Francis Fukuyama 1952-
American nonfiction writer.
The following entry presents an overview of Fukuyama's career through 1999.
Social scientist Francis Fukuyama touched off a maelstrom of controversy with his provocative essay, “The End of History?,” published in the small-circulation journal The Public Interest in the summer of 1989. In this sixteen-page treatise that captured international attention, he proposed that the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe signaled the end of historical progress and the de facto victory of liberal democracy over all other forms of political ideology. Fukuyama's essay, revised and expanded in The End of History and the Last Man (1992), attracted an outpouring of critical commentary and debate in both academic and mainstream media circles. In subsequent works, Trust (1995) and The Great Disruption (1999), he similarly attempted to elucidate and anticipate the grand forces at work behind the major social, political, and economic developments in the contemporary world.
Fukuyama was born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in New York City by his Japanese parents. His father, Yoshio, was a Congregationalist minister and professor of religion. Fukuyama attended Cornell University, where he majored in classics and studied philosophy under professor Allan Bloom, author of the 1987 bestseller The Closing of the American Mind. Graduating with a B.A. from Cornell in 1974, Fukuyama began graduate work in comparative literature under Paul de Man at Yale University, then spent six months in Paris where he visited the classrooms of preeminent literary theorists Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida. Dissatisfied with postmodern criticism, Fukuyama returned to the United States and shifted his interest to government and foreign policy. He enrolled at Harvard University and studied Soviet and Middle Eastern politics, earning a Ph.D. in political science in 1981. Fukuyama worked for the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California, until 1989, with a brief period in Washington, D.C., as a member of the policy planning staff under the Reagan Administration. In 1989 Fukuyama was named deputy director of the U.S. Department of State Policy Planning Staff, a position he held until 1990. After the 1989 publication of “The End of History?,” Fukuyama turned to full-time research, writing, and lecturing. He subsequently took a position as the Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University. His The End of History and the Last Man won the Premio Capri International Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Critics Award in 1992. Fukuyama has authored many papers for the Rand Corporation and published numerous articles in both professional and popular periodicals. He married Laura Holmgren in 1986, with whom he shares several children.
Fukuyama's reputation centers primarily upon the ideas presented in “The End of History?” In this essay, he attempts to establish a conceptual framework in which to view the end of the Cold War and dramatic liberal reforms in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China during the late-1980s. Drawing upon the historiographic perspective of nineteenth-century German philosopher Georg W. F. Hegel, Fukuyama suggests that “history,” viewed as a struggle between competing ideologies, has reached its terminus in liberal democracy. Hegel, as Fukuyama recalls, proclaimed that history had come to an end in 1806 with Napoleon's victory over the Prussian monarchy at the Battle of Jena, signaling the ascendancy of democratic ideals borne of the Enlightenment and French Revolution. Along these lines, Fukuyama asserts that the chief rivals to liberal democracy—Fascism and Communism—have run their course and ended in disrepute; Fascism was vanquished with the defeat of Germany, Italy, and Japan during World War II, and Communism has been disaffirmed by recent political and economic concessions in the Soviet Union and China, and the reunification of Germany. Thus, as Fukuyama asserts, in the world of ideas, Western liberal democracy has emerged as the unchallenged victor over all other competing ideologies, with only religious fundamentalism and nationalism remaining as potent, though inferior, adversaries. Despite this apparent “triumph of the West,” Fukuyama notes that international conflict will by no means cease, but that future wars, uprisings, and regional disputes will pit “historical” factions (those who still cling to outmoded, discredited ideologies) against the “post-historical” embodiments of liberal democracy. From this perspective, Fukuyama contends that it is not necessarily important that all societies develop into healthy, prosperous liberal democracies, but that none seriously upholds the pretense that it can offer a superior, viable alternative to liberal democracy. Far from extolling this prospect, Fukuyama laments the passing of “history,” which he concludes will usher in “a very sad time.” In this post-historical era, Fukuyama notes, the excitement of revolutionary fervor and ideological possibility will give way to the sterile solving of economic, technological, and environmental problems, and the perpetual boredom of consumerism. Fukuyama does, however, hold out the hope that such interminable boredom will eventually give rise to the rebirth of “History.” In The End of History and the Last Man, Fukuyama defends and further elaborates his original thesis, again drawing upon the insights of Hegel as well as twentieth-century Hegel scholar Alexandre Kojève. Fukuyama identifies two principal “mechanisms” of historical change—man's effort to master nature through scientific progress and thymos, a Greek term adopted from Plato that refers to the individual's desire for recognition. Noting the universal Judeo-Christian moral code that undergirds democratic egalitarianism, Fukuyama attacks contemporary moral relativism and multiculturalism. The “last man,” a concept borrowed from nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, refers to the spiritless inheritors of modern liberal democracy who, in a world devoid of ideological causes, languish in self-satisfaction and mediocrity.
In Trust, Fukuyama examines the relationship between culture, social behavior, and economics, particularly the importance of trust as essential “social capital” that determines the level of economic activity between individuals and groups. According to Fukuyama, high levels of social trust permit the organization of large, multilevel corporations and economies of scale, as evident in prosperous countries such as the United States, Germany, and Japan. However, in nations such as China, Italy, and France, where trust is either insular, provincial, or weakly linked to the state, the ability to expand beyond small, family-owned businesses into the global marketplace is hampered. Fukuyama also asserts that increasing mistrust breeds corresponding increases in crime, litigation, and corruption. In the United States, Fukuyama observes, declining rates of participation in voluntary associations indicate a weakening of social commitment in general, and thus an erosion of valuable social capital that is difficult to replenish and without which society suffers detrimental effects. Fukuyama takes up this subject in The Great Disruption, in which he trains his focus on the deterioration of morality and civic values in America and other developed countries between the 1960s and 1990s. His analysis, supplemented with much statistical data and graphs, suggests that the troubling vices—such as divorce, illegitimacy, sexual promiscuity, violent crime, and drug abuse—that have eroded social capital are indicative of a rise of selfish individualism and a lack of regard for traditional authority. Such rampant amorality, Fukuyama notes, is historically cyclical and typical of periods of great economic change—in the present case, the move from a post-industrial to an information society. Fukuyama suggests that the women's liberation movement, though ultimately a positive force of social transformation, was also a major source of the “disruption.” Drawing upon research in anthropology, evolutionary biology, game theory, psychology, and moral philosophy, Fukuyama contends that humans by nature tend to self-organize and self-regulate in beneficial ways, leading to his optimistic conclusion that a new era of spontaneous, popular reform is on the horizon, a period during which people will likely demand higher standards of morality and responsibility among themselves, others, and institutions.
Fukuyama's “End of History” thesis attracted heated controversy among a wide range of historians, journalists, and social observers, prompting a flurry of published responses, rejoinders, and editorial commentaries that continued to appear in periodicals and newspapers even several years after the essay's first appearance and the publication of its book-length elaboration. While most critics either refuted or dismissed Fukuyama's contention that human consciousness had evolved to its highest form in liberal democracy and that historical progress had ceased, many found his ideas compelling and erudite, particularly among those on the political right. The fact that this obscure article—written by a then-little-known foreign policy analyst and heavily-laden with complex Hegelian philosophy—captured so much attention was itself a source of wonder among critics. Many reviewers note that Fukuyama's essay and book The End of History and the Last Man reflect the heady mood and uncertainty immediately following the collapse of Communism and the end of the Cold War. Fukuyama's critics, on both the left and right side of the political spectrum, leveled strong objections to his lack of concern for persistent warfare, political oppression, genocide, and fundamentalist insurgence throughout the world—all evidence, according to such critics, that history is alive and well. On the reputation of his “End of History” publications, Trust and The Great Disruption received much critical interest, though far less controversy. Many reviewers praised Fukuyama's impressive grasp of world history and sociology in these works, and welcomed his ambitious effort to distill the grand significance of contemporary social and economic trends. However, others found his comprehensive approach unconvincing and overly deterministic, undermined in many cases by the overwhelming scope of his subject and Fukuyama's tendency to refute his own assertions with contradictory qualifications and omissions. Yet, despite the limitations of Fukuyama's wide-angle worldview and criticism stemming from his neoconservative political perspective, he is respected as an subtle intellectual and engaging social commentator.
The Soviet Union and the Third World: The Last Three Decades [editor; with Andrzej Korbonski] (nonfiction) 1987
*“The End of History?” (essay) 1989
The End of History and the Last Man (nonfiction) 1992
Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (nonfiction) 1995
The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order (nonfiction) 1999
*First published in The National Interest, Summer, 1989, pp. 3-18.
(The entire section is 61 words.)
SOURCE: “What Is Fukuyama Saying?,” in New York Times Magazine, October 22, 1989, pp. 38-40, 42, 54-5.
[In the following essay, Atlas provides an overview of Fukuyama's professional background, historical perspective, and critical controversy surrounding “The End of History?”]
The year 2000 fast approaches, and millennial doom is in the air. Global warming, nuclear proliferation, chaos in Eastern Europe. Even the notion of post is over. Post-modernism, post-history, post-culture (to borrow the critic George Steiner's term)—we're beyond that now. “The sun is about to set on the post-industrial era,” declares the economist Lester C. Thurow in The...
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SOURCE: “The End of History, Explained for the Second Time,” in The New York Times, December 10, 1989, p. E6.
[In the following essay, Bernstein discusses Fukuyama's defense and elaboration of “The End of History?” in The National Interest.]
The debate about the “end of history” has not come to an end. Francis Fukuyama, the State Department official who declared the end of the ideological struggle between East and West in an article last summer in The National Interest, has responded to his critics, and taken the argument a step further.
Not only has history ended, Mr. Fukuyama argues in a crisply written eight-page essay to appear...
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SOURCE: “Four Cheers for Liberal Democracy,” in Washington Post Book World, January 12, 1992, pp. 1, 6.
[In the following review, Gilder offers favorable evaluation of The End of History and the Last Man.]
Amid all the timid tomes and hollow debates of the day, ruminating on the moral codes of the Palm Beach Au Bar, the fiery bellyaches of the New Male, or the platoons of CIA officials and Watergate burglars now widely identified with heavy weapons blazing away on the Grassy Knoll, Francis Fukuyama has launched a countercultural blitzkrieg. Despite a cumbersome title, The End of History and the Last Man unleashes an awesome barrage of some 200,000 well-boned...
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SOURCE: “The Theory That May Be History,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, January 19, 1992, pp. 2, 7.
[In the following review, Mead offers tempered assessment of The End of History and the Last Man, which he describes as “a book of murkily vast ambitions and limited successes.”]
“The End of History?” was the provocative title of an essay published in the summer 1989 issue of The National Interest. It was written by Francis Fukuyama, then the deputy director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff. The article made the point that, with the collapse of communism, there were no worldwide ideological rivals to western style democracy as...
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SOURCE: “History Over, World Goes On,” in New York Times Book Review, January 26, 1992, pp. 14-5.
[In the following review, McNeill approves of Fukuyama's serious concerns though dismisses The End of History and the Last Man as “silly” and “reactionary.”]
“Back to Hegel” is not a rallying cry many Americans are likely to find plausible, yet this is what Francis Fukuyama advocates in this quixotic and tightly argued work of political philosophy. Actually, Mr. Fukuyama—a consultant at RAND and the former State Department official who caused a stir three years ago with his essay “The End of History?”—does not really recommend Hegel, but an...
(The entire section is 1429 words.)
SOURCE: “To the 21st Century,” in Commentary, Vol. 93, No. 3, March, 1992, pp. 51-4.
[In the following review, Johnson provides analysis of The End of History and the Last Man and refutes Fukuyama's thesis. According to Johnson, “History does not end; it simply becomes more complicated.”]
Educated people have an extraordinary appetite for absolute answers to historical questions, answers which wise historians know cannot be forthcoming. It is astonishing that Hegel's reputation survived his absurd declaration that history had ended with Bonaparte's victory over Prussia at Jena in 1806. Yet Hegel went on to hold what was then the most enviable academic...
(The entire section is 2579 words.)
SOURCE: “The Scowl of Minerva,” in The New Republic, March 23, 1992, pp. 27-33.
[In the following review of The End of History and the Last Man, Holmes provides analysis of Fukuyama's historical perspective and postulations, and cites contradictions in his theoretical assumptions and inattention to historical reality.]
The collapse of communism has brought dizziness and disorientation across the political spectrum. For the barbarians, as the poet Cavafy wrote, were a kind of solution. But no longer: the East-West confrontation has lost its power to threaten and to clarify our lives. Even the distinction between left and right,...
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SOURCE: “Professor Hegel Goes to Washington,” in New York Review of Books, March 26, 1992, pp. 7-8, 10-3.
[In the following review of The End of History and the Last Man, Ryan provides an overview of Fukuyama's historical and intellectual perspective and the book's appeal to conservative critics. Ryan objects to Fukuyama's historical determinism and assumptions about the nature of and inevitability of liberal democracy.]
Francis Fukuyama's discovery of the end of history first came to the public's attention in the summer of 1989. The essay he wrote for The National Interest on “The End of History?” made the headlines in Time, Newsweek, and...
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SOURCE: “Cleopatra's Nose,” in National Review, May 11, 1992, pp. 46-8.
[In the following review, Gray offers unfavorable assessment of The End of History and the Last Man.]
In his brilliant, ingenious, but nevertheless deeply unhistorical and ultimately absurd book, Francis Fukuyama argues that History—understood, in Hegelian-Marxist terms, to mean ideology—is over. With the collapse of Communism, there remains no legitimate alternative to liberal democracy, which is therefore the final form of human government. Wars and revolutions, tyrannies and dictatorships, may yet come and go, so that history understood as the events historians study will doubtless drag...
(The entire section is 1883 words.)
SOURCE: A review of The End of History and the Last Man, in American Historical Review Vol. 97, No. 3, June, 1992, pp. 817-9.
[In the following review, Fritzsche provides analysis of Fukuyama's argument in The End of History and the Last Man.]
Francis Fukuyama would not be at the RAND Corporation if he were an avowed postmodernist. But the implication of his thoughtful essay point in just that direction. Like many cultural theorists today, Fukuyama argues that there are no longer any overarching plots or designs that give prescribed meaning to our political endeavors. History with a capital “H” has come to an end, although the lower-case history of births...
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SOURCE: “It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over,” in Commonweal, June 19, 1992, pp. 25-6.
[In the following review of The End of History and the Last Man, Deneen provides an overview of Fukuyama's historical postulations and critical reaction to his thesis.]
Francis Fukuyama's 1989 article “The End of History?” in The National Interest caused a sensation in both academic and nonacademic circles of a magnitude unprecedented since Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind in 1987. The resemblance of the sound and the fury is not coincidental: Fukuyama—a former student of Bloom's—veered from the well-worn discursive paths within the field of...
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SOURCE: “The ‘End of History’ or a Portal to the Future: Does Anything Lie Beyond Late Modernity?,” in After History?: Francis Fukuyama and His Critics, Rowman and Littlefield, 1994, pp. 1-21.
[In the following essay, Smith provides an overview of Fukuyama's “end of history” thesis and examines the sources of its critical controversy. Smith contends that “the End of History debate” is more properly an “End of Modernity debate.”]
This is a significantly enlarged and transformed version of an essay that initially appeared in Perspectives on Political Science, Vol. 22, Fall 1993, under the title “Endings, Transitions or Beginnings.”...
(The entire section is 9281 words.)
SOURCE: “Contradicted by the Facts,” in The New Leader, June 5-19, 1995, pp. 5-7.
[In the following review, Gewen offers unfavorable evaluation of Trust.]
Not since Ray Bolger went dancing down that yellow brick road has there been a more popular straw man than Francis Fukuyama. In a sense, it's his own fault: By titling his provocative 1989 article “The End of History?” and then repeating the phrase in his 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man, Fukuyama gave every lazy editorialist and Op-Ed writer in America the chance to pontificate about how wars and other disasters were going to continue to plague humanity despite the collapse of the Soviet...
(The entire section is 1996 words.)
SOURCE: “Bigger Than the Family, Smaller Than the State,” in New York Times Book Review, August 13, 1995, pp. 1, 25.
[In the following review, Zakaria offers tempered assessment of Trust, which he describes as “a fascinating and frustrating book.”]
In 1989, as Communism teetered on the brink, Francis Fukuyama wrote a now-legendary essay extravagantly titled “The End of History?” In it, he argued that the global movement toward democracy and capitalism had brought to a final conclusion the centuries-old ideological debate over the ideal form of government. Now Mr. Fukuyama has shifted his attention from the state to society; the result is a...
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SOURCE: “History: To Be Continued,” in The Nation, September 25, 1995, pp. 318-22.
[In the following review, Green offers an unfavorable evaluation of Trust.]
How is it that some people become famous while others do not? Of course, it smacks of sour grapes for one of the latter to ask this about one of the former, but Francis Fukuyama's career begs for the question. How exactly do you get ahead by boldly making one of the worst predictions in the history of social science? In case anyone has forgotten, six years ago he wrote that, with the fall of Communism, we've reached an “end of history,” marked by a “worldwide convergence in basic institutions around...
(The entire section is 2303 words.)
SOURCE: “Keeping the Family Firm,” in New Statesman, October 13, 1995, pp. 30-1.
[In the following review, Giddens offers positive assessment of Trust.]
The End of History and the Last Man was always going to be a hard act to follow. Much criticised in the social-science community, Francis Fukuyama's book was actually a major work that captured the mood of 1989 and after. It deservedly projected the author to global fame, and one might suspect a few sour grapes in the dismissive attitudes of some academic critics. His new book isn't going to set the cash registers ringing as his first did and it has nothing like the same originality. Yet it is a work of...
(The entire section is 1340 words.)
SOURCE: “What Francis Fukuyama Can Teach … and Learn,” in Dissent, Vol. 43, No. 1, Winter, 1996, pp. 109-14.
[In the following review, Heilbroner provides an overview and critique of Fukuyama's historical, political, and social perspective in The End of History and the Last Man and Trust.]
Francis Fukuyama's The End of History predictably earned him a skeptical response when it appeared a few years ago, especially from critics on the left, many of whom, one suspects, had not read the book. (There are some notable exceptions, such as Perry Anderson's “The Ends of History,” a brilliant treatment, at once critical and admiring, in A Zone of...
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SOURCE: “Interview: Francis Fukuyama,” in New Statesman, May 23, 1997, pp. 26-7.
[In the following essay, Lloyd discusses Fukuyama's views on contemporary social, economic, and gender issues, as addressed in his writings and a recent interview with Fukuyama.]
The most influential of public-policy intellectuals, who are most attended to by politicians and their advisers, are those who search for the modern holy grail of contemporary social policy: how to secure the values and security of a community without reproducing the intolerances and exclusivity that communities habitually produced? Can it be done within the framework of a liberal state?
(The entire section is 2013 words.)
SOURCE: “The Unselfish Gene,” in New York Times Magazine, May 2, 1999, p. 24.
[In the following brief interview, Fukuyama comments on the human need for connection and cooperation and the causes of social fragmentation.]
[Rehak]: In your new book, you present the contentious view that on some fundamental, genetic level, human beings are built for consensus. Can you explain that?
[Fukuyama]: We're programmed to cooperate in groups, to be joiners, to feel accepted. This is one of these things that people believe common-sensically, and that social scientists tell us is wrong. Economists begin with this understanding that human beings...
(The entire section is 759 words.)
SOURCE: “The Sweetest Science,” in New York, June 7, 1999, pp. 88-9.
[In the following review, Kirn offers skeptical assessment of The Great Disruption, finding fault in Fukuyama's faith in human nature and preference for stability.]
Francis Fukuyama's The Great Disruption comes at a peculiar moment. In a season of school shootings, spy scandals, and “collateral damage” from errant cluster bombs, it's tempting to regard as wishful thinking a book that argues, using graphs and diagrams and lessons from economics and anthropology, that our present state of social turmoil will, in time, be naturally replaced by a new, benevolent moral order. But that...
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SOURCE: “The End of Amorality,” in Washington Post Book World, June 13, 1999, pp. 1, 3.
[In the following review, Kazin credits Fukuyama as a “subtle, learned thinker,” though finds shortcomings and contradictions in The Great Disruption.]
Are you worried about the rise of violent crime, the illegitimacy, the child abuse, and the pervasive cynicism that seem to have dominated public life over the past three decades? Then Francis Fukuyama has good news for you: We are, he maintains, on the verge of a new era in which ordinary people will strive to live morally and insist that their institutions and leaders do the same. An ethic of collective responsibility will...
(The entire section is 931 words.)
SOURCE: “The Big One,” in Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 13, 1999, pp. 4-5.
[In the following review, Postrel offers favorable assessment of The Great Disruption, which she concludes is “an important and ambitious work.”]
Francis Fukuyama likes big subjects and bold claims. In 1989, he burst into public consciousness with his provocatively titled National Interest article, “The End of History?,” later expanded into a book, The End of History and the Last Man (1992). His thesis: Liberal, democratic capitalism represents the final stage in the Hegelian evolution of governing regimes, and the fall of the Soviet Union settled the debate. When...
(The entire section is 2343 words.)
SOURCE: “Moral Panic,” in New Statesman, June 14, 1999, p. 46.
[In the following review of The Great Disruption, Gould offers positive assessment, though finds fault in Fukuyama's lack of concern for the increasing concentration of money and media power among a small number of individuals.]
If you are interested in a guided tour of current intellectual fashion, Francis Fukuyama's latest book is just the ticket. It offers overnight stops in anthropology, economics, moral philosophy, psychology, neuro-physiology and other attractive locations. As with all good tours, it offers a combination of the exotic and the familiar. There are enough new names to suggest...
(The entire section is 768 words.)
SOURCE: “Francis Fukuyama,” in New Statesman, June 28, 1999, pp. 18-9.
[In the following essay, Lucas discusses Fukuyama's burdensome reputation as a prognosticator and his concerns in The Great Disruption.]
Beware beatification. Few things must disturb the soul more than sudden conscription as a global guru. A decade ago this was the fate of Francis Fukuyama, a US government Soviet foreign policy specialist who wrote an article, “The End of History?”, for fellow policy-makers. His piece predicted an end to competing ideologies, and no sooner did it hit the stands than Egon Krenz and other comrades began the demolition of communist eastern Europe. Suddenly...
(The entire section is 1372 words.)
SOURCE: “Big Picture,” in Commentary, Vol. 108, No. 1, July-August, 1999, pp. 80-3.
[In the following review, Murray offers a positive evaluation of The Great Disruption.]
Francis Fukuyama likes to paint on a big canvas. He came to international attention in 1989 with an article in the National Interest, “The End of History?,” controversially proposing that liberal democracy might constitute the end point of our political evolution. This was followed by two books, The End of History and the Last Man (1992) and Trust (1995), in each of which, calling upon all the social and behavioral sciences, he grappled with the meaning of life in a world...
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