Is democracy the ideal form of government and the best hope the international relations system has for finally achieving inter-state peace?
In his landmark work “The End of History and the Last Man,” FrancisFukuyama argues that the advent of Western liberal democracy may signalthe end point of humanity's socio-cultural evolution and the final form ofhuman government. He wrote specifically that "What we may be witnessingis not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period ofpost-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point ofmankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberaldemocracy as the final form of human government."
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I think that Fukuyama's claim is a powerful one. He, indeed, might be right in that liberal democracy might be the "only game in town." I think that there might have to be some qualifications here. The first would be the terms in which Fukuyama speaks. On one hand, his "ideaological evolution" and "universalization" helps to bring to light the idea that it seems that all nations will be embracing the concept of liberal democracy. What happens to this thesis if a nation holds out? Do we simply write off the Chavezs of the world and the Ahmedinajads as aberrations? If something is universal, then there is no question of it. How, then, do we reconcile the few nations who "missed the boat on liberal democracy" with the thesis? I think that the second issue here is how one feels about the rise of fundamentalism. Fukuyama claims that fundamentalism, such as the teachings of those who distort Islam into its fundamentalist perceptions, are isolated practices that will not reach outside of "the heartlands." I think that if one believes the claim that these forces, "can only go so far," then that is one thing. It is obvious that the United States, the supposed leader in liberal democracy, does not believe this because it is marshaling all of its resources into fighting these forces. It is evident that it believes them to be credible. This would mean that there is some credence that "liberal democracy" has not been universally recognized as the final stage of governmental evolution because it still has forces out there that seek to destabilize it. The Bin Ladens of the world are actively teaching that the pain of modern life cannot be cured by deregulation or liberal democracy. Simply put, Barber's paradigm of "McWorld" vs. "Jihad" might be present here. It seems that if one sees this force of fundamentalism as strong, then there might be some questioning to Fukuyama's thesis. If not, then there has to be some reconciling with why the leaders of liberal democracy see these forces as credible.
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