What If It *Is* the End of History, But Liberalism Loses?
The enemy is us.
Yesterday’s post got you guys talking. It was great. Some programming notes before we get started:
No live Thursday Night Bulwark this week. We’re doing our first live, in-person event, but we’re recording it for members. Look for the recording to come out Friday.
1. History Is Like Fashion. It Never Ends.
I know—I need some sunshine, too. So here’s Francis Fukuyama arguing that the End of History is still real and that the good guys are still winning:
The philosopher Hegel coined the phrase the end of history to refer to the liberal state’s rise out of the French Revolution as the goal or direction toward which historical progress was trending. For many decades after that, Marxists would borrow from Hegel and assert that the true end of history would be a communist utopia. When I wrote an article in 1989 and a book in 1992 with this phrase in the title, I noted that the Marxist version was clearly wrong and that there didn’t seem to be a higher alternative to liberal democracy. We’ve seen frightening reversals to the progress of liberal democracy over the past 15 years, but setbacks do not mean that the underlying narrative is wrong. None of the proffered alternatives look like they’re doing any better.
I remember reading The End of History when it was published, as an article, and feeling like it shifted the entire world around me. Like all truly great theses, it seemed to be both revolutionary and obviously correct. The kind of thing that once you read it, you could never see the world the same way. But also, you couldn’t understand how no one had thought of it before.
Then came 9/11. And I began to think that Fukuyama might not have been correct. That theocracy was not willing to cede history to liberalism. Theocracy’s challenge faltered relatively quickly, only to have Fukuyama’s thesis challenged by a renewed group of autocrats in Russia and China, who proposed that strong centralization could out-compete liberalism in the marketplace of economics / ideas.
In the long run, Fukuyama says, these authoritarian regimes are strong, but brittle. They are much more vulnerable to shocks because of their centralized nature. Liberalism’s decentralization is its killer feature.
I’d argue that the real challenge to Fukuyama’s thesis today come from democratic