Salvaging Fukuyama

No, Virginia, Fukuyama was most certainly not right all along.

Liberalism, for Fukuyama, if severed from its pre-liberal roots, is destined to fail. “Stable democracy re­quires a sometimes irrational democratic culture,” he cautions, “and a spontaneous civil society growing out of pre-liberal traditions.” Indeed, there is in The Last Man, a striking distaste for the blandness of liberalism, an aesthetic and moral disgust with the world liberal principles has brought into being that goes beyond conservatism into reaction.

“Liberal economic princi­ples provide no support for traditional communities; quite the contrary, they tend to atomize and separate people,” Fukuyama warns. Contrary to the assertions of absolute equality which, at least rhetorically, govern the liberal order, Fukuyama argues that if liberalism attempts “to outlaw differences between the ugly and beautiful, or pretend that a person with no legs is not just the spiritual but the physical equal of someone whole in body, then the argument will in the fullness of time become self-refuting, just as communism was.”

Like any 21st century internet reactionary, Fukuyama pronounces that “a civilization devoid of anyone who wanted to be recognized as better than others, and which did not affirm in some way the essential health and goodness of such a desire, would have little art or literature, music or intellectual life. It would be incompe­tently governed, for few people of quality would choose a life of public service. It would not have much in the way of economic dynamism; its crafts and industries would be pedestrian and un­changing, and its technology second-rate.”

Furthermore, Fukuyama predicts, in a startlingly prescient passage foreshadowing the rise of the 21st century civilisation-state, “perhaps most crit­ically, it would be unable to defend itself from civilizations that were infused with a greater spirit of megalothymia, whose citizens were ready to forsake comfort and safety and who were not afraid to risk their lives for the sake of dominion”.

To Fukuyama’s credit, he belatedly realized that he was incorrect. To his demerit, instead of honestly and openly admitting his errors, he simply tried to quietly correct them. His most recent book, an attempt to get out in front of the nationalist trend, is virtually unreadable because he clearly does not wish to give up on the neo-liberal order whose triumph he proclaimed and whose interests he defends.

Fukuyama is still warning about “threats to liberal democracy”. He is still trying to breathe life into a corpse. He is still selling civic nationalism as a replacement for authentic nationalism. He still isn’t admitting that liberal democracy is dead because liberal democracy was always a collection of pretty rhetorical lies constructed upon the foundation of a false philosophy.