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 23 : Leaping over Rhodes (The Unreality of "Realism") | Summary



Fukuyama changes course to criticize the foreign policy "realism" that dominated the minds of Cold War policymakers. He foresees that the directional history he has outlined has serious lessons for foreign policy. Realism is based on "realpolitik"—the treatment of power dynamics and national interests as fixed facts that must be respected and navigated—and only rarely changed. Realists believe all international politics is inherently insecure and can only be shored up by constructing delicate balances of power. Fukuyama notes there was a very good reason for the fashionability of "realism" in the Cold War: the real threat of nuclear annihilation. But at the end of History, "realism" makes no sense to Fukuyama. There is no more need for pessimism, and the management of relations between stable liberal democracies that recognize one another requires a new, more suitable foreign-policy paradigm.


Fukuyama had worked for the U.S. State Department as a foreign policymaker. His dissatisfaction with the foreign policy "realism" that was then popular comes out in this chapter and the next. Fukuyama fundamentally thinks "realism" is a backwards way of looking at the world. It treats contingent realities like facts and certainties when they are not. He acknowledges realism had a good reason for being fashionable: it had helped prevent all-out nuclear war. But Fukuyama is motivated here by the fear that realism would prevent the United States from making the most of new opportunities.

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