Francis Fukuyama Introduction

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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.

Biographical Information

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.

Major Works

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,...

(The entire section is 1,582 words.)