The end of history and the last man is a great example of telling people what they want to hear, when they want to hear it. The author, Francis Fukuyama originally wrote it as an essay in 1989, but it struck such a chord with the public that he developed it into a full length book in 1992. Essentially he argues that the ending of the Cold War and the fall of communism signified the triumph of liberal democracy over other political-economic systems. He also predicted that in the long-term liberal democracy would spread across the globe replacing other ideologies. As he states in the book:
“What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such… That is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”
Unsurprisingly this idea was incredibly popular and Fukuyama sold an awful lot of copies. Many seized on this work as intellectual proof that American civilisation was now proven to be ‘correct’ and that all countries should emulate it. This is somewhat simplifying Fukuyama’s ideas but not by much. However, ever since it became apparent that other forms of government were not only still in existence, but thriving, e.g. Chinese state capitalism and Islamic Fundamentalism, he’s spent a lot of time in the media complaining that people misinterpreted his original ideas. Re-reading his speeches from this period along with the book itself I’d argue that if his ideas were misinterpreted then Fukuyama was complicit in this process. At the time he certainly seemed eager to endorse the concept that the end of the Cold War meant victory for Western values (would it be cynical it point out that he made a lot of money by doing this?)
If history does teach us anything, it’s that the future is going to be completely different then what we expect. While I’d suggest that liberal democracy will continue to persist for some time to come, advances in technology and human civilization will mean that in 200 years time we’ll probably have found an entirely new way to live our lives that we can’t even imagine now.
Fukuyama has a long history of tailoring his views to suit the times though. Along with several other neo-cons he wrote a letter to George W Bush encouraging him to invade Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein. Later once it became apparent that the invasion was a huge mistake he became one of the wars fiercest critics. He also supported George W Bush in 2000 and 2004 before later declaring that he had been one of the worst Presidents in living memory and that he was supporting Barack Obama in 2008. Because of this dubious track record, I think it’s fair to take most of his predictions with a pinch of salt.