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(Original review by John Gray at The New Republic...)

"Ever since his original essay appeared, and was widely and witheringly criticized, Fukuyama has complained that his central idea has been wickedly caricatured. In the introduction to The End of History and the Last Man, he responded indignantly to critics who pointed out that history had not in fact stopped. When informed of Fukuyama’s writings, Margaret Thatcher is reported to have exclaimed, “The end of history? The beginning of nonsense!” For Fukuyama, Thatcher was laboring under a misunderstanding. He had never claimed that historical events were grinding to a halt. It was “history understood as a single, coherent, evolutionary process” that had come to an end. Nor had he asserted that there would be no more historical conflicts—he had always accepted that there would be plenty. But one type of conflict has ended, he insists: with the triumph of liberal democracy, the conflict over what is the best form of government has been resolved definitively and finally. Charting the development of the state, the rule of law, and accountable government, his new book maintains that together they define a universal regime: “A successful modern liberal democracy combines all three sets of institutions in a stable balance.” An idealized version of American government—this is the only regime that can be fully legitimate in modern conditions.

It is a grandiose assertion, which only re-states, in more specific terms, the end-of-history thesis to which Fukuyama claims never to have subscribed. History—the history of modern politics, at any rate—largely consists of conflicts about what is the best form of government. The ideological rivalry of the cold war is only one example among many such antagonisms. The French Revolution sparked a contest between two rival versions of democracy, the first a version of limited government and the second a vehicle for popular will. (From one point of view, the present regime in Iran can be seen as a popular theocracy of a kind whose outlines are sketched in the writings of Rousseau.) It is often conveniently forgotten, but there were many in the interwar years who viewed fascism and communism as legitimate alternatives to the failing regime of liberal capitalism—a position defended, with some qualifications, by James Burnham in 1941 in The Managerial Revolution: What Is Happening in the World..."


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