyama (and Hitchens' latest) of possible interest at http://www.stiftungleostrauss.com/bunker.php. It definitely leans more on the scorn side of the scales.


21 February, 2006 18:26  
Blogger lochaneilein said...

From my educational period in Aberdeen, I remember Fukuyama as a tiresome, wordy tosser with an obsessional desire for attention and acclaim. If he truly believed in his own work, and had read Voltaire's Candide, he'd never be able to look into a mirror without blushing.

21 February, 2006 21:59  
Blogger Martin said...

Dear Dr. Strauss,

Everyone's a critic.

21 February, 2006 22:06  
Blogger Martin said...


"a tiresome, wordy tosser with an obsessional desire for attention and acclaim"...

I know a few people who might say that about me...

22 February, 2006 00:25  

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