Friday, November 18, 2011

Fukuyama's "The End of History" As Religious Dogma

Check out John Gray's harsh review in The New Republic.

However it is glossed, the end of history can only be understood as a version of Christian apocalyptic myth. Kojève’s doctoral dissertation was a study of the Russian religious writer Vladimir Solovyov, who in 1899 wrote a book called War, Progress, and the End of History, an apocalyptic vision of the coming century. Whether Fukuyama was aware of Kojève’s debt to Solovyov is unclear, but by appropriating Kojève’s account of global capitalism as a kind of end-time he was reproducing ideas that were shaped as much by Russian religious thought as they were by Hegel’s oracular philosophy.

I have traced the idea of the End of History as a religious theory, or more particularly liberal democracy ENDING history as a religious theory to the Francophile Anglo-American Whig preachers who believed Jesus would return at the triumph of the French Revolution to usher in a millennial republic of liberty, equality and fraternity. The Rev. Joseph Priestley -- admired by Jefferson, J. Adams, and Franklin -- was probably the quintessential figure who pushed this but there were many others and he wasn't the first. [The earliest figure of whom I am aware is Joseph Dyer, who, according to John Adams pushed something similar in 1750s New England.]

Fukuyama is and was probably aware of these figures. He studied with the Straussians and they in turn are pretty meticulously read in the literature of America's Founding era. The problem is with their controversial understanding of the literature. Liberal democracy, to them, rests on Hobbes' and Locke's atheistic premises. So, to the Straussians, those apocalyptic preachers, with the fanatical zeal of Robespierre, pushed political principles that at their heart were atheistic and materialistic. This in turn, gives Fukuyama and the Straussians an excuse to hand wave away any serious connection between "Christianity" and a universal liberal democracy; hence the need for some kind of complex Hegelian explanation for the phenomenon.


Joe Winpisinger said...

Well done. I wrote a similar post from a different angle 18 months or so back. Interesting to see if the Clash of Civilizations or The End of History wins out in the end?

Jonathan Rowe said...


Angie Van De Merwe said...

State managed capitalism is the "End of History"? does this resolve conflict when geographic disputes are not resolved by monetary solutions? or one's ethnic identity is dissolved through the State managed uniformity of "conscience"?

or will such an attempt at uniformity incite more strongly the "Clash of Civilizations"?