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Fukuyama vs Huntington

Fukuyama vs HuntingtonThe end of the Cold War was one of the most important events of the 20th century, which marked the beginning of a new era. In 1989, famous political scientist Francis Fukuyama, wrote an essay "The End of History?", the main focus of which was to argue about the developments that would take place in the post-Cold War world, as well as about the role of liberal democracy. In his paper he advocates liberal democracy, as the only legitimate type of government, and also supports the idea that by westernizing the world, conflicts based on ideology would cease to exist. Naturally his paper received both arguments in favour, as well as criticism. The most notable form of opposition his theory faced was from Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations?", an essay that was a direct response to Fukuyama's work. Huntington, being one of the most noteworthy political scientists, contradicted his former student's (Fukuyama's) theory, arguing that conflicts would continue to exist in the world, however they would be based more on cultural and religious basis. However, in order to understand Huntington's arguments, it is crucial to examine the theory of Fukuyama first.

Fukuyama starts off, by mentioning the conflict between the communism and democracy that was present throughout the Cold War . By indicating the loss of communism with the fall of an Iron Curtain, he sees liberal democracy as the winner in this ideological war. He draws parallel to Marx, arguing that while Marx viewed communism as the ultimate and final step in the evolution of government, it would turn on the contrary. Fukuyama sees the final form of government in liberal democracy, saying that it is the only way that would lead a country towards modernization. Therefore he argues that when the liberal democracy will spread in the whole world, conflicts will cease to exist and countries will live in harmony.

To support his arguments he references Marx, Hegel and Kojeve.He says that the concept of "The End of History" was originally created by Hegel. He explains that for Hegel history ceased in 1806 with Napoleon's defeat of the Prussian monarchy, while Marx considered that the end of history would come once communism would be successfully manifested. After that he proceeds to express his own opinion on the matter by arguing that the history will reach its final step when all the states become liberal democracies, when all countries will respect and treasure human rights. He then brings up the existence of so called "contradictions" that would usually become the basis of conflicts. However, he says that in the universal homogeneous state, all those contradictions are resolved and all human needs are satisfied.

Fukuyama, also tries to improve the weak points of materialist theories and support Hegel's idealism. At this point he states that the role of culture, ethnicity and other aspects are vital in order to understand the economic performance of countries.After which, he references Kojeve, saying that in order to understand processes of history, one must understand developments in the realm of consciousness or ideas. Therefore, he concludes that once the ideological development reaches its peak, the homogeneous state would emerge as the winner in the material world. After that Fukuyama proceeds to talk about ideologies that were posing a threat to liberal democracy.

He mentions both fascism and communism, two extreme opposite ideologies that have torn apart Europe during the 2nd World War. Fascism was defeated by communism at the end of WWII and therefore the latter became an enemy of liberal democratic ideology. For Marx liberal society posed a contradiction between the capital and labour, and therefore he thought that it would be inferior in comparison to communism. However, Fukuyama argues that this "contradiction" was resolved in the Western society, namely in the US. After that he brings the examples of both Japan and China to show how liberalism has reached and influenced those countries. Though, after examining the changes that took place in the USSR during Gorbachev's office (mainly his failed attempts to transform the Soviet Union into a more liberal country), he concludes that not all countries can reach liberal democracy at the same level.

Towards the end of his paper he wonders if there can be any serious challenges to the liberal democracy. Although Fukuyama states that both religion and nationalism can prove to be a challenge for liberalism, he rejects the idea that any of them could seriously oppose it. From his view, liberal societies were born as a result of religious societies being weak, and therefore they would not be able to replace liberal democracies. As for nationalism, while he acknowledges that it could theoretically pose a threat should it evolve into its extreme form (as in case with the Nazi Germany), he neglects the practical possibility of it qualifying as an ideology, unless it has a "systematic form". Despite saying that liberal democracy will become an instrument that will lead a world towards peace, he admits that ethnicity- and nationality-based conflicts would still appear in future, but they would not evolve into a large-scaled one. In the very last paragraph he says that the new era will be "boring" as all the ideological and philosophical clashes would be replaced by the "economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands".

After looking into Francis Fukuyama's thesis, it is necessary to see the criticism expressed in Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations?".In his essay, Huntington argues that after the end of ideological warfare, conflicts will be based on factors that define civilizations. First, he starts by briefly explaining the stages of conflicts, beginning with conflicts between monarchies, followed by the conflict of nationalism, ideological conflicts of XX century and finally the "conflict of civilizations". This way he indirectly (yet clearly) opposes Fukuyama's view on the post-Cold War era. Huntington claims that the conflicts of religion, ethnicity, culture and nations will resume and become the final stage of confrontation. He then proceeds to talk about the role of civilizations and its meaning as a concept.

As author points out, civilizations are based on set of identities, which creates self-awareness within people. He says that a citizen of Rome would have several layers of identity, such as:"a Roman, an Italian, a Catholic, a Christian, a European, a Westerner". He also uses this example to show that civilizations are dynamic concepts that constantly shape throughout history. Based on those levels of identity, it is possible to see whether the civilization includes several nation states (e.g. Western Civilization) or a single one (e.g. Japanese). In the next section, he explains why conflict between civilizations is inevitable.

In his essay he points out that the important part about civilizations is that they have basic and clear differences. Those differences being based on historical, religious, ethnical factors are "products of centuries" , that would not cease to exist easily. Furthermore he argues that those factors are much stronger than any ideological or political distinctions, therefore in the new age there would be conflicts that would be far prolonged and brutal than the ideological one. He brings another set of argument to support his view on clash of civilizations. As Fukuyama, he recognizes the importance of globalization, and agrees that the world has indeed become a "small place". But if Fukuyama sees globalisation as a way of spreading ideas of free market and liberal democracy, that would ultimately bring countries together , Huntington sees them as catalysts that would create sparks of conflict and inequality amongst different cultures. He points out that civilizations will be forced to compete against one another, in order to maintain their distinctive identity.

When it comes to these already mentioned factors important for defining one's identity, Huntington believes religion to be the most important one. He makes a remark saying that religion, more than ethnicity "discriminates sharply and exclusively" amongst people. Even if a person is of a mixed ethnicity, or able to successfully integrate into the foreign community, it would be "more difficult to be Calf-Catholic and Half-Muslim" . He also sees religion (unlike Fukuyama ) a serious threat to the liberal democracy. He argues that the emergence of fundamentalism in a form of radical Islam is the reaction that followed the spread of Western/liberal values. Huntington views those two ideologies to be opposites of each other like (liberal against non-liberal ones) and therefore predicts that in future thosetwo would antagonise each other, resulting in a clash of cultural values.

The most important argument against Fukuyama is Huntington's scepticism towards the process of Westernization. For Francis Fukuyama, as mentioned earlier, progress and development of countries is synonymous to the process of Westernization. Huntington not only claims that this assumption is incorrect, but also views it "arrogant" for the West to consider its values to be universal. He brings examples of countries such as Russia, China and several Middle Eastern countries, as examples of those civilizations that view liberal values of democracy, freedom of expression, free markets, equality and other standards not only foreign but also as potential threats that target their own identity. Plus he also argues that forcefully imposing Western values that have not originated in other countries is a spread of "human rights imperialism". This very practice, according to him, would cause a serious backlash, resulting into a conflict between Western and non-Western World.

By examining Francis Fukuyama's ideas in his essay, "The End of History?", as well as viewing Samuel Huntington's criticism, it would seem that neither of political scientists are absolutely correct. Major flaw in Fukuyama's theory is that he also neglects the role of ethnicities and religion as a threat to his vision of a world order, which as we see today do actually pose as a serious challenge for liberal world. Apart from that he believes that in order for countries to reach the development they need to accept liberal values and undergo the process of Westernization, which as Huntington argued (as well as nowadays history shows) is not exactly true. Finally, his statement that the new world order would be based only on economical calculations and technical problems, contradicts today's reality. The major problem with Huntington's ideas is that, he views the new era in grim colours, stating that conflict between cultures, religions and ethnicities would be inevitable in the reality of a new political order. He overlooks, however that the interactions between the civilizations would not always result in a conflict, as many issues can be overcome through peaceful means such as trade and economic relations, just as Fukuyama states. Therefore it seems that while both of theories have flaws, together by fulfilling each other's weak and strong points they do actually describe the reality of the modern world order.


  • Fukuyama, Francis. "The End of History?" The National Interest, no. 16 (1989). NEO LMS resources.
  • Huntington, Samuel P. "The Clash of Civilizations?" Foreign Affairs 72, no. 3 (1993). NEO LMS resources.

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