The End of History and the Last Man

by Francis Fukuyama

Paperback, 1993



Call number




Penguin Books Ltd (1993), Paperback


A LANDMARK WORK OF POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY. A GLOBAL BESTSELLER. STILL AS RELEVANT TODAY. Ever since its first publication in 1992, The End of History and the Last Man has provoked controversy and debate. Francis Fukuyama's prescient analysis of religious fundamentalism, politics, scientific progress, ethical codes, and war is as essential for a world fighting fundamentalist terrorists, populists and pandemics as it was for the end of the Cold War. Now updated with a new afterword, The End of History and the Last Man is a modern classic.

User reviews

LibraryThing member mdobe
Francis Fukuyama's article entitled "The End of History?" appeared in the National Interest at a very propitious moment in world history. In the summer of 1989, the Cold War was not yet dead but certainly moribund. Not only had Perestroika taken on shades of market capitalism under Mikhail
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Gorbachev in the USSR, but discontent with Soviet hegemony over Eastern Europe was manifest in the spectacle of thousands of East Germans who continued throughout the summer to leave their country via Hungary to find new homes in the West. Free markets and liberal democracy seemed to have won out over state driven economies and socialist democracy. In this sense America "won" the Cold War even before the Berlin Wall, and then the Soviet Union itself, fell. In this sense, Fukuyama heralded the end of Cold War history with his claim that the ideological struggle between liberalism and socialism had come to an end, with liberalism emerging victorious.

Looking Backward and Looking Forward: Looking backward, Fukuyama turned to German idealism. Based upon a re-reading of Hegel, he first defined history in idealist terms and then declared it at an end. Fukuyama followed Hegel in casting history as a struggle between ideologies. He pointed out that for Hegel the triumph of Napoleon at Jena meant that the ideals of the French Revolution had emerged triumphant in Europe. In much the same way, Fukuyama declared the less sanguinary triumph of Western liberalism over Eastern socialism as the same sort of "world historical" end point, thus casting the Cold War in the same terms as the Napoleonic Wars.

Looking forward, Fukuyama saw a far less heroic age than the one now over. Gone were the days of great ideological struggle, in which men would die for the sake of an idea alone. In the future there would be no alternatives to liberalism because the alternatives, fascism and communism, had been discredited in the course of the 20th century. The challenge of the next 100 years would be learning to live with the boredom of the satiated.

As the responses appearing alongside Fukuyama's piece in the National Interest indicated, it was his view of the future which sparked the greatest controversy. Even in this less than radical intellectual circle, he was criticized for having minimized the potential for conflict in the world of the 1990s and beyond. Allan Bloom and Pierre Hassner pointed to the possibility of re-emergent fascism. Gertrude Hirnmelfarb and Stephen Sestanovich pointed to the volatility of nationalist sentiments. All agreed that Fukuyama had vastly under-rated the potential for future conflict.

One need not point to fascism or nationalism as future sources of conflict in order to take issue with Fukuyama's portr~it of the triumph of liberalism in the late 1980s. As David Lempert observed in post-Soviet Russia, much of what passes for liberalism in Russia is merely a thin veneer attached to a system still deeply Soviet -- and perhaps even Tsarist. Examining the nature of post-Soviet legal structure in Russia at first hand, Lempert argued for a great deal of continuity in Russian history. If Russia had truly adopted Western style liberalism, then one would have expected to see the state come under the effective control of society in the way in which this has happened in.the West. Yet this has not happened in Russia. Lempert makes the case 'for continuities in Russian history in a
particularly convincing manner with regard to the post-Soviet supreme court.

"The Soviet Union's Committee for Constitutional Supervision, designed as an answer to the need for a supreme court to resolve constitutional issues, evolved into something distinctly different and continues as such in the Russian government. By its very title, it was created as a Nazdor (supervision or control). The Nazdor is a familiar pattern which has existed since Tsarist times in the office of the State Prosecutor and which remained an important feature of the Prosecutor's office during the Soviet period. . . When the Russian Republic set up its legal system, it merely copied the Soviet model under a new name on this and,most other legal questions."

As Lempert's observations bear out, when one comes down from the heights of abstraction in Fukuyama, the reality of the post-Cold War world looks very different indeed. Russian reform may have aped the West in form but not in content.

By shifting the focus to the so-called Third World which Fukuyama dismisses as of little importanceI the picture becomes even more complicated. In the work of Charles Bright and Michael
Geyer a picture of "global integration and local autonomy" replaces the unproblematic triumph of liberal democracy and market economics. Their essaYI entitled "For a Unified History of the World in the Twentieth Century" points the way to a rewriting of the history of the 20th century in terms which can provide a healthy check on the homogenizing claims of Fukuyama/s idealism.

For Bright and Geyer he history of the 20th century is a dialectical process. Local political economies with their own cultural dynamics have resisted the domination of the economic core in the form of global integration in such a way as to have forced the core to come to deal on their own terms. At the end of this century-long struggle between the forces of global integration and local autonomyI Bright and Geyer looked upon a "tenuous combination of material integration and cultural fragmentation." This cultural fragmentation amidst economic integration on a global scale is what would explain the phenomenon of a world in which "women in veils work at computer terminalsI dispatching oil tankers to distant markets or military supplies to troops engaged in holy war." If one grants the importance of the cultural dimension of political economy, then the triumph of market economics does not mean the obliteration of difference, nor does it mean the end of conflict.

With the passing of the euphoria of 1989-1991, when the West seemed to have "triumphed" over communism, Francis Fukuyama has not maintained his vast audience. His prominence was a
phenomenon of the late 1980s and the end of the Cold War. We might ask ourselves what remains of use in his interpretation. It would seem that today Fukuyama's article and the book which followed stand as brilliant period pieces, ingenious yet deeply ahistorical. His work is ahistorical because it ignores or minimizes important continuities in history which, as Lempert demonstrates, make for a full understanding of the present situation as well as world history.

Of major importance for the historian is the additional observation that one could not easily write a World Civilization textbook today based on Fukuyama's vision, at least one could not write one which is anything but arrogantly Eurocentric. Nor could one use Fukuyama's general frame of reference to teach a course to a group of ethnically diverse students which sought to explain the development of World Civilization in the 20th century in a way which takes into account the contributions of subaltern groups. For the task of speaking to a multi-culturally oriented student bodYI Fukuyama/s work is of little value. One would have to turn to Bright and Geyer for inspiration in writing a textbook or teaching a course in World Civilization for today's students.
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LibraryThing member nealmhughes
Fukuyama read Hegel to mean that history, that is the "history of warfare and the state" would soon come to an end due to the absolute worldwide triumph of the free market and liberal democracy. He based this upon the fall of the USSR, and became a favorite of "neocon" US and UK politicos. Dr.
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Fukuyama has since recanted and will now allow for a place in ethicity, nationality, religion, etc. in culture to have a voice in history. It is not yet a "mere chronology of important discoveries" as Fukuyama offered in the early 90s.
It is a very good primer for Hegel and also a warning not to place too much credit in anything "inevitable" for philosophy, political science and history students. I would have my students read it and point out what not to do in writing history or philosophy.
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LibraryThing member kencf0618
A superb grand narrative, but dated because of Osama -"Islam" has less than three pages.
LibraryThing member lukeasrodgers
While perhaps not, on balance, as persuasive as Sam Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations, I enjoyed Fukuyama's book more. Despite being denser, it was more thought-provoking, and you could tell he considered the multiple angles of his argument as he moved through it.
LibraryThing member charlie68
Quite good, brings out his thesis, and explains his arguments very well. When he delves deep into philosophy some readers might go a little cross-eyed, Hobbes, Hegel, et al, but a compelling book.
LibraryThing member scottcholstad
Utterly naive.
LibraryThing member GRLopez
This should be considered a "bail" because I am choosing to discontinue reading it. Many sections were fascinating, very readable and concise. My version was an online copy, which is not interactive for me as a hard copy. So much info I wanted to underline and star. I like how the author added
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cross references to history and lots of supporting evidence for his arguments.

However, I don't have an urgency to finish it, like so much of the histories I have read from the WEM. I wonder if I just did not care for Susan Wise Bauer's choices. I will say that many of them made reference back to previous histories on the list, which is a plus.

So for now I am going to finish my reading here, and if I get to the end of all I want to read and still have time left, maybe this will be one of the books I return to.
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Original publication date


Physical description

448 p.; 8.43 inches


0140134557 / 9780140134551
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