Where the West went wrong

Francis Fukuyama may yet prove to be right in predicting the end of history. But there is no doubt that he was premature. The idea that people have reached an “end point” of “ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government” quite obviously seems out-of-step with our political reality in 2018. It could still happen one day. But it surely hasn’t happened yet.

Fukuyama knows this. However, to ensure that this is only a temporary setback — not a permanent blow — for his thesis, he has penned Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment.

A political scientist at Stanford, Fukuyama catapulted to well-deserved intellectual superstardom nearly three decades ago when he wrote a potent essay (later expanded into a book) declaring that with the collapse of Soviet communism, Western liberal democracy and the free market had triumphed and history had reached its “end” — its ultimate fulfillment and the true purpose of all that came before. Humans had finally formed a political organization in harmony with their inner nature, exactly as German philosopher Friedrich Hegel had predicted. And though nations still on the other side of history could certainly cause trouble for liberal democracies, they could not offer a serious alternative — and so would ineluctably find their own path to the same end.

It was a cheerful prognosis. But what Fukuyama, a former neoconservative who gave up on foreign nation building after the Iraq debacle, didn’t anticipate was that liberal democracies might face mortal threats not from the outside but from within. The simultaneous rise of an authoritarian demagogue like President Trump in America and populist right wing “identarian” movements all around Europe have jolted Fukuyama out of his Hegelian certitude. And so he has hurriedly written Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment, a book that goes back to the beginning of Western thought and retraces its evolution to see where it took a wrong turn.

Identity is a dazzling 180-page guided tour of every major Western political philosopher. What emerges from it, however, is not a new way forward but an old and beaten path of income redistribution and a national unity program. Basically, Fukuyama’s solution is to redirect the ethnic identity politics of the left and the right into a renewed “creedal identity” that satisfies the natural human need for dignity and recognition that Hegel said was the main driver of history.

No one can quarrel with the goal. But it’s unclear whether such a Big Government roadmap will actually work or make matters worse.

Hegel postulated that as human consciousness evolved so would human institutions or social organizations until all the internal contradictions of the psyche were resolved in a final rational polity. Hunter-gathering and tribal societies developed into slave-owning ones that morphed into monarchies or theocracies that finally modernized into liberal democratic polities.

So why are liberal democracies in trouble? Because, notes Fukuyama, they have ignored a core psychic …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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