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 5, Chapter 30 : The Last Man (Perfect Rights and Defective Duties) | Summary

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Summary

Fukuyama raises the question of community, the layer of social existence beneath the layer of the nation. He points out, following the words of French historian and political writer Alexis de Tocqueville (1805–59), that the life of a citizen is actually mostly carried out at this lower level through association with political parties and lower-level institutions. Fukuyama warns that community life is ultimately threatened by liberal democracy. It is threatened by liberalism because this philosophy provides rights, which are defended by the community, but imposes few duties save the protection of those rights. It is eroded also by the desire for equality because communities are defined by excluding those the community deems of lower worth. Capitalism also militates against strong community. Modern economics demands people be able to move from place to place to fulfill the needs of business. This uproots people and destroys long-established communities. Fukuyama decides this is a paradox, whereby liberal democracy relies on community values that liberal democracies themselves erode.

Analysis

Fukuyama is utterly dismayed by the threat to community posed by liberal democracy, and his social conservatism is on full display. Damage to community, which he considers the real strength of a society, is caused by a range of conservative bugbears, like the notion that public displays of religion will be "offensive to atheists," or that liberal society provides rights but asks no duties. A more nuanced point is made when he notes that the needs of modern capitalism for a flexible workforce, able to move across country or retrain at short notice, is itself corrosive to community.

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