Response to Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Second Thoughts’

"Response to Francis Fukuyama's 'Second Thoughts'," National Interest, no. 56 (Summer 1999): 34-35.


It is a pleasure to comment again on Fukuyama’s remarkable article of ten years ago. I continue to think “The End of History” to be an overinterpretation of the fall of communism, but I also still wonder at the ingenuity and breadth of the author. Fukuyama, with his knowledge of philosophy, easily surpasses the political science theorists who possess nothing but second-hand Kant, or misread snippets from Thucydides, and whose constructions remind one of an immense suburban development of small houses, all built to be at once the same and different. He also seems to have read The Economist for the past several centuries, and remembered it. The best I can do, by contrast, is to speak from above the facts and arguments he marshals.

As Fukuyama says, his article and book on the end of history have been relentlessly criticized, but he is too modest to add that they have been universally read. The reason they cannot be ignored or dismissed is that they embody our hopes as well as our doubts, both of which Fukuyama has brilliantly expressed. The “end of history” makes sense of our belief in progress because progress, if it goes toward a better life, must have an end in perfect life. A society that is perfectible must have a perfection. Without an end to history we could never know whether history was going forward, as we believe, or going backward.

National Interest