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To hope for the end of history is human. To expect it to happen is unrealistic. To plan for it is disastrous. (Huntington, 43) These are the closing sentences in Samuel Huntington s critical response to Francis Fukuyama s essay on the end of history. The theory of endism, hypothesized by Fukuyama, is not convincing because he over looks the challenges presented, ignores the proceedings in much of the world and doesn t account for natural human tendencies.
To begin with, a clear definition of what Francis Fukuyama means with the ambiguous phrase, the end of history is needed. In his own word, it entails the end point of man s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government. (Fukuyama, 6) So, history, as we read it from text books and newspapers, will cease to continue as society reaches its progressive peak. This precipice, overlooking human development in one direction and history-less oblivion in the other, takes the form of status quo American political and ideological configuration. According to Fukuyama, in order to have arrived at this model of human existence we had to follow a preordained path to success which begins with tribally constructed communities, followed by slave-owning and then theocratically and finally democratically based societies.
To be more specific, endism refers to not only the dwindling of history but more precisely, the disappearance of war. Relations between states in the form of war have been recurrent throughout our existence and have even become considered the norm, thus, war is often considered the framework of human history. Not only is this idea accepted by historians, it is also commonly expressed in everyday speech to convey points in time in reference to major wars, rather than using exact dates.
Since the 1945, or the End of World War II, we ve been experiencing an interruption in the continual international hostility, which is referred to as the zone of peace or the long peace. This period is a marked by decrease in war between democratic countries, spanning an extraordinary 50 years. This absence of war in the last half a century is Fukuyama s evidence for endism.
One must not fail to point out that there has not been any lack of war in our world in the last 5 decades. Clashes in the Middle East, civil war in Africa and coups d etat in numerous countries have not declined simultaneously with the decline of war between democracies. Fukuyama explains that this is because, although America and other developed countries have reached a status of perfection, there are still many less developed states which are stuck in the mire of the past. In these lagging societies, lay the origin of violent conflict and erroneous ideology which reminds us of what we once were, back before we ended history. No doubt countries in the Middle east, sub-Saharan Africa and other regions of the world are diligently following their destined courses of emulating Europe and North America.
Admitting the challenges to his endism theory, religion and nationalism are outlined by Fukuyama as current trends which put a dent in the progression of nations out of the past as well as plaguing countries which already find themselves out of history. He admits that, One is inclined to say that the revival of religion in some way attests to a broad unhappiness with the impersonality and spiritual vacuity of liberal consumerist societies. (Fukuyama,12) In other words, people turn to religion when they find themselves devoid of spiritual support from an imperfect liberal democracy or, alternately, in nations where religion is the cultural base, democracy seems too fragile in religious essence catch on. He makes the argument that Islam is the only religion which has forged its way up to influence government and that no other will follow. But hasn t Islam had a great political affect on the world?
Fukuyama doesn t worry about the rise in religious fundamentalism because he finds it hard to believe that it will take on any universal significance. ( Fukuyama,12)
Nationalism, on the other hand, has more politically focused agendas than religion, so one would consider it a greater threat to democracy. Fukuyama doesn t put fault on liberalism, in general as the source of nationalism but rather on, the fact that the liberalism in question is incomplete. (Fukuyama, 13) In other words, if the democracy is true and accurate, there will be no nationalistic or religious upheaval. Here, he allows himself absolute freedom in the definition of liberal democracies in order to rule out these two element which could be signs of human unrest within the democratic system.
By Fukuyama s unclear standards has there ever been a liberal democracy? He would not be able to consider the United States a true democracy because we have on occasion experienced major flaws in governmental proceedings. The recent representative democratic presidential election is a perfect example of this, where the elected president was not chosen by the majority of Americans but rather by 5 justices. He is vague too in his definitions of the end of history and what a constitutes a liberal democracy.
In addition to democracy, two other functional models of government, namely communism and fascism, pose threats to Fukuyama s regard to democracy as the only form of practicable government. He puts to rest one threat immediately with by stating that, Fascism was destroyed as a living ideology by World War II (Fukuyama, 10). Not for lack of support, but due the imperfect fundamental structure, it failed to be successful a competitor to the democratic government and from the beginning was bound to self-destruct (Fukuyama, 10). Communism looms more pronouncedly in the international arena and has been widely considered a direct enemy of democracy and of America itself. Fukuyama approaches communism in its most successful and unavoidable body, China, where the continual duration of a non-liberal and non-democratic nation discredits claims that one can not prosper. Predictably, there is an explanation for how China can continue to exist. He assumes it is just on a slow ascension from the depth of history where is sometimes appears to stop completely or slip backwards from it s liberal destination. Fukuyama puts faith in the 200,000 Chinese students studying abroad claiming that, it is hard to believe that when they return home to run the country they will be content for China to be the only country in Asia unaffected by the larger democratizing trend. (Fukuyama, 12) Although there are a few defying factors presented, Francis Fukuyama is able to remain firm in his belief that the world is on its way to an age of post-history.
The opposing arguments to endism presented by himself are legitimate and Fukuyama dismisses them altogether too quickly. Granted, fascism hasn t fared well but communism as well as socialism can by no means be disregarded. Recognizing that China is no small thorn is his concept, he acknowledges its challenge but sloughs it off as an imminent threat without adequate explanation. Relying on two hundred thousand youths in a population of over 1.2 billion people to change their entire ideological, political, and economic system doesn t constitute enough security to disregard the nation as disproving his theory.
Countries with a democratic construct do engage in war between each other less often than other states, as Fukuyama claims, but it may be due to reasons other than that democracy simply brings history to a halt. Huntington, in his article criticizing endism, mentions three plausible reasons for this lack of interstate war between democracies. First, democracies are still a minority among the world s regimes. There are far too many exceptions, when third world countries are included in the picture, to say that the world has reached a point of democratic unification globally. Many of these developing nations wouldn t even necessarily benefit from a democratic government and aren t striving for an end to their history. In numerous African countries, a central government has brought nothing but civil war, genocide and poverty to what once was a rich, healthy nation spotted by small tribal communities. They haven t been following Fukuyama s prescribed path of cultural evolution for a country (tribalism, slave-owning, theocracy, democracy). So, not only does it appear that this developmental process is not universal, but rather an account of select western societies, but also, by lumping together every country not resembling our own into a pot of miscellanies non-democracies, there has been a huge percentage of the world over looked.
Second, the number of democratic states has been growing, but tends to grow irregularly in a two-step forward, one-step backward pattern It s true that there are more democracies now than there have been in the past, but this isn t the height of democracy. Directly after WW II the number of liberal democracies rose significantly due to the anxieties over the power exerted by Nazi Germany but then shortly after fell again when puppet governments failed.
Finally peace among democratic states could be related to the extraneous accidental factors and not to the nature of democracy. The first two arguments are fairly self explanatory, but the third refers to geographic location of countries and spheres of influence. If two democratic countries have thousands of miles of ocean between them, they are less likely to find substantiating conflict to provoke war. Similarly, if two democratic countries rely on each other for military protection, economic support, or are a part of the complex alliance web, they will not wish to endanger their own well-being by fighting with their associates. (Huntington, 43)
Not only has Fukuyama incorrectly maintained the reasons for and results of a successful democracy, but he is also wrong in the assumption that there will no longer be any evolutionary steps after liberalism. He claims that, in the post-historical age there will be neither art nor philosophy, just a perpetual care taking of the museum of human history. (Fukuyama,17) There are caretakers among people, but so much of the human population has the need to create in music, art, language and thought that there will never be a stand still in the process of innovation. He has not only overlooked human creativity but more importantly, that we are facing problems today with environment and natural resources that have never been dealt with before. To solve new obstacles such as rising temperatures, shortages of oil, pollution of ground, air and water as well as increasing resistance of diseases to medications, we will need to come up with new answers. These are just a few of the barriers obvious to us today, there is no way to predict what will present itself tomorrow. The only way to deal with these global problems will be to find systems that works for the entire world and democracy is not necessarily what will enable people to unify to overcome hurdles in our future. The only foreseeable end to history to human history will come if there is no effort to preserve our home, then not only will there be no war but no life at all.
The future will most likely continue on its current path until we hit some sort of universal barrier from which no one can continue; like nuclear war, a complete depletion of water or oil, a major climate change, or a biological disaster. Then, the world community will have no choice but to join together with our diverse problem solving strategies to come up with a solution and a new style of living.
*Betts, Richard. Conflict After the Cold War. Needham Heights, MA. 1994
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