Twenty-nine years later, it seems that the realists haven’t gone anywhere, and that history has a few more tricks up its sleeve. It turns out that liberal democracy and free trade may actually be rather fragile achievements. (Consumerism appears safe for now.) There is something out there that doesn’t like liberalism, and is making trouble for the survival of its institutions.
Fukuyama thinks he knows what that something is, and his answer is summed up in the title of his new book, “Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). The demand for recognition, Fukuyama says, is the “master concept” that explains all the contemporary dissatisfactions with the global liberal order: Vladimir Putin, Osama bin Laden, Xi Jinping, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, gay marriage, ISIS, Brexit, resurgent European nationalisms, anti-immigration political movements, campus identity politics, and the election of Donald Trump. It also explains the Protestant Reformation, the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Chinese Communism, the civil-rights movement, the women’s movement, multiculturalism, and the thought of Luther, Rousseau, Kant, Nietzsche, Freud, and Simone de Beauvoir. Oh, and the whole business begins with Plato’s Republic.
It’s difficult to overestimate the damage that his first work on the “end of history” has done to the psyche of our elites. By making them overconfident and totally unable to handle the adversity that has followed, they are psychologically incapable of handling the rise of authoritarian states such as Russia or China, to say nothing of going postal over Donald Trump. Fukuyama’s attempt to pin the blame on identity politics won’t work either; it’s the cornerstone of the American left’s idea of life, they’ve even pushed class differences and income inequality to the back of the bus in the name of fulfilling yet another secular nirvana of identity perfection.
Before World War I the chattering classes saw the coming of a new world order, abetted by Christianity’s post-millennialism. We saw some of that after World War II, but the Cold War put paid to that. Now our elites have jettisoned Christianity for good, but their longing for a “liberal” utopia is undimmed.
There is only one end to history, and it is the beginning as well: Jesus Christ. All these other attempts have ended in disaster, and we’re staring another one in the face. Won’t anyone learn anything?