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 25 : Leaping over Rhodes (National Interests) | Summary



Fukuyama seeks to explain the phenomenon of nationalism. He calls it modern but not fully rational because it "extends recognition only to certain members of a national or ethnic group." Nationalism tends to give rise to imperialism because it serves as a vehicle for megalothymia, the desire to be seen as superior to others. Fukuyama, however, tends to think of nationalism as a swift-passing phenomenon that has no deep roots to lay down. Like history, Fukuyama thinks nationalism has a lifespan, which leads toward a more tolerant form of nationalism exemplified in the nations of the European Community (now the European Union). He compares nationalism to organized religion, which likewise in the modern era had been "defanged" as a cause of serious international conflict. While he sees a new flourishing of nationalism as states like the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia break up, he thinks this does not mark a serious problem. Partly this is because of the transition to liberal democracy in the newly independent nations and the existence of pan-national organizations like the European Community that had abandoned most of their nationalist ambitions after the world wars. Fukuyama predicts nationalism will eventually fade away, although not necessarily soon.


Many of the revolutions against communist regimes were also nationalist revolutions. People proclaimed their independence as much as they threw off communist rule. This new wave of nationalism seemed to pose a threat to a narrative of liberal progress because the liberal democratic state is held to rest on universal rights. Nationalism stresses exclusive rights for a particular group. Fukuyama is relatively dismissive of nationalism. This is consistent with his attitude in Chapter 2 and his dismissal of authoritarian regimes of the right. The persistence of nationalism is linked to the persistence of megalothymia. Because the latter is part of what it means to be human, it is unlikely nationalism will simply disappear. Fukuyama thinks the logic of economic integration and liberal democratic cooperation is enough to see it wither away into a "defanged" form, but his hopeful note may strike the reader as less than completely confident.

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