File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0110, message 14

Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001 21:23:43 +0100
Subject: BHA: <fwd> Fukuyama: The West has Won 

to claim victory now already is imho both unscientific rhetoric
and a dangerous illusion; indeed, it all sounds very nietzschean,
but a Nietzsche at the worst ;-)


The West has Won

Radical Islam can't beat
democracy and capitalism. We're
still at the end of history

Francis Fukuyama
Thursday October 11, 2001
The Guardian

A stream of commentators have been
asserting that the tragedy of
September 11 proves that I was
utterly wrong to have said more than
a decade ago that we had reached the
end of history. It is, on the face of it,
insulting to the memory of those who
died to declare that this
unprecedented attack did not rise to
the level of a historical event. But the
way in which I used the word history
was different: it referred to the
progress over the centuries toward
modernity, characterised by
institutions like democracy and

My observation, made in 1989 on the
eve of the collapse of communism,
was that this evolutionary process did
seem to be bringing ever larger parts
of the world toward modernity. And if
we looked beyond liberal democracy
and markets, there was nothing else
towards which we could expect to
evolve; hence the end of history.
While there were retrograde areas that
resisted that process, it was hard to
find a viable alternative civilisation that
people actually wanted to live in after
the discrediting of socialism,
monarchy, fascism and other types of

This view has been challenged by
many people, and perhaps most
articulately by Samuel Huntington. He
argued that rather than progressing
toward a single global system, the
world remained mired in a "clash of
civilisations" in which six or seven
major cultural groups would co-exist
without converging and constitute the
new fracture lines of global conflict.
Since the successful attack on the
centre of global capitalism was
evidently perpetrated by Islamic
extremists unhappy with the very
existence of western civilisation,
observers have been handicapping the
Huntington "clash" view over my own
"end of history" hypothesis.

I believe that in the end I remain right:
modernity is a very powerful freight
train that will not be derailed by recent
events, however painful. Democracy
and free markets will continue to
expand as the dominant organising
principles for much of the world. But it
is worthwhile thinking about what the
true scope of the present challenge is.

Modernity has a cultural basis. Liberal
democracy and free markets do not
work everywhere. They work best in
societies with certain values whose
origins may not be entirely rational. It
is not an accident that modern liberal
democracy emerged first in the
Christian west, since the universalism
of democratic rights can be seen as a
secular form of Christian universalism.

The central question raised by
Huntington is whether institutions of
modernity will work only in the west,
or whether there is something broader
in their appeal that will allow them to
make headway elsewhere. I believe
there is. The proof lies in the progress
that democracy and free markets
have made in regions such as east
Asia, Latin America, orthodox Europe,
south Asia and even Africa. Proof lies
also in the millions of developing world
immigrants who vote with their feet
every year to live in western
societies. The flow of people moving
in the opposite direction, and the
number who want to blow up what
they can of the west, is by contrast

But there does seem to be something
about Islam, or at least the
fundamentalist versions of Islam that
have been dominant in recent years,
that makes Muslim societies
particularly resistant to modernity. Of
all contemporary cultural systems, the
Islamic world has the fewest
democracies (Turkey alone qualifies),
and contains no countries that have
made the transition to developed
nation status in the manner of South
Korea or Singapore.

There are plenty of non-western
people who prefer the economic part
of modernity and hope to have it
without having to accept democracy
as well. There are others who like both
the economic and political versions of
modernity, but just can't figure out
how to make it happen. For them,
transition to western-style modernity
may be long and painful. But there are
no insuperable cultural barriers to
prevent them from getting there, and
they constitute about four-fifths of
the world's people.

Islam, by contrast, is the only cultural
system that seems regularly to
produce people like Osama bin Laden
or the Taliban who reject modernity
lock, stock and barrel. This raises the
question of how representative such
people are of the larger Muslim
community, and whether this rejection
is somehow inherent in Islam. For if
the rejectionists are more than a
lunatic fringe, then Huntington is right
that we are in for a protracted conflict
made dangerous by virtue of their
technological empowerment.

The answer that politicians east and
west have been putting out since
September 11 is that those
sympathetic with the terrorists are a
"tiny minority" of Muslims, and that
the vast majority are appalled by what
happened. It is important to say this
to prevent all Muslims from becoming
targets of hatred. The problem is that
hatred of America and what it stands
for are clearly much more widespread.

Certainly the group of people willing to
go on suicide missions against the US
is tiny. But sympathy may be
manifest in nothing more than initial
feelings of schadenfreude at the sight
of the collapsing towers, a sense of
satisfaction that the US was getting
what it deserved, to be followed by
pro forma expressions of disapproval.
By this standard, sympathy for the
terrorists is characteristic of much
more than a "tiny minority"of Muslims,
extending from the middle classes in
countries like Egypt to immigrants in
the west.

This broader dislike and hatred would
seem to represent something much
deeper than mere opposition to
American policies like support for
Israel or the Iraq embargo,
encompassing a hatred of the
underlying society. After all, many
people around the world, including
many Americans, disagree with US
policies, but this does not send them
into paroxysms of anger and violence.
Nor is it necessarily a matter of
ignorance about the quality of life in
the west. The suicide hijacker
Mohamed Atta was a well-educated
man from a well-to-do Egyptian family
who lived and studied in the US for
years. Perhaps the hatred is born out
of a resentment of western success
and Muslim failure.

But rather than psychologise the
Muslim world, it makes more sense to
ask whether radical Islam constitutes a
serious alternative to western liberal
democracy. (Radical Islam has virtually
no appeal in the contemporary world
apart from those who are culturally
Islamic to begin with.) For Muslims
themselves, political Islam has proved
much more appealing in the abstract
than in reality. After 23 years of rule
by fundamentalist clerics, most
Iranians, especially the young, would
like to live in a far more liberal society.
Afghans who have experienced
Taliban rule feel much the same.
Anti-American hatred does not
translate into a viable political program
for Muslim societies to follow.

We remain at the end of history
because there is only one system that
will continue to dominate world
politics, that of the liberal-democratic
west. This does not imply a world free
from conflict, nor the disappearance
of culture. But the struggle we face is
not the clash of several distinct and
equal cultures fighting amongst one
another like the great powers of
19th-century Europe. The clash
consists of a series of rearguard
actions from societies whose
traditional existence is indeed
threatened by modernisation. The
strength of the backlash reflects the
severity of this threat. But time is on
the side of modernity, and I see no
lack of US will to prevail.

* Reprinted with permission of the
Wall Street Journal, 2001. Dow Jones
& Company, Inc.

* Francis Fukuyama is professor of
international political economy at the
Johns Hopkins School of Advanced
International Studies, and author of
The End of History and the Last Man

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