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I remember when "History" came out. I didn't read it, but I do remember thinking it was one hell of a hubristic idea, concluding that umpty-ump thousand years of human history could be declared "over, and we won." In the first place, what did we "win"? In the second place, what burden did "winning" place upon us, the "winners"?

Every time I've heard him speak (usually on C-Span's "Booknotes") I've been unimpressed with his arguments.

The Heretik

Thanks for the valuable, player.

blue girl

Excellent post, Lance. And you've given me lots of good reading -- I'm off to do that now. I missed this guy's essay Sunday. Huh.

"I missed the fact that he and other neo-cons saw the End of History not as a finish line but a starting point.  The door had shut behind them.  History was the past.  The future was Opportunity."

And then 9/11. And the plan was plucked off the shelf.


If the "end of history" and "benevolent hegemony" sound a lot like the Divinely Providential white man's burden (masquerading as Marxism). The idea of "regime change" also echoes another supposedly divine ordained prerogative -- namely Pope Pius IXth's obstinate insistence on his Church's authority superseding that of secular governments and the consequent right it gave him to depose any ruler he didn't approve of

In 1900, the great British historian and clasicist, J.B. Bury wrote a famous book exploding "The Idea of Progress" -- the entire book is available for reading on the web. Bury also wrote a history of the Papacy in the Nineteenth Century if any one is interested in Pius's doctrines. Plus ca change.


Actually, it is kind of fun watching an intellectual whore squirm.

Kevin Wolf

What is initially universal is not the desire for liberal democracy but rather the desire to live in a modern — that is, technologically advanced and prosperous — society, which, if satisfied, tends to drive demands for political participation.

This is just plain stupid. The United States would have the highest democratic participation in the world if being prosperous was the driver. (Leaving aside, however, the conservative assault on common economic gains in recent decades.) Instead, we're a nation completely distracted by the "toys" our affluence brings.

Anne Laurie

Forgetting Fukuyama and his ilk is like forgetting herpes, or hemorrhoids -- the individual sores heal, but the virus always remains in our political bloodstream, waiting for the next period of stress in order to flourish anew. He is, as Janinsanfran aptly phrases it, an intellectual whore, but in a peculiarly American mode. Rather than settling for the perennial ruling-class bromides that "All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds", he busies himself in preparing for an even *more* wonderful world than this where "Every day, in every day, we (will be) grow(ing) better and better." He sees himself as Aristotle tutoring Alexander, never asking whether the Glory of Conquering the Known World might be worth the waste of lives, talent, and resources such a Glory would require. In a truly perfect society, he would have the basket of rose-petals pried from his fat, sweaty little fingers, and he'd be handed a broom and set to cleaning up behind the elephants. You could argue that this thoroughly dishonest essay is his attempt to prevent exactly such a just outcome!


Ok, we don't really need to engage in thinking about Fukuyama, because the people we really do need to engage are primarily Hegel, but also folks like Kojeve, Machiavelli, Rousseau and so on. It's irrelevant whether Fukuyama is a neoconservative or not, he's simply not a very interesting thinker to think about.

"I was sunk into lassitude and ennui by the notion that the culmination of 3000 years of Western thought and struggle was America in the time of George Herbert Walker Bush."

It's a distinct possibility within modernity that ALL future regimes will be mediocre, time-serving bureacratic regimes mostly focused on capitalism (or economic advance generally) and minor policy decisions. This was noted as early as Rousseau. If you expect heroes, you're out of luck - modern regimes are designed precisely to both avoid heroes and the need for heroes.

One important issue is if we should accept the depiction BOTH by late-stage capitalist bourgeois democracy and Leninist bureacratic Communism that their fight from 1917-1989 was actually a truly dialectic battle in the Hegelian sense. (I would tend to argue against that, myself). Both ideological systems wanted everyone to believe that they were the only two possibilities.


We should all read Macchiavelli, yes. But let's not forget that the anecdotes upon which Machiavelli based his theories are basically fiction. As a historian he was outclassed in his own time by Guicciardini. As a diplomat by Castiglione.

Let us all read Reveries d'un Promeneur solitaire.


But was Machiavelli's historical fictions mistakes or possibly intentional?


"Political scientists and statesmen cherish The Prince, because of the work's supposed X-ray view of the anatomy of power. They do not always realize that they are in the hands of one of the masters of Italian prose and a thinker of extraordinary imagination. Often, just when seeming most factual in a claim or observation, Machiavelli is riding on a distortion or an outright fiction. He had no trouble embroidering accounts and departing from facts, in order to drive home his lessons, to maintain his lively polarities and to turn political realities into leaner, more muscular matter. Politics was better grasped as action seen in blacks and whites, and expressed in "either-or" phrasing, such as in choosing between nobles or people, cruelty or mercy, love or fear, and honesty or reason of state. Playing fast and loose with historical evidence, despite his earnest commitment to the study of history, is a tic that runs through Machiavelli's major writings, not only The Prince but also, for example, The Art of War, where his civic patriotism overrides military common sense, and the Florentine Histories, composed for a Medici lord in the 1520s." -- Lauro Martines, "Princely charm," Times [of London] Literary Supplement (UK), 23 Sept., 2005

23 September 2005

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