The End of History and the Last Man | Study Guide

Francis Fukuyama

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The End of History and the Last Man | By Way of an Introduction | Summary



Francis Fukuyama explains that his book is an extension of an article he wrote in 1989. In this article he made the claim that the triumph of liberal democracy evident in the collapse of Soviet communism meant liberal democracy might be the "final form" of human social evolution. He points out that some misunderstood him at the time. By history he means the "single, coherent, evolutionary process," which he sometimes refers to with a capital H. This was an idea promoted by German philosophers Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) and Karl Marx (1818–83) in the 19th century. Fukuyama proceeds to preview the arguments he will make in the book. There are two. The first rests on the notion that science, technology, and economics follow a logical sequence of progress. The other is that the human "desire for recognition" leads to liberal democracy, the final and best form of government. He then previews the parts of the book, offering summaries of the arguments they contain. Part 1 makes the case for a "Universal History" of progress. Part 2 pins this narrative to the progress of natural science and technological advancement. Part 3 argues the "struggle for recognition" provides the context necessary to understand human social progress toward democracy. Part 4 uses his insights to understand contemporary politics and events. Part 5 looks toward the future, and what it will mean to live in "the end of History."


It is common for books intended for a mass audience to include an introduction that outlines and justifies the book's argument. This makes it easier for a mass audience to digest. Unlike an academic audience, mass audiences do not always have the time, patience, or theoretical grounding to follow the full detail of an argument. Fukuyama's book consists of an intricate but dense argument about the nature of history, human society, and the competing philosophies of Hegel, Marx, and others. A general audience can get an "at a glance" summary of the book's contents from such an introduction.

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