Francis Fukuyama Criticism - Essay

James Atlas (essay date 22 October 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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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Richard Bernstein (essay date 10 December 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 909 words.)

George Gilder (review date 12 January 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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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Walter Russell Mead (review date 19 January 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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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William H. McNeill (review date 26 January 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Paul Johnson (review date March 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Stephen Holmes (review date 23 March 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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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Alan Ryan (review date 26 March 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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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John Gray (review date 11 May 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Peter Fritzsche (review date June 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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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Patrick J. Deneen (review date 19 June 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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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Gregory Bruce Smith (essay date 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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.”


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Barry Gewen (review date 5-19 June 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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.)

Fareed Zakaria (review date 13 August 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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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Philip Green (review date 25 September 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Anthony Giddens (review date 13 October 1995)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Robert Heilbroner (review date Winter 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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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John Lloyd (essay date 23 May 1997)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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?


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Francis Fukuyama with Melanie Rehak (interview date 2 May 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Walter Kirn (review date 7 June 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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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Michael Kazin (review date 13 June 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Virginia Postrel (review date 13 June 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Bryan Gould (review date 14 June 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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George Lucas (essay date 28 June 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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...

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Charles Murray (review date July-August 1999)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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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