Understanding Fukuyama

Few articles in the recent past can have been vilified so heavily by so many intelligent people than Francis Fukuyama’s ‘The end of history’, published in The National Interest in 1989. From the moment it appeared, it became de rigueur to cite the article (and the later book of the same name) as the epitome of neocon triumphalism. ‘The end of history’ became a by-word for all that the West failed to understand in ’89 and after.

Now, thirty years on, the article is worth re-reading. Because, unless one is nostalgic for an orthodox version of dialectical materialism, it is hard to find anything to strongly disagree with. On the contrary.

Consider this passage: ‘The end of history will be a very sad time. The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one’s life for a purely abstract goal, 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 caretaking of the museum of human history.’

Triumphalism sounds different.

Fukuyama was also prescient about the politics of the new era: ‘While [nationalist movements] may constitute a source of conflict for liberal societies, this conflict does not arise from liberalism itself so much as from the fact that the liberalism in question is incomplete. Certainly, a great deal of the world's ethnic and nationalist tension can be explained in terms of peoples who are forced to live in unrepresentative political systems that they have not chosen.’

This is the Weberian principle of verstehen (understanding) as basis for erklären (explanation), applied in textbook fashion. And it is an approach that continues to distinguish Fukuyama’s thinking on the subject of nationalism.

In a new article for Eurozine, Fukuyama writes that, without an effort to understand the appeal of the far-right, it is impossible to respond adequately to its threat. Encapsulating the argument made in his book Identity, Fukuyama argues that the far-right appeal to people’s sense of injustice has its immediate root in leftwing ‘politics of dignity’, and more broadly in modernity itself. Those who accuse him of blame-shifting, take heed. It is liberal democracy that is at stake, not ideological purity.
Elsewhere, Eurozine reports from around the EU in the run up to the May elections. There is much to discover, but look out particularly for Péter Krekó on the Hungarian exception: while Eurosceptic voters in the West want to oust pro-EU elites, the anti-EU elite in Hungary wants to replace the pro-European views of the people. Or Dimitar Vatsov on the Bulgarian hybrid, a cross between democratic ‘façade’ and eastern European oligarchy: ‘As long as there is no true European representation, this hybrid is not just possible, it is increasingly contagious.’

Simon Garnett
Editor Eurozine
New articles

The new identity politics
Rightwing populism and the demand for dignity

Author: Francis Fukuyama| 18 April 2019 | First published in Eurozine

Francis Fukuyama’s argument that far-right identity politics were pioneered by the left has been criticized as blame-shifting. But this is a partial reading, he counters: identity politics are inherent to the democratic ethos and rooted in modernity itself. Understanding their use by the far-right enables us to form a response.
Read in: EN

The politics of English nostalgia

Author: Maurice Earls | 30 April 2019 | First published in Dublin Review of Books

The smugness of some Irish commentary on Brexit is ill-advised, writes Maurice Earls. Brexit is not an aberration but the expression of a deep-rooted cultural attitude – one that won’t simply disappear under the wheel of progress. Failure to grasp this could prove dangerous for the European Union.
Read in: EN

Stress test
Austria, Bulgaria and Croatia before the EP elections

Authors: Ivana Dražić, Markus Müller-Schinwald, Dimitar Vatsov | 29 April 2019 | First published in Eurozine

The coming EP elections will serve as a stress test for the role that Croatia plays as the latest EU member state. It will also deliver a verdict on local elites’ efforts to restore their influence in Bulgaria and gauge popular sentiment regarding Austria’s upside-down political system.  
Read in: EN

The fear of being torn apart
Hungary, Estonia and Belgium before the EP elections

Authors: Péter Krekó, Renaud Maes, Lucie Prod’homme, Märt Väljataga | 23 April 2019 | First published in Eurozine

The products of Hungary’s post-truth laboratory are being received with increasing scepticism, while in Estonia the European elections will be a test of nerve following March’s general election. In Belgium, at least, things are just about holding together.
Read in: EN

The sole chance of a higher turnout
Finland, Slovakia and the Netherlands before the EP elections

Authors: Samuel Abrahám, Dániel Antal, Janne Wass | 19 April 2019 | First published in Eurozine

High drama has characterized political life in all three countries during the run up to the European elections in May. The Left is to form a government for the first time in 20 years in Finland but nationalist populism is no less a force there than in Slovakia or the Netherlands.
Read in: EN

Read more country reports here
Eurozine Review
The bi-weekly Eurozine Review presents a selection of the latest issues of Eurozine partner journals. Subscribe here

New sources of imagination

Il Mulino calls on all Europeans; Dublin Review of Books advocates a clean break; Esprit hears first hand from whistle-blowers; Index on Censorhip reports on local news worldwide; and Revolver Revue talks about the things that cannot be forgiven.
Read in: EN
Network news

Democracy Lecture 2019: Today!

This year’s Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik ‘Democracy Lecture’ will be given by Luiz Ruffato today, on 2 May, in Berlin. Entitled ‘Brazil: The new Fascism’, the Brazilian writer and journalist warns against the escalating violence and a dramatic shift towards fascism under president Jair Bolsonaro. More information here

Spilne’s 10 year anniversary conference

On its 10th anniversary, Spilne is hosting a conference in Kyiv on 8 June on how global changes such as the rise of populism, climate change, migration and mass unemployment are affecting Ukraine. More information here.

ATLAS publication on the Identitarian movement

Danish journal ATLAS has published a book by journalist Rasmus Hage Dallandon the Identitarian movement across Europe. Based on interviews with key members of the movement, the book sheds light on how a substantial segment of rightwing activists think and operate – and what this means for Europe. More information here.

Practices of solidarity explored

Eurozine partner Krytyka Polityczna, Seville-based cultural organization Zemos98, and the European Cultural Foundation have set out to find and foster cultural practices that utilize empathy and mutuality, in order to offer solutions to increasing social fragmentation. Read more here

New translations

The mythology of the East-West divide

Now in Lithuanian
Author: Jan Zielonka

With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unification of Germany, and the EU’s enlargement, the East-West divide has lost its meaning. Moreover, post-communist countries have been more vigilant in keeping their accounts in order than many of their western European partners. So why not put the ghosts of communism to rest and build a united Europe?
Read in: EN/ LT

Social control 4.0? China’s Social Credit Systems

Now in French
Author: Katika Kühnreich

China’s digital Social Credit Systems operate a form of gamified control, rewarding users while rating them according to online and offline behaviour. By 2020, the Chinese government plans to introduce a nationwide system. Western observers are appalled, but are our own social media all that different?
Read in: EN/ DE / NO/ FR
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Header image by John Cahil Rom from Pexels
Eurozine Newsletter 2019. Copyright Eurozine. All rights reserved.

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