In his 1989 essay ‘The End of History?’ Francis Fukuyama argued that the end of the Cold War represented the ‘total exhaustion of viable systemic alternatives to Western liberalism’. Although popularly derided as a neo-conservative example of counting your chickens before they’ve hatched, a closer reading of the essay reveals that Fukuyama is not really arguing that Western liberalism is the teleological endpoint of humanity – to be at the end of history merely means that, from the perspective of the present, there are no real ideological competitors within our horizon of knowledge. Fukuyama even expresses ambivalence for what he identifies as the current post-historical era:
The end of history will be a sad time… The worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. In the post historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual care of the museum of human history.
‘The End of History?’ ends on a paradoxical note: Fukuyama suggests that history can ‘start again’ though this will require fundamental contradictions in modern liberalism to make themselves evident. He even ironically suggests that the ‘very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history’ is sufficient to serve this purpose.
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