The discussion of “the end of history” by Francis Fukuyama in The National Interest (Summer 1989) has led to comment by numerous publicists. Among others Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Richard Bernstein, and a feature writer for Time have evaluated Fukuyama’s hypothetical arguments that the world may be moving toward a democratic capitalist final age: a world without war and therefore without serious politics, in which boredom, not strife, will be the major human problem.
In Fukuyama’s defense it should be noted that he does not advocate that steps be taken to turn utopia into reality; nor does he express unqualified enthusiasm for what he treats as a merely possible future. However, he does make the mistake of identifying his vision with the philosopher Hegel, who, as it happened, supported nation-states as an antidemocratic constitutionalist. Hegel devoted one of his last tracts to attacking the Reform Bill then being considered in England and finally enacted in 1832. The reconstruction of the English electoral districts in the direction of proportionate democratic representation, Hegel maintained, would involve an ill-advised move toward popular government. Ironically, George Will, who seems to have learned his Hegel from Fukuyama, praises the philosopher as a “good German,” that is, a democrat, but scoffs at his simpleminded faith in the possibility of world government. Actually, Hegel looked forward to neither democracy nor world government.
The Russian-French “Hegelian,” Alexandre Kojeve, also mentioned by Fukuyama, claimed to believe in both. Kojeve reinterpreted Hegel as the philosopher of “world reason” whose ideas pointed toward a world state. But Kojeve also believed that more than ideas would be necessary to introduce a cosmic order from which master-slave relationships would be forever abolished. He glorified the French Revolution, including the Reign of Terror. And while Kojeve worked for the European Common Market as an instrument of interstate cooperation, he also admired Joseph Stalin, as a practitioner of the politics of world unity. This unabashed Stalinophile, not Hegel, stressed the theme of a world without politics that Fukuyama serves up (with some capitalist modifications) in his essay.
Other pointed criticisms of the article have come forth from discerning readers. For example, John Gray in National Review (October 27, 1989) observes that the alleged democratic ascendancy in Eastern Europe to which Fukuyama refers has little to do with democracy. What has happened is the reappearance of national societies that foreign Communist domination had driven underground. The rhetoric of democracy is being used by some Eastern Europeans and even more by Western journalists to describe the frantic attempts made by nations to regain control of their own destinies. Herbert London in The London Letter (July/August 1989) sees Fukuyama’s dream as the last of a long series of interesting but empty visions. It shares a family resemblance to other nonstarters like Woodrow Wilson’s “ineluctable worldwide victory for democracy” and the appeal by Kant to a worldwide republic of rational beings who would outlaw war. London rightly notes that visionary reformers have long been predicting the end of history while identifying that end with the triumph of their own ideas. Though Fukuyama is more clever about packaging his vision, he, too, is bestowing inevitability on what is a personal dream.
He is also presenting the world view of at least some of the editors of The National Interest. Though neoconservatives have managed to put together a debate on the issues raised by Fukuyama, they generally agree with his view of where things are drifting. Krauthammer, Will, Wattenberg, and other neoconservatives may not like the dogmatic tone and the references to a problem-free world, but they share his progressive vision. They too envisage a uniformly democratic earth without national barriers and with just enough capitalism to provide for general prosperity. People may continue to be quarrelsome, but Krauthammer is sure that we know “politically” what is best for everyone: a democratic polity with a mixed economy. Still, Krauthammer is prepared to allow history to take its own course, unlike Kojeve. In published exchanges with Leo Strauss, Kojeve calls for a world state established, if necessary, by a “tyrant” who would end our struggle for domination over each other.
In his essay Fukuyama posits an indissoluble relationship between politics and conflict in the modern era. His remarks might indicate a familiarity with the German legal theorist Carl Schmitt (1888-1985), on whom I have published several articles. In a provocative polemic of 1927, “The Concept of the Political,” Schmitt speaks of intense struggle as “the criterion of the political.” While cultural, economic, and aesthetic activities may go on without such antagonism, political ones require that individuals sacrifice themselves for others. Politics also divides us into friend-enemy groupings. Despite his exaltation of heroism, Schmitt is not making a case for continuous bloodshed. Rather he defends the nation-state, which arose in early modern Europe in the wake of religious wars as a means for taming belligerence. It was the assertion of power by national sovereigns over feuding aristocrats and meddlesome churchmen that allowed the “state” to create public order. For the sake of internal tranquillity, sovereigns claimed the exclusive right to make friend-enemy distinctions in their own societies. They also maintained some degree of religious and cultural homogeneity among their subjects, but made life unpleasant for theologians who presumed to speak for the state. And it was the agreement by jurists and kings that wars would no longer be holy, but merely formal procedures (guerres en forme) that served to institutionalize international conflict. Limited struggles fought over negotiable issues by professional armies were more appealing to national sovereigns than “just wars.” Struggles were no longer to be waged against a diabolized enemy or proclaimed by ecclesiastical officials.
According to Schmitt, it was to the credit of European civilization that it fashioned a system of states that could limit political violence. This system endured in the face of the French Revolution, the advance of military technology, the rise of modern ideologies, and the war on sovereignty waged by constitutional liberals. It finally grew weak, however, and began to collapse in the 20th century. The disintegration of sovereign national states and of multinational sovereign states, Schmitt contended, will not bring down the curtain on political existence. On the contrary, human struggle and friend-enemy groupings will continue at a more intense level than ever before. Poisonous wars typified by terrorism and fights over “values” are already replacing the limited geopolitical contests that European states fought in the 18th and 19th centuries. Schmitt warns repeatedly that war will accelerate in proportion to the rate at which traditional states vanish. Struggles will grow progressively worse, as enemies come to be defined as ideological foes, not rival states.
But the role of national states turns on the question of sovereignty. Sovereignty, for Schmitt, centers on the question of who in a society “decides” the collective course to be taken in a critical situation, particularly in the face of a public threat. Since war is the most perilous threat faced by a society, a sovereign, either individually or collegially, must determine friend-enemy distinctions. It is the sovereign who (or which) decides on what steps are to be taken to combat the public enemy. The question of “Quis judicabit?” (which is Thomas Hobbes’s phrase) is the one being currently disputed by partisans of the American President and in the Congress. Schmitt thought this dispute about who defines and who deals with public threats inevitable in a state in which political authority is no longer firmly fixed.
Nor did he see any way out of that dispute with the passing of sovereign national states. Abolishing states that were territorially and ethnically limited would not end group struggles or the need for sovereigns. It would only transfer those problems to a supranational level, without the framework of established loyalties and procedures that had characterized the older state system. “Humanity, as such,” Schmitt observes, “cannot wage war because it has no enemy at least on this planet.” Yet, wars can be waged “in the name of humanity” by particular states that seek to “usurp a universal concept against its military opponent.” Thus groups that appeal to humanity as a “useful ideological instrument of imperialist expansion” continue to make friend-enemy distinctions. They also have sovereigns who draw those distinctions for others and who do so while invoking “humanity.” Those who opt to oppose such self-appointed spokesmen for humanity must thereafter mobilize and recognize their own sovereigns. Friend-enemy distinctions and the threat of war thereby reemerge without limited national states, in a “battle for humanity.”
Fukuyama assumes that these problems would not occur, if we remained busy making money and practicing international democracy. However, as Schmitt understood, humans are “dangerous, dynamic beings” who are willing to fight over economics as well as territorial differences. Why should people stop fighting over others’ acquisitions just because they live without deprivation? Though all classes in America today are more affluent than they were in the 1930’s, theft and robbery have increased exponentially in the last fifty years. In recent times, moreover, journalists and educators have taken to squabbling over political doctrines, so that even opposition to ideology has now turned into metaphysical anticommunism and its Menshevik equivalent of global democratism. In The New Republic (November 6, 1989) Morton Kondracke rejoices that American foreign policy is now in the hands of a “Democracy Gang” embracing Desmond Tutu, Stephen Solarz, and the National Endowment for Democracy. This international movement has been able to focus American foreign policy on aiding those with compatible views by “diplomatic intervention, military assistance (in El Salvador and the Philippines, for example) and on rare occasions direct or covert use of force.”
I for one will put my money on the Democracy Gang and on even more violent bands of ideologues as future peace-disturbers. If Fukuyama’s vision has any importance, it will be as a weapon in a crusade being waged by political redeemers. It is a (perhaps unintended) blueprint for the intensification of politics. And the conspicuous solemnity with which global democrats have been discussing its reprised Enlightenment suppositions suggests their own interest in current struggles. Their decision to lavish attention on the essay is itself a polemical move intended to put into relief their own foreign policy objectives. The publication and reception of the essay, it may be readily assumed, have resulted from heated debates in which the editors of The National Interest have been far from neutral. Fukuyama’s outline of a globalist vision appeared exactly where it did as a tactic in a continuing struggle against those who trivialize Charles Krauthammer’s (not Hegel’s) recipe for universal political happiness. Both the publication and celebration of the essay are nothing more or nothing less.
Today (November 12, 1989) the Sunday Washington Post reports that “nationalist, sectarian and conservative forces” are resurfacing in Poland together with Polish democracy. Apparently, American journalists have failed to terminate world history.