Fukuyama does it (wrong) again

Francis Fukuyama, him of “End of History” fame/infamy has a new essay published in, of all places, this week’s Spectator magazine. After suffering from two decades of sneering at/mocking of his grandiose early 90s predictions, Fukuyama jumps into the midst of it all with a new “paradigm”: democracy is not just about passion and ideas […]

Blogs, Ceasefire Bites, Politics - Posted on Friday, February 12, 2010 11:20 - 1 Comment

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Francis Fukuyama, him of “End of History” fame/infamy has a new essay published in, of all places, this week’s Spectator magazine. After suffering from two decades of sneering at/mocking of his grandiose early 90s predictions, Fukuyama jumps into the midst of it all with a new “paradigm”: democracy is not just about passion and ideas but also about institutions and having the “right” leaders.

The essay is an assortment of platitudes, vague speculative pronouncements and a rather hurt refutation of what, he believes, are serious misreadings of his famous tome. He ends on a sort-of-optimistic note, saying (quoting Amartya Sen) that democracy is the “default” state, even where/when it’s not practised or celebrated.

The essay is not exactly a fountain of witticisms or sparkling prose, whatever clear assertions can be detected are couched in such a thick padding of disclaimers and bet-hedging that they belie what seems to be a clear reluctace to say anything “falsifiable” enough (to use Popper’s coinage) and potentially  turned against him. In other words, he’s playing it extra safe this time ( and who can blame him?).

The essay is a disappointment, the ideas hardly revolutionary or even challenging, the sentences stilted and business-like, a sample:

“The next phase of global history will be a challenging one…”

“the single most important determinant of which countries would go on to become successful, stable liberal democracies was the degree of consensus in favour of strong new state institutions”

“Such is the prestige of modern liberal democracy that today’s would-be authoritarians all have to stage elections and manipulate the media from behind the scenes to legitimate themselves.”

And so on.. in other words, the sort of “wisdom” that gets dispensed by Time and Newsweek all-year-round.

Which leads us to ask: twenty years of observing and learning and thinking and evaluating to come up with this!

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MFD
Mar 8, 2010 17:03

Great article.

Can’t help but think of Edward Said’s wonderfully derisive reference in a lecture: “… Fukuyama’s end of history, which no one talks about anymore (so the end of Fukuyama, really).” The audience piss themselves, as well they should. He’s such an awful parody of a social scientist: full of pronouncements whose grandioisity is only matched by their utter vacuity.

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