“The End of History”: Some questions

I was reading something today that referred to Fukayama’s thesis that the fall of the Soviet Union marked “the end of history.” As we all know, the theory is that the battle between communism and liberal democratic capitalism was the last major ideological dispute, and once that was settled, history is in principle over even if “things continue to happen.”

I’ve read about this a million times, but this time I asked myself: “What about China, though?” Do only white Communists (the Russians) count? Do we only care about an ideological dispute if it results in a political divide in the subcontinent of Europe? Do we just need a quorum of European countries to hold elections, and suddenly that’s the solution for all time, the only possible answer?

To me, this is the more powerful objection to the trope, beyond the obvious fact that things keep happening: this is some racist, Eurocentric bullshit.

10 thoughts on ““The End of History”: Some questions

  1. Hi Adam,
    Fukuyama was in Lima, Peru for a lecture about a month ago and I was concidentally there. He addressed this exact issue. His answer probably won’t change your opinion, but at least shows that the guy is thinking about the issue: for him the problem of China is that it can’t continue growing as it did for the last decades without switching more and more to a basically liberal political framework because even Chinese people know about the advantages of the democratic-liberal-free market system and they request, more and more, the benefits (not only the economical ones) of this system. I Hope this helps.

  2. I *think* this comes up in the book version of “End of History”, briefly, and the answer given is that Maoism is just a less-attractive version of Soviet ideology. So if Soviet ideology failed, there’s no need to wait for Maoism to show that it will fail, too. So yeah, only the Russians counted. I think he assumed (probably correctly) that his audience would not have many Maoist sympathizers.

  3. I don’t disagree with you about the racist framing of this concept, but I’m curious that Russia (now?) counts as ‘white’. I say so because, when the cold war was at its height, part of the way it supported itself ideologically was by troping the Russians as orientals, racially ‘other’, Eastern etc. Has that changed now that Russia is a capitalist state?

  4. Wait, Fukayama said that Maoism is less attractive than Soviet Communism, so then if the latter falls the former is already doomed? Does he not imagine that Chinese people can adapt Maoism to new circumstances? I mean, I don’t know much about Chinese politics, but that sounds incredibly weird.

  5. Does he not consider the possibility that the USSR collapsed due to internal power struggles as they played out in its idiosyncratic political structures? Rather than everyone giving up and saying, “Welp, I guess liberal democracy’s better!” And does he not consider that the majority of the former USSR has not adopted very robust democratic structures? And that what he says about China could just as easily have been said about the USSR at any point during its existence?

    Etc., etc., etc., etc.

  6. Adam Roberts — I was born in 1980, and I had literally never heard of such sentiments until I was in my late 20s. I’m pretty sure that kind of rhetoric became more subdued as time went on and America became a less openly racist society. Or else political Islam, whose rise overlapped with the USSR’s decline, took up the mantle of the Scary Eastern Other. Or both.

  7. Jumping off of the version of Fukiyama’s thesis presented here: if the qualification for the end of history is that an exemplar of that system failed, then yes the that certainly is some Eurocentric bullshit. Market based liberal democracies fail all the time, but it only counts as history when us democracy fails? I venture to guess it is only sufficient for any Western democracy to fail, actually, to eventually “prove” Fujiyama wrong.

  8. bzfgt: I suppose I’m not actually suggesting cold war Westerners considered Soviet Russians ‘non-white’ (I can see that my original comment implied that I was; that’s my clumsiness of expression). I’m suggesting they were considered ‘Eastern’, and subject to various orientalist assumptions: they were secretive, cruel, irrational, prone to fanatacism etc. A common 19th-century perspective on Russia was of a land wherea westernised (actually, French-y) aristocracy ruled a vast, oriental peasantry. Come the revolution the former were of course done away with.

  9. There used to be an ultra-violent British comic called 2000AD (Judge Dredd was a highlight). In this, in the late 70s or early 1908s I remember a story of a Russian invasion of Britain and the Soviet troops were all presented as distinctly oriental. So in pop culture there was a strong strand of the oriental soviet who was non-western – and this meant non-european. This was very strong in western europe, Britain – and the former colonies.

    Underlying Fukyama is the old eurocentric notion that ‘history’ is ‘done by’ Europe and therefore ‘done to’ the rest of the world. China therefore, is somewhere that ‘history’ is ‘done to’. Even when it acts as Maoist+ state controlled ‘free market’ it is therefore, in the logic of Fukyama still somewhere where ‘history” ( as Eurocentric ideas-however adapted) is being ‘done to’.

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