'Liberalism and Its Discontents' by Francis Fukuyama
As featured in Edition 41, available here.
By NG KAH LONG (2nd year - Economics, Politics and International Studies - Singapore)
‘The End of History’ - three decades on: Fukuyama revisits the Liberal order, tackling detractors old and new.
Fukuyama advocates for non-liberal outliers of economic success such as China. He postulates that China's economic growth will plateau due to political limitations. However, this is unwarranted as China's innovation has continually flourished, despite its political status quo. Fukuyama also lambasts China for its human rights violations. Yet, this critique is liable to Eurocentrism - a lens that clouds Fukuyama’s prescriptions. China’s pragmatic development in Africa offers, at times, a counter to misplaced Western donor democratic strings-attached arrangements. Additionally, assuming liberalism’s universality ‘outside the Islamic world’ is upheld again; he raises the conundrum in Western states: subvert Muslim traditions for individualistic rights. Is this new challenge, now within Western borders, not a further erosion on its universality?
Regarding capitalism, Fukuyama brilliantly challenges the Reagan-Thatcher minimal state doctrine. While he elaborated little on capitalism back in the roaring eighties, he now calls boldly for classic liberals to change their minds against widening inequality eroding liberalism’s egalitarianism.
Fukuyama argues that the heart of modern lifestyle - media - is evaluated as dangerous, owing to public mobs. While many theorists await the new medium to take shape before introducing legislation, Fukuyama goes down a different route: social mores. In so doing he also targets the major flaw of the West in confronting China - its internal divisions.
In summary, the book does not present an optimistic tone on the liberal state’s victory. Those who believe this a renunciation of Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’ assertion, may consider he was rather nuanced back in 1989, as opposed to what his sound bite term has been misappropriated for. He still leaves the same critical problems unanswered - paternalistic state successes and the Middle Eastern political consciousness.
Image: Macmillan Publishers