History is having its revenge on Francis Fukuyama. In 1992, at the height of post-Cold War liberal exuberance, the American political theorist wrote in The End of History and the Last Man: “What we may be witnessing… is the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”
Twenty-six years later, from the US to Russia, Turkey to Poland, and Hungary to Italy, an Illiberal International is advancing. Fukuyama’s new book Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (his ninth) seeks to grapple with these forces.
Fukuyama, who studied political philosophy under Allan Bloom, the author of The Closing of the American Mind, at Cornell University, initially identified with the neoconservative movement: he was mentored by Paul Wolfowitz while a government official during the Reagan-Bush years. But by late 2003, Fukuyama had recanted his support for the Iraq war, which he now regards as a defining error alongside financial deregulation and the euro’s inept creation. “These are all elite-driven policies that turned out to be pretty disastrous, there’s some reason for ordinary people to be upset.”
“At this juncture, it seems to me that certain things Karl Marx said are turning out to be true. He talked about the crisis of overproduction… that workers would be impoverished and there would be insufficient demand.” Yet the only plausible systemic rival to liberal democracy, Fukuyama said, was not socialism but China’s state capitalist model.