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 3, Chapter 16 : The Struggle for Recognition (The Beast with Red Cheeks) | Summary



Fukuyama builds on the previous chapter by pointing out humans not only feel their own self-worth, but they feel it in others also. They can feel anger on behalf of others just as they ascribe worth to others. Fukuyama states the struggle of white abolitionists on behalf of enslaved people rests on just such an outward projection of thymos. This took the form of anger that enslaved people were not themselves recognized as people. Fukuyama proceeds to add thymos as a complicating factor in otherwise economic accounts of human behavior. He claims the indignation of workers on strike toward strikebreakers is as much a product of the strikebreaker failing to recognize the strikers' self-worth as the economic harm to the striker it may cause, which Fukuyama thinks is minimal anyway. Fukuyama blends his theory into an accounting of the events in the Soviet Union and China. He ascribes the revolutionary movements in those countries to an outbreak of "thymotic anger" that accompanied economic crises. Fukuyama thinks these elements are sometimes dismissed by historians as merely "triggering" events at the end of long-developing trends. He does not disagree, but he views them as vitally important for understanding world events nevertheless.


Having introduced the concept of thymos, here Fukuyama extends it. Megalothymia and isothymia, like thymos itself, are referred to throughout the remainder of the book. In his discussion of these phenomena he reveals one of the reasons he finds purely economic explanations of behavior unsatisfying. Indeed, he sees things like going on strike as hardly motivated by economics at all. That strikes are more about dignity than wages is not actually a surprising idea, and many labor organizers and historians might well agree. In extending his conception of thymos, Fukuyama finally begins to show the role he ascribes to "the desire for recognition" in powering the democratic revolutions against the Soviet system. His argument about secondary or "triggering" events is a reference to a historical tendency to explain events as being caused both by long-term "trends" and short-term "triggers." Triggers are not always viewed as "secondary" factors, merely more immediate ones.

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