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 18 : The Struggle for Recognition (Lordship and Bondage) | Summary



Fukuyama returns to the Hegelian narrative of history to discuss what comes after the "battle to the death." This was the relationship of lord and bondsman, as the weaker recognized the power of the stronger and submitted to it for protection. This relationship is viewed as unsatisfying. The "master" wishes to be recognized by the "slave," but the slave is not fully human because they have submitted. The master's desire for recognition thus goes unsatisfied. Through work slaves regain the humanity they lost. Work, and the resulting work ethic, becomes a source of the slave's self-worth. This, for Hegel, is the primary purpose of work, not the fulfillment of material needs. What, then, led the slave to desire liberty and equality? Hegel claimed it was Christianity, the "absolute religion." All humans were equal and free in the sight of God. This freedom was primarily the freedom to choose between good and evil. Christianity provided the possibility of universal recognition for all humans as human beings.


Fukuyama left the Hegelian narrative at the conclusion of its first stage in Chapter 13. He picks up the narrative here and introduces the next stage: the relationship between the lord and bondsman, or master and slave. Hegel talks in philosophical terms, but what he describes is something like feudal society, as found in Europe in the Middle Ages (c. 500–c. 1500). In feudal society a small class of warrior-landowners owns the land, which is farmed by peasants who are dependent on the local lord. In exchange for the peasants' labor the lords owed peasants protection. It is customary of Hegel that he presents this relationship as a struggle to be recognized as fully human between classes of "masters" and "slaves." Marx, on the other hand, focused on the economic factor of production that underpinned the feudal system. As was the case earlier in the book, accounts of how "the slave" came to desire liberty through Christianity are not tied to a particular period, place, or event. It is a statement that contains within it a whole series of events and revolutions but never grapples with the details.

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