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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Book Review: End of History and the Last Man

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Introduction

The book, the End of History and the Last Man is written by Francis Fukuyama who is an American political scientist and has received his PhD from Harvard University in political science.

Exploring the Question of History in Human Societies

The book deals with the question of history in the larger context of human societies. There is a general perception about history as the events of past that happens in a particular time and space but, in this book the author deals with the question of history in a very interesting and unique manner in a way that he tries to explore whether there exist a coherent evolution in nature of societies, as they progress from very primitive agriculture societies up through various monarchies and aristocracies and up to liberal democracies and technologically driven capitalism, that we have today.

The Concept of Liberal Democracy

Fukuyama argues that liberal democracy comes much closer to fit in human nature that perhaps all prior forms of government, that came and collapsed, communism to be the latest example, failed at.
The author then turns his attention to explain the basic concept and logic behind the liberal democracy.

Liberal democracy simply is the multiparty election system coupled with economic prosperity with the surety of fundamental human constitutional rights to all.

The author gives an account of various countries that have embarked upon attaining liberal democracy and shows the world wide trend of gradual shift from other prior forms of governments to the democratic governments.

The question arises as of why this trend of shifting to democratic governments started or what were the reasons behind its happening. This is answered by the author in a very good way. The author provides two explanations for it.

Economic Development and Stable Democracy

The first explanation has to do with the economics. There is a correlation between stable democracy and economic development which Fukuyama explains by giving example of Western Europe, Japan and North America, where all of them are highly advanced technologically capitalist and stable democracies. The author explains that how a country industrializes and how it develops economically that leads to a creation of urban classes, with certain awareness of education, and that is how a kind of literate middle class is produced with a demand for liberal democracy.

The Philosophical Driving Force behind Democracy

The second explanation is philosophical in nature and as philosophy is all about logic and reason so is this explanation. Fukuyama explores the driving force that directs society on the pathway of the want for democracy a non economic cause. The author goes back in history and starts with German philosopher, Hegel.

Hegel had a theory of history of how human societies progress to higher forms of organizations that is based on struggle for recognition, a completely non economic goal. For Hegel, one caveman wanted the other caveman to recognize him. The want of human beings for the recognition as a human being with dignity was what lead to the first bloody battle that ultimately ended up in the relation of master and slave, and resulted in proving to be an essential driving force behind democratic revolutions, in his case, The French Revolution.

Hegel lived in early nineteen century and he considered the French Revolution to be the end of history as it was a revolution that favored principles of liberty and equality.

The author then highlights Marx’s concept about the end of history. Apart from the believe that capitalism would be the endpoint of historical evolution, Marx shared Hegel’s opinion. For Marx, Hegel’s view did not resolve the class struggle and therefore his presumed communism would be the “End of History” instead.

Fukuyama further argues that the question of history has been addressed in the past by various greatest thinkers in a way that whether there exist such a thing as progress, in which human societies have evolved. The thinking and contributions of various other thinkers such as Fredrick Nietzsche, Aristotle and Plato have also been discussed in this 2nd explanation of want for democracy. It is in the core of our humanity that we want recognition by others and it is what makes us unique.

Thumos: The Desire for Recognition

There is a very unique and interesting scenario created by Fukuyama where he argues that if a human society reaches its ultimate form of End of History, where all human beings are same, satisfied and their want for recognition has been satisfied, there will be no difference left in a dog and a human being because the uniqueness of human being as a specie will be vanished and they will be like other animals, as they biologically are.

In the book there is a small digression which explains Plato’s Republic and the debate of Socrates about his just city and its Guardians which is highly fascinating.
For Socrates, there are three parts of human soul. The desiring part, dealing with our needs, the calculating part, dealing with logic and reason and the third part called Thumos. Thumos is a Greek word that means self esteem, dignity or simple the demand for recognition.
Fukuyama derives two new concepts from Socrates’s concept of thumos. The first one is Isothumia, the desire of being equal to others, and Megalothumia, the desire of being greater then others. For Fukuyama it is this Magalothumia because of which the tyrants always want to be recognized as greater.


Moreover, the author also sheds light on the fall of communism and the resilience of capitalism, which he calls as the marriage between capitalism and democracy leading towards liberal democracy and, argues that liberal democracy is an end of history, not to be confused with happening of events but the end of history in the context of further directional progress by human societies, as for the last 200 years we have seen no further progress in this regard.

Conclusion

Picking a book for reading is highly relative phenomena which predominantly depends upon the taste of the reader. For a book to start and continue reading till the end, it needs some qualities i.e. highly fascinating method of expression, eloquent use of vocabulary, clarity and the grip factor, and the book, “The End Of History and the Last Man” is perhaps in complete accordance with all those qualities.

The Bottom-line is that the book is highly fascinating and a must read for anyone having interest in the past as it depicts the picture of the past in a very good manner and as a student of history you can come to know about the history behind where we stands today as a human civilization.

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The Author is an undergraduate student at the department of History, Quaid i Azam University, Islamabad.

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