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 4, Chapter 20 : Leaping over Rhodes (The Coldest of All Cold Monsters) | Summary



Fukuyama begins Part 4 by making the claim that there are no serious ideological competitors to liberal democracy. With that said, he acknowledges that not all states are liberal democracies nor are they likely to be in the foreseeable future. Moreover, he notes that not all liberal democracies remain so. He ascribes this to the "incomplete correspondence between peoples and states." This is to say that states, which are political formations, do not always reflect the preferences (in terms of laws, cultural matters, and values) of communities within those states. Fukuyama suggests this is a tension between the legal world of states and the moral world of peoples. He says this tension can be redressed if people can be convinced to replace their community values with pride in "their" democratic state.

Fukuyama identifies several cultural obstacles to democratization. One is a lack of national unity in states with mixed ethnic and cultural groups like Peru. Another is the presence of "totalistic" religions like Orthodox Judaism or fundamentalist Islam. A third is deep social inequality. The fourth is a society's inability to produce a democratic civil society that works "from the bottom up," instead of being imposed from above. Despite offering these cultural problems, Fukuyama stresses that no cultural barriers exist that prohibit the extension of democracy across the globe. There are no peoples who cannot ever have a democratic culture or practice democratic values. On the other hand, it is not the case that a democratic culture alone is sufficient to produce or maintain a democracy.


He opens with a bold claim, but to most of Fukuyama's readers it could well have been true. The end of the Cold War had shattered a great many certainties about the world. From this point onward Fukuyama is more explicit about his doubts surrounding the new order. Liberal democracy may well be triumphant, but he is not necessarily triumphalist about it. For one, liberal democracy has been incompletely applied throughout the world, something he alluded to in an earlier chapter when selecting a "strictly formal definition of democracy." Fukuyama nevertheless needs to explain why this is so, if humanity has reached "the end of History" and liberal democracy is truly the best system. He relies on cultural explanations that, to his readers, may seem unworthy compared to the intellectual effort that went into the previous sections outlining a grand historical narrative. An important point, however, is that he is adamant there is no specific European or American quality that makes democracy practical in those societies and not in others. As a person of Japanese descent, Fukuyama is well aware of the prejudices in America and elsewhere about whether non-Western peoples could ever grasp democracy. Fukuyama rejects this mindset utterly.

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