Francis Fukuyama

American political scientist, political economist, and author

Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama (born October 27, 1952) is an American philosopher, political economist, and author best known for his 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man.

[A]ttempts to impose a single way of life on an entire population is a formula for dictatorship.


[I]f men cannot struggle on behalf of a just cause because that just cause was victorious in an earlier generation, then they will struggle against the just cause. They will struggle for the sake of struggle. They will struggle, in other words, out of a certain boredom: for they cannot imagine living in a world without struggle. And if the greater part of the world in which they live is characterized by peaceful and prosperous liberal democracy, then they will struggle against that peace and prosperity, and against democracy.
Liberal values like tolerance and individual freedom are prized most intensely when they are denied: People who live in brutal dictatorships want the simple freedom to speak, associate, and worship as they choose. But over time life in a liberal society comes to be taken for granted and its sense of shared community seems thin.
[I]t is hard to see how the discarding of liberal values is going to lead to anything in the long term other than increasing social conflict and ultimately a return to violence as a means of resolving differences.


  • Experience suggests that if men cannot struggle on behalf of a just cause because that just cause was victorious in an earlier generation, then they will struggle against the just cause. They will struggle for the sake of struggle. They will struggle, in other words, out of a certain boredom: for they cannot imagine living in a world without struggle. And if the greater part of the world in which they live is characterized by peaceful and prosperous liberal democracy, then they will struggle against that peace and prosperity, and against democracy.
    • p. 330


  • Neoconservatives believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support. …

    "[W]ar" is the wrong metaphor for the broader struggle, since wars are fought at full intensity and have clear beginnings and endings. Meeting the jihadist challenge is more of a "long, twilight struggle" whose core is not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world.


  • The Left’s identity politics poses a threat to free speech and to the kind of rational discourse needed to sustain a democracy... The focus on lived experience by identity groups prioritizes the emotional world of the inner self over the rational examination of issues in the outside world and privileges sincerely held opinions over a process of reasoned deliberation that may force one to abandon prior opinions.

Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (2018)

  • The limits of this strategy were evident as the century drew to a close. The Marxist left had to confront the fact that actual Communist societies in the Soviet Union and China had turned into grotesque and oppressive dictatorships.
    • p. 112



Liberalism and its Discontents (2020)

"Liberalism and its Discontents: The challenges from the left and the right" (5 October 2020), American Purpose
  • The more progress that has been made toward eradicating social injustices, the more intolerable the remaining injustices seem, and thus the moral imperative to mobilizing to correct them.
  • Liberal values like tolerance and individual freedom are prized most intensely when they are denied: People who live in brutal dictatorships want the simple freedom to speak, associate, and worship as they choose. But over time life in a liberal society comes to be taken for granted and its sense of shared community seems thin.
  • Putin told the Financial Times that liberalism has become an “obsolete” doctrine. While it may be under attack from many quarters today, it is in fact more necessary than ever. It is more necessary because it is fundamentally a means of governing over diversity, and the world is more diverse than it ever has been. Democracy disconnected from liberalism will not protect diversity, because majorities will use their power to repress minorities.
    • Emphasis in original.
  • In situations of de facto diversity, attempts to impose a single way of life on an entire population is a formula for dictatorship.
  • [P]rogressives on the left have shown themselves willing to abandon liberal values in pursuit of social justice objectives. There has been a sustained intellectual attack on liberal principles over the past three decades coming out of academic pursuits like gender studies, critical race theory, postcolonial studies, and queer theory, that deny the universalistic premises underlying modern liberalism. The challenge is not simply one of intolerance of other views or “cancel culture” in the academy or the arts. Rather, the challenge is to basic principles that all human beings were born equal in a fundamental sense, or that a liberal society should strive to be color-blind.
  • [I]t is hard to see how the discarding of liberal values is going to lead to anything in the long term other than increasing social conflict and ultimately a return to violence as a means of resolving differences.

2020 Owen Harries Lecture (2020)

A YouTube Creative Commons video, Dr Francis Fukuyama on liberalism and the 2020 US presidential election (Nov 18, 2020).
  • I do want to defend liberalism... in theory and I want to talk about the ways that it is being threatened... today and... some of the consequences...
  • [T]here are two justifications for [liberalism]. One... is pragmatic and the other... is moral.
  • In the Thirty Years' War... a third of the population of central Europe were killed in a bloody struggle between different Christian religious sects, and the pragmatic part of liberalism was to take final ends [defined by religions] out of political discussion... and to lower the sights of politics to defend life itself, and not "the good life"... as defined by a particular sect of a particular religion.
  • [T]herefore tolerance of diversity, of people that don't believe the same thing that you do, has always been at the core of this pragmatic project to enable diverse populations to live with one another.
  • In the 19th and early 20th century the issue had shifted from religion to nation. You had mixed ethnic populations throughout Europe, and as Europe began to reorganize itself on a national, or a cultural, or an ethnic basis, you had two bloody... World Wars that... undermined the magnificent European civilization of the 19th century... Liberalism was called upon in the aftermath... to enable Europeans to live together in ethnically diverse societies. That was the origin of the European Union... an effort to move beyond Nationalism, to a new form of coexistence.
  • [T]hat liberal world that emerged after 1945 led to one of the most spectacularly successful periods in human history. There was material progress. There was stability. There was human freedom. There was the flourishing of many human activities that can only take place in a liberal, and therefore free society...
  • [A]fter World War II, liberal rights were not something that were only deserved by white Europeans. ...[T]here was a recognition that the black and brown peoples being held in colonial bondage could not consistently be held in that bondage, because liberalism was a universal doctrine. ...[T]hat's the other respect in which we can defend liberalism, a moral one.
  • In Kant's words, human beings are uncaused causes, and therefore have infinite value, and a liberal regime protects that autonomy by giving people rights... [T]he right to speak, to organize, to associate, and ultimately to have a share of power by being able to vote. ...[T]his is ...the moral status, the dignity that life in a liberal regime that does respect individual rights, gives us, and it is one of the reasons that to this day, people do not want to live in authoritarian countries that do not recognize the fundamental dignity of their... citizens.
  • [F]or both the pragmatic... and... moral reasons... liberalism became the dominant doctrine of the 20th century, and should... continue to be defended....
  • [T]here are defects and gaps in a liberal society that are constantly being filled by other longings and... structures... that sometimes end up undermining that liberal project.
  • [O]ne of the problems... both on the left and the right is that the... individual autonomy protected by liberalism tends to take more and more extreme versions... and... becomes self-undermining.
  • [O]n the more conservative side... Liberalism has been associated with... the right to own private property... one of the most fundamental individual rights that is protected in true liberal societies, and that right is... what made possible the modern economic world. As any economist would tell you, without secure property rights and contract enforcement, you don't get investment and therefore economic growth.
  • [I]n the 1980s and 90s there was an extension of the autonomy of individual property owners in... a movement towards neoliberalism represented by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and... by the Chicago school of economics that denigrated... the role of the state in the economy, that said the private markets would be able to solve most social distribution problems and the like. This was true in many ways. The world did become much richer in this period, but it also became much more unequal... [W]ithout adequate regulation and... effort to protect people against the excesses of market capitalism, you had people... left behind, even as their societies as a whole, grew. ...[T]his ...became one of the triggers for the kind of populism we've seen arise in many rich countries.
  • The second failing of liberalism comes directly out of the fact that it attempts to lower the horizons of politics. Liberal societies do not want to tell you how to live. They do not want to define "the good life" because that is the source of conflict, but as a result liberal societies tend not to satisfy these very deep human cravings for community, because... there's something wrong with the basic liberal premise that we all start... as self-interested individuals. We're not self-interested individuals.
  • Fundamentally we are highly social creatures. We feel a big sense of anomie and discomfort when we are isolated from our fellow human beings. ...[W]e seek community in different ways. There's a right wing... and... a left wing version of this.
  • The right wing version really sees community represented either by... religion, or by nation, that these are units that... get dissolved under a liberal world order, through globalization, through the movement of people, goods, ideas and trade between nations, national identity becomes diluted and that sense of national community that held people together in democratic societies appears to be lost. ...[S]ecularism perceived as a loss by people that have religious faith. They believe that there is a form of militant secularism that is not allowing them to practice their religion, and for that reason a lot of religious conservatives in places like the United States, have turned against that liberal order.
  • [B]oth of these forces are driving illiberal political movements in many parts of the world... India was a liberal society created by Nehru and Gandhi but under the BJP and Prime Minister Modi it's shifted its national identity to one based on Hindu nationalism. In Hungary, with the rise of Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz party Hugarian national identity has been redefined. Orbán has said Hugarian national identity is based on Hugarian ethnicity, which... is one of the reasons that World War II happened, because the Germans wanted to define German identity on the basis of German ethnicity, and there were many Germans living in... surrounding... central Europe... and that was... the trigger that led to the outbreak of the Second World War.
  • [T]his has been going on in other countries... including in the United States, where there has been a deepening polarization between a red... and a blue America that is defined partly by... these feelings of loss of community with regard to both religion and nation.
  • There is a left wing version of this longing for community... because in a liberal society we never move as quickly as we should towards full equality, and therefore there are many marginalized groups who feel that the liberal society is... hypocritical, that it's promising an equality of recognition, and of rights, but it is not delivering... and therefore the very concept of liberal universalism is challenged in favor of a definition of rights that is tied to the specific groups.
  • [T]he liberal world order that emerged, that... has these pragmatic and... moral dimensions has been severely challenged in the last few years, and the sources of this challenge are numerous. One is the rise of overtly authoritarian states like China and Russia. They have consolidated their rule. They seem to be stable internally, and they are increasingly seeking to project their power and influence, their model... across international borders.
  • But there has also been the rise of populist movements within existing liberal democracies, and particularly within the United States and Britain, which were... the leaders of the neoliberal revolution... in the 1980s...
  • [F]inally, and... somewhat belatedly, there is the growing of a left that... has now been energized and is increasingly vocal... in certain quarters of the cultural community, in the arts and the universities, in Hollywood, in the media... where in some versions it also engages in a kind of illiberal... politics.
  • [T]he election... on November 3 [2020]... illustrates a lot of these clashing forces. ...[T]hat election was the most important political fight my lifetime. It's important not just for the United States but... for the rest of the world, given the role that the United States has historically played in maintaining that broader liberal international order.
  • The United States has been in a long term decline, with its political institutions decaying. ...[T]he single source of that decline is ...the pervasive polarization ...within American society that has made the United States unable to meet some of the basic governance challenges that it has faced. The most recent example... has been the COVID pandemic... [W]earing a mask, instead of becoming a health measure that people take to protect themselves and their loved ones, becomes as political statement... [Y]ou don't wear a mask if you're a Trump supporter, and you do... if you're a Democrat. This is... not the way that... coherent nations... meet systemic challenges like a global pandemic.
  • The polarization has a number of different roots. The economic... fact that many working class voters have been left behind by the prosperity of globalization. ...[T]he more important division is a cultural one ...the feeling on the part of many populist voters, that they are not being respected by the elites that are running the country... [H]ere, all of the identity issues... play themselves out.
  • Identity politics in the United States started on the left, after the Civil Rights era, with specific groups like African Americans, women, gays and lesbians, indigenous peoples, the disabled. Every one of these groups felt marginalized and disrespected by the dominant white male society that existed... in the early 1960s... [E]ach one of these groups began to demand recognition, not as part of a generic working class, but rather for their particular form of disrespect. ...[T]here's ...a lot to this belief that injustice takes these very specific forms tied to narrow identities. The problem with this is... it began to alienate the traditional working class, which had been the base of the Democratic party, as of every other left wing party in the 20th century... [I]ncreasingly working class whites began to abandon that party because they felt the Democrats were no longer catering to their interests. They're the ones that had lost their jobs to overseas competition. They're the ones who were falling behind in terms of status... income... social respect... [T]hat generated a huge amount of resentment against the elites living in big cities, that had jobs that were secure, that were comfortable in a multicultural, very diverse environment.
  • If you look at the sociology of populism in the United States, it is tied most closely to population density, which... is correlated... to these types of cultural differences... to belief... in traditional cultural values, in family, in religion and the like, and conversely to... belief in immigration [and] diversity as strengths... [T]his is the fundamental division that's taken hold of the United States. It has been augmented by technology because the internet has succeeded in... destroying every other source of authority that used to filter news and facts and information that... formed the basis of a democratic ability to have political discourse.
  • So today... red and blue voters rely on a completely different set of facts. ...[P]olls ...suggest that a substantial... majority of Republican voters believe that the Democrats... stole the election, and that Joe Biden is not the legitimate president... [W]hen you don't have a common factual basis, you... reinforce the kinds of filter bubbles that people have started to move into.
  • [W]hile Trump is not going to be president, Trumpism is going to survive. ...[T]he Democrats need to look very very carefully at those election results because ...the Republicans did well not necessarily because people love what they represent, but because they don't like what the Democrats represent... [U]nless they sort out what that is, they are going to continue to lose elections.
  • Because the President has undisputed authority over foreign policy, President Biden... will be able to reinsert the United States into the international system. He will rejoin the World Health Organization, the Paris Climate Accords, he will go to NATO and reaffirm support for... our Asian allies, for Australia, for every other country that has depended on... American power, but... it's going to be extremely difficult to return to the kind of world that we assumed existed before 2016, because America does remain fundamentally divided. That bipartisan support for the liberal international order that we thought was extremely strong is no longer...
  • [A]ny American ally will welcome Biden as president, will be happy that he was elected, but will be a little... distrustful because the Republicans could make a come-back in 2022. They could win the presidency again in 2024. ...[T]here's is still a good third of the American public that remain very strong Trump voters. They're very angry and... are not going to go away... [T]herefore the ability of the United States to resume its role as the chief defender of the liberal order... is going to be contested, both domestically and... by American friends. If this leads to more self-reliance on their part, that may not be the worst thing in the world, but it is going to mean a very different kind of world order than the one I grew up arguing with Owen Harries about.

Liberalism for the Twenty-First Century (2022)

A YouTube Creative Commons video, Francis Fukuyama - Liberalism for the Twenty-First Century (May 31, 2022) from the YouTube channel IIEA, representing The Institute of International and European Affairs, Ireland’s leading independent, not-for-profit international affairs think tank providing a debate and discussion forum to evaluate and share policy options for EU and International affairs.
  • [L]iberalism... has a left of center meaning in the United States. It has a slightly right of center meaning in much of continental Europe.
  • I have a broad definition... Liberalism is a doctrine that was developed in the middle of the 17th century, at the end of Europe's wars of religion, in which a number of early liberal thinkers... said we need to lower the aspirations of politics, not to seek after "the good life" as defined by a particular religious doctrine, but simply to protect life itself by cultivating a virtue of tolerance, whereby, at that time Protestants and Catholics, but... today maybe Russians and Ukrainians could live together peacefully, allowing each to individually choose... what to believe, what to speak, and the like. It believes that all human beings are endowed with a certain basic level of dignity that is equal among all those human beings, and it is institutionalized through a rule of law, by constitutional provisions that prevent the excessive power of the state to limit individual choice. It's not necessarily associated with a particular economic ideology, except that it does protect private property rights... [S]o you can have an expansive social democratic government, like in Sweden or Denmark, or you can have a more limited one like in the United States... [T]hose are all... liberal societies because of that commitment to rule of law.
  • [L]iberalism has been very severely threatened in recent years. It's been threatened from a number of sources. So internationally you have two great powers, Russia and China, that are definitely not liberal polities, that have expansive ambitions... [A]s Vladimir Putin said... in an iterview with the FT in 2019 "Liberalism is an obsolete doctrine." But the threat... also comes from other places. ...[Y]ou have the rise of a populist nationalist right in many countries. This is Viktor Orbán in Hungary. This is Narendra Modi in India, Donald Trump in the United States, ...Marine Le Pen in France. All of them criticizing liberalism precisely for the tolerance that it permits and tries to deal with, in diverse and increasingly ethnically and racially diverse countries.
  • It's also been attacked from the left by people... I teach students at Stanford, and many of them think that liberalism is... the doctrine of their parents' or their grandparents' generation, but it's really not relevant to Gen Z younger people who are impatient for social justice and social change that liberalism is not providing.
  • [T]hat's... the crisis. The number of liberal democracies measured by... Freedom House in its annual survey of freedom around the world has been in decline for 16 straight years, and the biggest declines recently have been in the two biggest liberal democracies, India and the United States. So... we're dealing with a big global problem.
  • So let me start by just going back to basics in explaining why liberalism is a desirable form of government, or set of ideas to live under... [T]here's basically 3 reasons. One is practical, one is moral and one is economic.
  • The practical reason has to do with that original purpose of liberalism, which was to lower the temperature of politics by taking final ends off the table, and allowing societies to govern themselves when they face religious or national diversity... [T]hat remains one of its biggest selling points. In India, the republic that was created by Gandhi and Nehru was a liberal republic. They did not define themselves in religious terms. They knew that they had to deal with the incredible diversity, not just religious but in terms of cast, region, language, many other dimensions... [A] liberal republic was... the only way of accommodating that diversity. What prime minister Modi is seeking to do... is to shift that national identity to one based on Hindu nationalism, which then excludes the up to 200 million Muslims that live in contemporary India, as well as... Parsis, Christians, other people... When he was the chief minister [2001-20014] in Gujarat this led to communal riots, and I'm afraid that India is moving toward that kind of communal violence once again today. ...So that's the pragmatic reason.
  • The second reason has to do with the moral basis, which is the protection of human autonomy. ...If you ask, in what sense could a liberal believe that all people are equal, when they differ by skin color, by gender, by intelligence, by many other characteristics. The answer... goes back to the fundamental insight... in the Book of Genesis... that Adam and Eve are told not to eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil by God and they disobey Him. ...It gives human beings a moral status that other parts of created nature don't have. They can make moral choices. They can distinguish between right and wrong, and it is that ability to choose morally, that ultimately is what makes us all equal because we share that despite the more superficial differences... [I]t's that right of autonomy... the decisions on what to do in life, where to live, who to marry, what beliefs to engage in. These are all essential characteristics of every human being that every human being wants, and the liberal regime protects that autonomy.
  • Then finally, there's a good economic reason for choosing a liberal society because among the rights that liberalism protects is the right to own private property, to transact, to engage in commerce, and therefore it is the basis of a market economy. Liberal societies like England and the Netherlands in the 17th century, were the leaders in terms of creating the modern economic world precisely because they respected property rights and trade. Even Communist China, when it opened up in... 1978, did so by adopting certain liberal principles. Deng Xiaoping allowed peasants to keep the fruits of their labor, and as a result of those incentives, quasi-property rights, agricultural productivity doubled in the space of 4 years, and in general, the most dynamic parts of this amazing Chinese growth story come from the private sector where people are allowed to buy and sell, and... in effect to own property. So even in a... politically illiberal society, economic liberalism has led to tremendous prosperity. So those are the 3 reasons.
  • Now the argument that I make in my book is that part of the current disaffection with liberalism is not from any of its basic principles, but... is the result of certain deformations of liberal principles that were carried to extremes that led... to bad outcomes... [T]here's a move in this direction on the right and... on the left.
    • 12:25 Ref: Francis Fukuyama, Liberalism and Its Discontents (2022)
  • The one on the right concerned the shift from an older understanding of economic liberalism to what is now called "neoliberalism." Neoliberalism is not... a synonym for capitalism. I don't see how you can have any kind of modern economy without a market based economy. Neoliberalism took that basic insight and stretched it to an extreme seeking to deregulate, privatize and basically pull back the role of the state, which many neoliberals regarded as simply obstacles to individuals, to entrepreneurship, to economic growth, and as a result markets did their usual work. They produced a great deal of inequality, as... global corporations searched for very small cost advantages by moving jobs to low cost areas... [T]hey destabilized the global economy in certain important ways by deregulating the financial sector. As a result of the deregulation that occurred in the 1980s and 90s we had an escalating series of financial crises. In the sterling crisis, the Asian financial crisis, Argentina, Russia, and finally culminating in the big American subprime crisis in 2008. The... cumulative effects of this instability were political and they were very serious because many ordinary people were hurt... a lot of people lost their homes, lost their jobs, and the elites that ran these big banks and financial institutions suffered only a momentary disruption in their incomes, and went on to continue to dominate their respective economies... [T]his had a direct impact on the rise of populism in subsequent years, both on the right and on the left.
  • On the left you had a different aspect of individual autonomy that was pushed to an extreme, which really had to do with the autonomy that individuals have to create their own lifestyles. ...[T]he basic concept of liberal autonomy has to do with your ability to make moral choices, but as time went on the emphasis came to be not on making the right moral choices within an existing moral framework, but rather to be able to make up that framework on your own, that that was the ultimate expression of individual human freedom, and it has obvious problems for a society because all societies have to be based on shared norms that allow people to coordinate their actions, to communicate, and the like... [I]f you believe that the rules can be... set by anybody and that transgressing existing rules is automatically a good thing, you're not going to have... a stable society.
  • There was... an attack on the individualistic premise that underlies liberalism through a new kind of identity politics. There is a liberal form of identity politics that says that liberalism does not live up to its promises of the equal treatment of individuals. So... black people, other racial minorities, women, LGBTQ people, have been marginalized and excluded from... full participation in the promise of a liberal... rule of law... [I]dentity politics was simply a means of mobilizing people and getting them to push for their inclusion. So that's a liberal and... perfectly acceptable and... desirable understanding of identity. But there is another view that's grown up very powerfully, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world... places like the United States or Britain or Australia, where identity politics is seen as an attack fundamentally on the individualistic premise of liberalism. That is to say, individuals are not really free. They're determined by the categories, the racial, gender and other categories into which they are born, and that the society needs to respect not what they do and decide as individuals, but to look first to that category, the racial, ethnic, gender category, and use that as the means of determining... the distribution of resources, hiring, promotion, the other goods that society offers, and that... is fundamentally illiberal. It divides the society which had previously been held together through a set of... common values shared by individuals, into a society of groups, and at the end of that process you can ultimately end up with a place like Lebanon or Bosnia where identity politics... defines the whole of politics...[T]here is a kind of effort to move our modern liberal democratic politics in that kind of identity based direction, coming out of the contemporary left.
  • [A] further threat to liberalism has to do with the mode of cognition that we call modern natural science. The early liberals were very closely aligned with the founders of modern natural science, people like Bacon and Descartes and Newton, who believed that there was an objective world beyond our subjective consciousnesses, that we could perceive this world through the experimental method, and then come to manipulate it. Natural science gave us technology... that made the world much more habitable, by conquering disease, by inventing things that vastly increased human productivity. So... it's closely related to the wealth, and... the safety and comfort of a modern economically developed world.
  • The attack on modern natural science has come from a number of sources... [I]t starts ...on the left with a series of intellectual developments... French structuralism that then develops into post-structuralism, postmodernism and ultimately into different varieties of contemporary critical theory, the premise of which is that there's... a subjectivity in the way that we perceive the world. We don't so much perceive an objective reality, as impose reality on the world through the words that we use. This... culminates... in the thought of Michel Foucault, who's a very brilliant philosophical observer, but he began to argue that... modern science is not an objective cognitive technique, it is really something that elites use to manipulate people... [I]n previous years they could simply order the death of one of their subjects, but now they use science and the authority that science carries, to convince people of certain things that are essentially a way of holding power over them... [H]e applies this to things like incarceration, homosexuality, mental illness and the like, but by the end of his career had... broadened the idea of biopower to... include much of what we understand to be modern natural science, and so the skepticism of science really starts on the progressive left. It has now completely moved over to the nationalist populist right. So during the COVID epidemic and... to the present... there are many people on the extreme right around the world that... argue, just like Foucault, that what the public health authorities are telling you about vaccines or about masking is... not based on objective science. It's based on... the elite desire to manipulate you, and it's really a game about power, rather than about the truth. You combine that with the internet and the new digital technologies that have wiped away all of the former gatekeepers, like the traditional media or... other credible sources of scientific information that used to certify information. You combine that with a principled belief that there really is no such thing as objective truth, and you get the situation... we now face, in which, at least in the United States... we can't agree on whether vaccines are safe, ...who is the winner of the 2020 presidential election and the like...
  • [I]n a liberal society you're not going to agree on the deepest... moral frameworks, but you are going to agree on factual information, and... if you can't agree on factual information it's very hard to deliberate in common... [on] what needs to be done in the future, and that's the situation we now face.
  • The final thing... the question of the nation, and the role of the nation in liberalism... [T]here would seem to be a tension between liberalism's belief that all human beings enjoy... the same basic set of human rights, and the fact that we are divided up into nation states, in which the authority to enforce those rights is territorially limited. ...[T]his contradiction can be bridged because... there is a liberal form of national identity which is not only possible, but... necessary if a liberal society is going to succeed.
  • A right exists in theory... [A]ll human beings have the same set of rights, but rights need to be enforced by the state. It needs to rely on the coercive power of the state... its army, its police force, to actually make those rights something real that citizens can enjoy, and the enforcement power is not universal. ...[W]e wouldn't want to live in a world in which every liberal state wanted to enforce liberal rights in every other state in the world.
  • The other big issue is an emotional one. We tend to feel the greatest bonds of solidarity with people that are close to us. There are very few true citizens of the world. We're citizens of individual countries and we really feel the closest bonds to people that live within our nation, and therefore... the nation becomes a kind of social glue. But if you're going to make a national identity compatible with liberalism, it has to be the right kind of national identity. It has to be one that is open to all of the citizens that actually live in the territory of the nation. It can't exclude certain groups by race, by ethnicity, by religious belief and the like, and therefore it needs to be an open identity that is based on essentially liberal ideas.
  • So this is something... we see happening... in the war in Ukraine. A lot of people raise the question, "Why are Ukrainians resisting the Russian invasion as ferociously as they are?" and there's been a little bit of a debate over whether this is due to the fact that Ukrain is democratic, a liberal democracy, and Russia is not, or whether it's simply a fight over sovereignty... I think that that's a false dichotomy because you really don't fight for liberalism as an abstract principle. You fight for it as it is embedded in... your nation... [F]rom my... frequent visits to Ukraine... I believe... that's what's really going on, that Ukrainians want their sovereignty, but the reason they want it so desperately is that they want to have a free Ukraine and not Putin's Ukraine, not a... centralized dictatorship, and that's why they're willing to fight so tenaciously.
  • [T]he invasion... exhibits in stark terms, the choice that is before us today between maintaining a liberal government that respects the rights of individuals, or moving over to a form of centralized illiberal dictatorship, even if that... illiberal government is somehow democratically legitimated. ...[T]hat's the central issue in global politics today. ...[T]hat's basically what the... Ukraine invasion is about, and that's why... all liberal societies that care about those individual freedoms... have a very powerful interest in the outcome of that war, because Putin and Russia are at the center of an international network of illiberal forces that are seeking to overturn liberal values in virtually every part of the world, and therefore... that's all part of a larger global struggle over our fundamental liberal values.
    • 26:50
      Question & Answer period follows:
  • [T]he Republican party has really gone off the rails and has become... in many ways a quasi-authoritarian party because many Republicans are not willing to accept the results of a... free and fair election. ...[W]e've learned a lot from the... House committee that's studying the January 6th insurrection... [W]hat that committee has revealed was that this wasn't just a demonstration that spontaneously got out of hand. It was planned very deliberately by the White House as a way of pressuring former vice president Pence to overturn the election and keep Donald Trump in office, and right now a lot of state level Republican legislatures are trying to modify their rules for counting votes in the next election so that they would be in a better position to do what they tried to do in 2020, but didn't get away with... [S]o this is probably the most severe threat to American democracy... since the Civil War... and I'm quite worried about that.
  • We need a good alternative to Trumpism. There is a majority in favor of that, but... the other party is really not providing that alternative in a very clear way.
  • The mainstream media does have a liberal bias, as does a lot of... higher education, academia... and so forth... [A] lot of people see that and they don't like it. ...The problem is that the solution ...offered by the extreme right is... a lot worse... [T]he critics of the mainstream media don't... appreciate that fact that there is diversity... that there are actually journalistic standards that... The New York Times and The Washington Post... adhere to. All of which is being tossed out the window on the far right... in reaction to the perceived bias. ...[T]here's a difference between bias and outright... lying. So the bias... has to do with what kinds of stories are covered... the kinds of slant that's given to the reporting... but what's going on in large sections of the conservative media is just outright... untruth... people will just make up facts... without sourcing them properly... [T]hat's another sense in which... the solution is a lot worse than the... underlying disease. ...What we need is a responsible right wing media that does adhere to certain basic journalistic standards. ...[T]here's a tendency on the part of everybody to... take particular anecdotes and instances of abuse and then generalize it to say that... the entire media universe is corrupt... without... appreciating the fact that... that's not a universal problem.
  • [C]ulture is a much better predictor of populist sentiment than economics. ...[T]he average Trump voter in 2016 had a higher per capita income than the average Hillary Clinton voter, and if you look at the people in the January 6th riot, the vast majority... were comfortable middle class people with good jobs... [T]here is a core... white working class base to Trumpism, but... a lot of the people that are aligned with that movement are there for cultural reasons. They really don't like the kind of identity politics that's being... put forward by the progressive left... [A] lot of Hispanic voters, for example, don't like socialism, and they don't like the fact that the Democrats are using the word socialism as if it's a perfectly normal set of economic choices.
  • What's interesting about the world today is that the fundamental division is... a... sociological one between people that have better educations, that live in big urban agglomerations, that then can then benefit from... a global economy, versus people who live in... smaller cities and towns, or in the countryside... with more traditional values. That division exists almost universally, in Turkey... Hungary... the United States, in Britain... [I]t does reflect different economic opportunities, but more fundamentally... it reflects a... way of life, that in the urban case is... liberal and open, but in some cases... people would say a little... too open and too tolerant of... people that want to break traditional norms that are still maintained by... other parts of the population. So it's really that cultural fight... that's at the center of populism, related to,.. but certainly not fundamentally driven by economic inequality.
  • [I]dentity is something that is universally desired by people. In a liberal society... people can associate based on... identity affiliations... and that they're free to do so... [T]he danger... resides when the state begins to endorse identity categories as... fixed... and then to distribute resources or... access to institutions on the basis of those... That's the point at which... you risk... hardening these notions of identity into self-regarding groups that are living next to each other... In the UK you get state supported religious schools... for Jews, for Muslims, for... other faiths. People should be free in a liberal society to set up private schools... to bring up people in a religious tradition. I don't... see why the state ought to be supporting that, because what you don't want to do is to have... young people educated in closed communities where they have nothing to do with people from other communities. ...[T]hat's fundamentally illiberal... [T]hat's... a mistaken policy that's... going to harden those divisions rather than to encourage a more... open and tolerant society.

Quotes about Francis Fukuyama

  • Francis Fukuyama, that emblematic American commentator of the 1980s, gave only the last and most optimistic version of this benign intellectual isolationism. His vision of the irresistible triumph of American liberal capitalism around the world was normally read by Americans as an assurance that their victory would be bloodless. Everyone would soon largely agree with them... The most perceptive alternative analysis was that of the American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington. His new model for international relations predicted a world divided into armed and antagonistic blocs on religious lines. Huntington's was the best argument, but it was Fukuyama who wrote the bestseller.
    • J. C. D. Clark, 'Americans are blind to barbarians at their gates', The Times (15 September 2001), p. 18
  • When the Cold War ended, Francis Fukuyama had stunningly proclaimed that history, humankind’s quest for the good society, had ended with ‘the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government’. With socialism defeated, no alternatives remained. Barely two decades later, however, history appeared to have resumed and socialism was once again on humanity’s horizon as the 2008 North Atlantic Financial Crisis sent the major capitalist economies into a mire of low growth and austerity while socialist China continued its historic growth spurt. Socialism remained capitalism’s Big Other destined to absorb and annihilate it.
  • Francis Fukuyama wrote about the end of history-and he may have had in mind the end of historical narrative consisting of war and conquest, victors and victims, the kind of history that has been dictated by the patriarchal hierarchical society and that seldom took into account ordinary life, creation, culture at all levels, literature, ideas, everything that happened between wars. But the end of history means the beginning of ecology, both in the broad sense and in the primary sense of the word, which comes from the Greek oikos, meaning "home."
    • Shulamith Hareven "The Voacabulary of Peace" essay in The Vocabulary of Peace: Life, Culture, and Politics in the Middle East (1995)
  • Like so many others, the temptation to dunk on Francis Fukuyama for his triumphalist “End of History and the Last Man” is simply too great for me to avoid. The idea that liberal democracy would become the default ruling paradigm globally due to the collapse of its systemic rival, communism, is now, in hindsight, such a ridiculous assertion that anyone asserting it sincerely way back in the 1990s can only be viewed as having been intoxicated while doing so. This is a testament to the impermanence of international relations, statecraft, and the human condition.
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