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Millions of people saw the late s and the early s as the beginning of a whole new era even if the optimism and hope for a change for the better in their lives were accompanied by a sense of insecurity and concerns about the final outcomes of the expected political, social and economic transition.
The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War, of which the uncontested victor was the United States. Another confirmation of the Western triumph was the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union — a superpower that had been rotting from the inside for several years — and the revolutions, in most cases peaceful, throughout Central and Eastern Europe, which ultimately resulted in the rejection of communism as a global ideology.
Many authoritarian dictatorships on almost all continents lost their strategic patrons and were forced to reformulate their policies and their entire systems of state management. Just a decade earlier almost no one foresaw such a global scenario, and almost no one was able to imagine a world without Soviet presence. History accelerated rapidly and amazed observers and scholars once again. Why did things happen this way? Did they have to happen the way they happened?
And how to respond? An attempt to provide a post-factum explanation may be intriguing if it also involves a scenario describing possible future developments. In the summer of , an essay by Francis Fukuyama, at the time an academic little known outside the United States, is published in The National Interest.
This time there is no question mark, which suggests that the author staunchly stands by his original thesis. The list of polemicists who criticise him directly or indirectly is becoming ever longer. Among his detractors are both proponents of new Marxist interpretations and fans of realpolitik who are convinced that authoritarianism in its many guises in an effective solution. There are also followers of various strains of fundamentalism and sceptics who do not believe in the teleological analysis of history, which they often consider to be political and economic eschatology.
Francis Fukuyama touches extremely sensitive strings in the minds of academics, ideologues and politicians almost all over the world. Criticising his thesis and the entire methodology that underlies his argument has been fashionable for a long time now. He has never claimed that we have reached the end of history construed as a sequence or more or less dramatic events. We will still be confronted by wars, coups, economic crises, eruptions of hatred caused by religious intolerance, racism or extreme nationalism.
They are an invariable part of human life, and Fukuyama understands this very well. The author means something else and he tries to explain it by referring to the great philosophers of Europe: Aristotle, Plato, Kant, Locke and Hegel. Like they, he asks fundamental questions: does the history of mankind has a definite course, and if so, what is its direction? Are humans, in essence, guided by material interests, and is this what shapes history, or perhaps — as Hegel once suggested — they fight above all for recognition?
Are liberal democracy and the free market, whose purpose is to ensure liberty, equality and economic freedom, the ultimate and at the same time optimal political goals of world history? And is the natural sciences model a suitable one for studying historical processes?
After the publication of The End of History, Fukuyama repeatedly honed his arguments and explained contemporary events by invoking his model of historical interpretation. In the following years, he added more observations that were meant to confirm his thesis. Fukuyama believes that a careful analysis of selected historical trends should not focus on relatively short periods because the hallmark of any robust political system is its long duration, and not just the effects of its operation that can be observed within a single decade.
Therefore it is impossible to properly assess our or any other era without analysing some logic that governs its progress or decadence, and without gradually discovering development rules that allow us to predict potential transformation scenarios in the modern world. In other words, we should not concentrate exclusively on the events, even the most dramatic ones, which are happening in the present, in order to extrapolate them to the near future; we should instead try to assess the current state of affairs from a much broader perspective, taking into account the complexity of observable phenomena.
Legal culture and entrepreneurial spirit, religion and moral convictions, social capital and the tradition of building a community founded on certain values — all this does not disintegrate immediately even during most violent revolutions or deepest crises. Democracies do not perish so easily — the author of The End of History emphasises — although they may go through phases when they are weaker or hibernate temporarily.
Globalisation of democracy? Fukuyama cites hard data that illustrate the spread of global democratisation, although it should be noted that the political and economic systems introduced in other parts of the world did not necessarily resemble the versions that we know from Western Europe or the United States.
Larry Diamond of Stanford University, whose research the author cites, states that in there were only 35 effectively democratic countries in which elections were regularly held. By , the number approached , which represented more than 60 percent of the total. Indeed, the early s filled even the gloomiest pessimists with optimism. However, it soon turned out that in many regions this global march towards democracy could be followed by an explosive retreat towards some form of autocracy.
Twenty-five years later, Fukuyama admits that he disregarded a crucial phenomenon, namely the gradual decomposition of the various institutions and structures that form the backbone of the democratic system. An efficient state that worked smoothly for thirty or forty years in an era of relative peace or at least of well-recognised threats may cease to function altogether or prove inadequate in performing its tasks in completely new external circumstances.
In Europe, the last decade brought first an acute financial crisis, then a powerful migration wave from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, and finally bloody terrorist attacks in France, Germany or Belgium. These events have become the touchstone that tests the mechanisms of the modern state. Is it still able to perform its basic functions, and thus — above all — ensure the safety of its citizens? Can it ensure social cohesion, without which it is difficult to imagine the normal operation of state institutions?
Will it sustain the relatively slow but steady economic growth, and will this be enough to ensure an adequate standard of living for most people, and not just for the privileged group? And finally, of course, the fundamental question, which in a way sums up all the previous ones: will liberal democracy, given the new challenges and threats that used to be poorly understood, be able to bear the weight of the tasks it has been set, or do we need a completely different political and economic system that would be much more efficient and could react more efficiently to the continuously growing list of problems?
These questions are no longer posed exclusively in academia — they often become part of a nationwide debate, and a violent one at that. In such circumstances, there is a temptation to impose authoritarian solutions, which are supposedly more effective in an emergency — actual or imagined. Fukuyama is aware of the various roads that the development of democracy can take, and of the possibility that democracy may become extinct after thriving for a relatively short time.
In The End of History, he gave examples from East Asia, Latin America or the Middle East where the citizens, in a free election, had already decided or would decide as we were to learn later to give power to groups that openly declared that they would introduce authoritarian systems with only some democratic trappings preserved.
That is exactly what happened in Iran just after the overthrow of Shah Reza Pahlavi; a similar scenario was played out in Peru, and then much later in the Philippines. Such societies depend on leadership, organizational ability and sheer good luck. It is more like a living organism that must constantly be nurtured in order to survive by those whom it is supposed to serve.
Simply said, democracy cannot survive without democrats. However, the matter is complex. Even inhabitants of countries that have never openly renounced democratic ideals and where — as common wisdom holds — they are firmly rooted, may have certain doubts concerning democracy. The United States is no exception in this respect. In his Twitter feed, Fukuyama draws attention to the research conducted by Nathaniel Persily and Jon Cohen whose results were published in The Washington Post one month before the presidential election.
Therefore, if we assume that the acceptance of election results by the vast majority of citizens is one of the foundations of faith in the democratic system, the skepticism declared in this respect undermines the sense of holding such elections on a regular basis. Democracy, as both authors conclude, is not just about electing one candidate or the other, but is primarily based on the fundamental assumption that citizens have the right to choose among such candidates at all.
This should not really come as a surprise, because a low level of social capital usually does not favour the development of democracy. The faith in the power of democratic ideals slowly begins to crumble. However, we cannot be sure if this is just a short-lived episode or rather the beginning of a long-term trend. What would be a viable alternative that could enjoy popular support? Fukuyama provides examples of countries belonging to the Islamic civilisation, and admits that political Islam may offer a certain counter-proposal, even if it is limited geographically and culturally.
However, he does not develop this concept in detail, and no such analysis is evident in his later publications. Most frequently, he cites the example of Iran, but he refers to the situation in the Arab countries as well. A completely different alternative is offered by China — a classic authoritarian state that has achieved tangible economic success and provides an attractive ideological model for a considerable number of followers.
Fukuyama agrees that market-oriented authoritarian states are able to effectively stimulate economic prosperity. In creating conditions conducive to business development, they can even be more effective than democratic governments. The race between young democracies and market-oriented authoritarian states may produce outcomes that are very unfavourable for the former.
Fukuyama discusses the s in this context. In this way, they demonstrated that economic prosperity is not really enjoyable without equality and — even more so — without freedom. In the second half of the 20th century, that belief united Europeans and some Asians from the eastern part of the continent.
More than a quarter of a century after the publication of The End of History, Fukuyama sees no robust alternatives to liberal democracy in axiological terms. One cannot be sure, however, whether the number of people who would agree with him is still as high as 25 years ago.
Spain has often been compared to Poland, and such comparisons have not always been justified. However, they are countries with similar numbers of inhabitants over 46 million and 38 million respectively , strongly influenced by Catholicism, strongly polarised in ideological terms and with a significant presence of the political right. Finally, the history of authoritarian rule experienced by both countries makes some Spanish solutions potentially relevant options for Poland.
There are probably more differences than similarities, but it is the latter that catch our eye. General Francisco Franco was, in many ways, the last exponent of the nineteenth-century European conservatism that based itself on throne and altar, the same conservatism that went down to defeat in the French Revolution. After some time, however, they started to express their opposition to the solutions put forward.
The opposition of Catholic organisations to the liberal changes that were planned and implemented which also involved abortion and euthanasia was clearly heard for many years in the media as well as in churches and during street demonstrations. Therefore, the cost of support for the democratic transition by the Church and of its growing criticism towards the previous authoritarian regime turned out to be quite high if measured by the social impact of Catholic doctrine in Spain in subsequent years.
Support for democratic and liberal demands meant that the Spanish Church self-limited its political importance e. Legal changes moved in lockstep with shifts in mores and with the dramatic drop in the number of practicing Catholics.
Fukuyama does not analyse in detail the relationship between the state and the Church in a liberal democracy; moreover, in the early s it was not easy to predict the eventual direction that the social and political evolution in Europe would take within twenty or thirty years. After all, the contemporary history of the Church in Italy or Malta which are both Catholic and democratic countries and its relationship with the state have followed quite different paths than in Spain.
The author of The End of History only points to problems, but we must find appropriate solutions ourselves — at least in our Polish conditions. Recurring questions Revolutions and transformations of political systems around the world, the unprecedented technological progress and global diffusion of knowledge, but at the same time the constantly growing population and depleted natural resources — all this can have an immense impact on the ways in which people perceive themselves and their environment.
But will these developments undermine our beliefs about the essence of freedom and human dignity or invalidate the principle that we are, or at least want to be, equal as citizens regardless of our religion, ethnicity and mother tongue? Can justice, broadly understood, only be guaranteed under liberal democracy? Or, perhaps, is the very system of liberal democracy culturally conditioned and, therefore, one that cannot be transplanted to countries that have undergone an evolutionary process different from that of the West?
We may pose an increasing number of questions and discover ever more dilemmas, but we will still be left with a limited set of those that are most important and fundamental. With time, different variants will emerge of the problems that we have been trying to tackle for hundreds or even thousands of years, still looking for solutions in the writings of Plato and Aristotle, and in different parts of the world also in the wisdom of Gautama Buddha, Confucius or Chanakya.
Francis Fukuyama frames the issues that he wants to discuss in the easily recognizable intellectual landscape of the Western world. It is difficult to get lost in this familiar cultural forest, which remains very distant — for now — from the exotic jungle that grows outside the European limes.
He served as the Polish Ambassador to India from Join us on Facebook.
The End of History and the Last Man , by Francis Fukuyama , is a book of political philosophy which argues that with the ascendancy of Western liberal democracy —which occurred after the Cold War — and the dissolution of the Soviet Union —humanity has reached "not just According to Fukuyama, since the French Revolution , liberal democracy has repeatedly proven to be a fundamentally better system ethically, politically, economically than any of the alternatives. The most basic and prevalent error in discussing Fukuyama's work is to confuse "history" with "events". Some argue [ who? Indeed, Fukuyama has stated:. The End of History was never linked to a specifically American model of social or political organization.
Millions of people saw the late s and the early s as the beginning of a whole new era even if the optimism and hope for a change for the better in their lives were accompanied by a sense of insecurity and concerns about the final outcomes of the expected political, social and economic transition. The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War, of which the uncontested victor was the United States. Another confirmation of the Western triumph was the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union — a superpower that had been rotting from the inside for several years — and the revolutions, in most cases peaceful, throughout Central and Eastern Europe, which ultimately resulted in the rejection of communism as a global ideology. Many authoritarian dictatorships on almost all continents lost their strategic patrons and were forced to reformulate their policies and their entire systems of state management. Just a decade earlier almost no one foresaw such a global scenario, and almost no one was able to imagine a world without Soviet presence.