john gray on francis fukuyama

9781846684364John Gray at Literary Review:

The telltale word here, and throughout the two volumes, is 'evolve'. For Fukuyama, as for many other modern thinkers, today and in the past, political development is an evolutionary process. What drives this process is never specified; if there is a social equivalent of the natural selection of genetic mutations, we learn no more about its workings from Fukuyama than we did from Karl Marx or Herbert Spencer, who produced similar speculations in the 19th century. It is never explained why political evolution should have any particular end state, nor why the process should involve the convergence of institutions. As it operates among species, evolution shows no such tendency. Drift and diversity, punctuated by extinction, are the normal state of affairs. Why should evolution in society – if there is such a thing – be any different?

The answer, of course, is that Fukuyama takes for granted that the end point of political development is the system of government he prefers. As he puts it here and in the previous volume, the problem that most of the world faces is 'getting to Denmark' – where 'Denmark' means not the actual country but 'an imagined society that is prosperous, democratic, secure, and well governed, and experiences low levels of corruption'. He sees many of the humanitarian and military interventions of Western governments as bungling attempts to promote this imaginary society: 'The international community would like to turn Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Haiti into idealized places like “Denmark,” but it doesn't have the slightest idea of how to bring this about.' Oddly, Fukuyama omits Iraq from his list of Western failures. The reason for all of these fiascos, however, is clear: 'We don't understand how Denmark itself came to be Denmark and therefore don't comprehend the complexity and difficulty of political development.'

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