The End of History and the Last Man | Study Guide

Francis Fukuyama

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The End of History and the Last Man | Part 1, Chapter 4 : An Old Question Asked Anew (The Worldwide Liberal Revolution) | Summary



Fukuyama sums up the arguments in the previous two chapters by suggesting these "strong" regimes were actually weak. They lacked the deep store of legitimacy only democracies possess, because democracies derive authority from popular consent. Right-wing authoritarians could not control civil society. Left-wing totalitarians had to use the constant threat of violent terror to keep the populace in line. Moreover, because authoritarian regimes tended to vest great power and legitimacy in a specific leader, few of these regimes survived the death or resignation of that leader. The history of the Soviet Union is that of a series of people trying and failing to live up to the example of Soviet Premier Josef Stalin (1879–1953). Fukuyama detects in his era not only a political revolution for liberal politics but also one for liberal (that is, market) economics. The chief example is the "Asian economic miracle," a sustained period of intense growth experienced in countries like Japan and South Korea after World War II.

Fukuyama summarizes the ideas that stand triumphant in the final years of the 20th century: market economics, political liberalism, and democratic principles. He admits these ideas are applied in various forms across the world; what is important for Fukuyama is that these ideas are essentially unchallenged in their validity. Gone is the belief that a glorious socialist future awaits. Moreover, he is keen to stress that the victory of these ideas appears to be universal. He rejects the notion that some regions or peoples are "unsuited" to democracy or liberal economics. These notions prompt Fukuyama to consider the case for a "Universal History," a history of all of humanity that trends toward liberalism and democracy.


Fukuyama sums up the events he has covered previously not only as a crisis of authoritarianism. He does not think the collapse of these apparently strong, but actually weak, regimes is a merely interesting side note in history. He thinks they point toward the universal, and historically inevitable, triumph of liberalism and democracy. It is important to note that Fukuyama includes several caveats: he does not think the journey to democracy is unproblematic. He knows liberal economics and democracies are constituted unevenly across the world. This is why he insists on a "strictly formal definition of democracy" to make his point. He makes it clear he believes in the triumph of the principles, rather than the specific implementation of these principles across the world. Problems persist, and it will be the work of people at the "end of History" to deal with them. Nevertheless, he thinks there is sufficient evidence to make his case: humanity really is reaching the final point of history with the triumph of liberalism.

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