End of History? Milton Fisk analyzes Francis Fukuyama's infamous thesis -- and argues that it won't fly even as a new banner for the conservative-neoliberal elite. With the publication of The End of History and the Last Man in 1992, Francis Fukuyama established himself as a leading conservative intellectual. Other conservatives have raised their voices against the cynicism, egoism and relativism supposedly resulting from liberal, postmodern, or post-Marxist habits of mind. But Fukuyama goes beyond carping to set conservative values and institutions in a narrative structured with fundamental ideas from the Western tradition. How successful is he at this task? Will conservatives find in his outlook a context for their thinking? Does he offer a new challenge to socialists in efforts to renovate our own tradition? On the surface, Fukuyama's End of History is a celebration of the "new world order" proclaimed by George Bush at the time of the Gulf War. But it is also much more. The book contains a theory, drawing on Plato's view of the soul and Hegel's dialectic of spirit, that legitimates this new order of spreading "liberal democracy" by establishing its philosophical origins. Fukuyama does not hesitate to identify liberal democracy with capitalist democracy. He argues that the debacle of Soviet-style communism has left capitalist democracy unchallenged as the only system with global appeal; and he contends that this appeal is not transient but has deep roots. In Fukuyama's view, the appeal of capitalist democracy lies in the convergence of two connected but distinct sequences. First, capitalism is allegedly the most efficient of economic systems, and since states depend on economic efficiency for the military power enabling them to survive, history has moved in the direction of capitalism. Communism is seen as but a detour in this progression. Second, democracy is portrayed as the natural outcome of a struggle by humans for recognition of their dignity by others. In contrast to pre-democratic societies with only one-sided recognition -- the slave recognizing the slave-owner, or the subject recognizing the king -- capitalist democracy accords mutual recognition to the equal persons living within it. Fukuyama doesn't believe either capitalism or democracy necessitates the other. But together he thinks they satisfy the deepest urges of humanity -- the urges for goods and for recognition. So when joined, capitalism and democracy provide an optimal mechanism for humanity. With communism -- understood as centralized power that not only ruins the economy but undermines civil society -- on the dustbin of history, we have reached a democratic capitalist order that exists as "the end of history." Capitalist democracy can only spread; it can't be superseded. Fukuyama's optimism about democratic capitalism is tempered only by his Nietzschean worries about the blandness of life in this order. Great deeds, authority based on talents, and moral heroism become things of the past, for they conflict with both cautious bourgeois calculation and unexciting democratic egalitarianism. Fukuyama believes this can produce a dangerous situation, leading either to a craving for personal adventure that threatens others or to a willingness to follow demagogues promising to satisfy irrational instincts. Fukuyama is not worried by either conflicts between exploiter and exploited within capitalism or conflicts between the formal democracy allowed to citizens and the substantive political power of dominant groups. He seems to think that these conflicts, which are associated with violations of a sense of fairness, are no threat to capitalist democracy. The threat for him comes from the lack of opportunity for the kinds of deeds the old aristocracy could perform, being unconstrained by recognizing the dignity of the multitude. NO VULGAR IDEOLOGUE Fukuyama does not content himself, as libertarian conservatives do, with justifying free markets and private property. To him, markets and property, which are based on a combination of reason and self-interest, are amply justified. But they are only part of the story justifying today's new world order. The rest involves a striving to realize values which cannot be reduced to rational self- interest. Fukuyama does not appeal to a particular moral tradition to ground the values he promotes; he appeals to human nature itself. This distinguishes him from communitarians of different sorts: those who defend the values of family, church, and nation (Russell Kirk); those who emphasize support for the products of the American experience (Irving Kristol); and those who celebrate the intellectual tradition stemming from ancient Greece (Allan Bloom). Like these communitarians, Fukuyama is a conservative since he is committed to free markets and private property and to staying within what he calls the formal democracy of universal suffrage, which involves only limited popular participation. But unlike the communitarian conservatives, he relies for values, not on a moral community, but on what he takes to be a universal of human nature -- that we all seek recognition and won't be fully satisfied till it is mutual. This appeal to human nature is Fukuyama's way out of the relativism resulting from an ultra-liberalism that makes a fetish of tolerance for any idea and culture. For Fukuyama, the universal struggle for recognition of the underdog, for example, is rooted in what humans are. This struggle has led to an egalitarian value system in which compassion becomes a virtue. Compassion in turn has become the basis for humanitarian reforms. Thus, he argues, modern capitalist democracies are moving, however slowly, toward abandoning capital punishment, and they deal harshly with leaders responsible for wars in which large numbers of their own citizens become casualties. Since Fukuyama's ideas rationalize the post-Cold War optimism about capitalist democracy, they have a wide appeal. Fukuyama's unquestioned ability to construct plausible and subtle accounts of major trends lend weight to the suggestion that his views could become the framework of the conservative and neoliberal establishment for some time to come. Fukuyama develops his ideas in rich historical and philosophical detail and spins an unrivalled argumentative web around his proposals. He sees countervailing tendencies to those that support his central ideas, and doesn't shrink from admitting the problems they pose. He is, for the most part, admirably restrained in the use of cheap shots at the left, relying for persuasion on his own careful constructions. In short, Fukuyama is no vulgar ideologue, but a bold and incisive one. Fukuyama also benefits from more concrete advantages. His associations with the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, with Allan Bloom's Olin Center at the University of Chicago, and currently with the RAND Corporation, an Air Force think tank supported by government contracts, give his conceptions tangible political weight. And yet... Fukuyama's ideas won't, I think, become a framework for establishment thinking. His failure, in my view, stems from his neglect of the disruptive power of those forces he systematically underplays. He offers the conservative-neoliberal elites no way of analyzing the actual challenges they will continue to face. Yet those elites have as one of their chief tasks the mastering of such disruptive forces. ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY The first problem concerns Fukuyama's idea of "mutual recognition" as having been achieved in capitalist democracy. For Fukuyama, the battle for mutual recognition has been won because people have their votes counted equally and they aren't kept from an education because of their color. In other words, we treat one another as persons, or at least we do better than we used to. The problem Fukuyama foresees for our society is not a failure of recognition but the ennui of a homogeneous society, an ennui that can lead to breaks with democracy. Fukuyama would agree with Plato that democracies breed demagogues. But Fukuyama's view that recognition has been amply realized is insensitive to the systemic failures of recognition in capitalist democracies. Fukuyama operates on the assumption -- common to much postindustrial-society theory -- that class perished with capitalist democracy, since class domination involves only a one-way recognition. What has replaced class is simple economic inequality, and that is based on different talents and different cultures about work rather than on anyone's refusal to recognize someone else as a person with the right to political and moral equality. Fukuyama doesn't raise questions about the nature of control over the workplace and its implications for mutual recognition. This question about control goes beyond the issue of inequality of income and wealth. There is the pervasive conviction among working people -- documented in that minor classic The Hidden Injuries of Class by Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb -- that work under capitalism involves, because of its kind of workplace control, a loss of dignity. One doesn't have to hark back to work under feudalism to find a lack of mutual recognition. It exists in our bureaucracies and factories. It is characterized by an absence of consideration of the employee as more than an instrument for realizing pre-given goals. An instrument is not recognized as autonomous, and hence not as an equal, by those who use it. Personnel experts know the phenomenon of loss of dignity at the workplace well enough to have tried to address it in various schemes for "team work." These schemes, though, don't change the basic sources of decision making, but merely bring workers in on certain phases of implementation. President Clinton's labor secretary, Robert Reich, wants to believe that mutual recognition in the workplace is possible so that confrontation can be replaced by cooperation. But he can't convince the numerous employees whose dignity is regularly under attack that their employers either want or are capable of mutual recognition. Capitalist elites are constantly revolutionizing work in order to displace the dissatisfaction resulting from its undemocratic character. The team concept and the knowledge revolution are only the latest examples. The problem gets graver as larger segments of the workforce come to have higher expectations for realizing their autonomy. Fukuyama would like to solve this problem simply by appealing to the concept of a rational division of labor that assigns workers to jobs that call for different talents from those needed by managers. But the very nature of this "rational division of labor" is to limit the control workers have and to deny them recognition. The battle to save capitalism by preventing expectations of autonomy from causing political problems is an ongoing one for establishment elites, but one that Fukuyama would let them ignore. MANUFACTURING CONSENT There's another problem Fukuyama neglects: the problem of how mutual recognition can be compatible with the means adopted to establish consent within a capitalist democracy. This is a critical omission. The circle of the disaffected cannot be allowed to expand. It is imperative within a capitalist democracy to manufacture consent as one way of controlling disaffection. This imperative is carried out through the media. But the spread of mutual recognition is clearly incompatible with the level of media manipulation that exists in our society. Such manipulation attempts to turn persons into tools of policy. The spread of recognition would call for an end to this manufacture of consent. A priority for a society that was actually advancing toward mutual recognition would be a genuinely pluralist press, one without a vested interest in the status quo, and one committed to broadening rather than constricting debate. Fukuyama's hypothesis of the end of history would imply that there is already a tendency to uncouple the media from wealth, to make the media less reliant on state sources for copy, and to discourage the media's identifying itself with the establishment's foreign policy consensus. Studies like Manufacturing Consent by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky make a persuasive case that there is no such tendency. Any group that attempted to fight for major media reform is immediately branded extremist. Yet so long as such reform doesn't happen, the one-sided recognition of the master/slave relation, with which Fukuyama begins his discussion of recognition, is reproduced in the media/viewer-reader relation. Fukuyama's capitalist democracy is a Garden of Eden variety. There is a contented workforce and an establishment with apparently no need for legitimation. No wonder then that the only problem he finds there is boredom. Those who think they have grievances with capitalist democracy, like African Americans, have only their own failure to blame. They don't promote "individual achievement" but instead focus on a collective Afro-centrism. Fukuyama's smug dismissal of the need of the oppressed to organize independently gives a racist twist to his concept of the end of history. But even the establishment in this society must, on pain of its own dissolution, reject this Garden of Eden view. It needs, instead, to take steps that defuse the explosive issues such as the denial of worker autonomy, general disgust with the state, and the alienation of African Americans in a racist society. A useful ideology for the ruling group starts from acknowledging, not ignoring, these problems. AN END TO WAR? We turn now to the international matters central to Fukuyama's view of the new world order. He argues that the world is moving toward a state of peace. With the demise of fascism and communism as the great challenges to democracy, imperialism and war are being eliminated. Without the Cold War rift on the Security Council between powerful democracies and nondemocracies, the U.N. can begin to promote international security. Of course, so long as lesser powers remain nondemocratic, democratic countries will be involved in wars with them. But as Fukuyama reads the record, it shows that capitalist democracies do not have imperialist designs in such wars, and also that they do not go to war against one another. To justify this rosy view, Fukuyama goes back to the struggle for mutual recognition. So long as rulers were accustomed to establishing their superiority over their compatriots, they did not hesitate to try to establish their superiority over other nations as well. The drive for mutual recognition allegedly changed all this. The use of subjugation as a way of establishing self-worth, was overtaken by the practice of mutual recognition. But it was the dignity of all others and not just that of one's compatriots that, for Fukuyama, had become the norm. This universalism led to the world-historical defeat of imperialism and war. Fukuyama's develops these points further in his answer to the charge that nationalism seems incompatible with this new age of peace. In doing so he admits that there is a rise of nationalism, but he sees it as part of a transition away from the great empires, like the Soviet Union, that have collapsed. In the established democracies, nationalism has been turned into a private matter, much the way that religion became a private matter in the original capitalist democracies. As private, it allows individuals to enjoy their distinctive national cultures, but prohibits chauvinist behavior. There are several ways this view on international matters fails to serve establishment elites today. In this first place, it is so sweeping that it undermines the ongoing and only-too-real efforts by advanced capitalist democracies at economic and political domination over other countries. These efforts present Fukuyama with a dilemma. Either he denies they exist, or else he acknowledges and must condemn them, trying to paint them as aberrations of capitalist democracy. But attempts at dominating other countries emerge directly from the logic of the growth of capital. So Fukuyama must either ignore an imperialist reality that establishment elites are quite preoccupied with, or else he subverts his end-of-history thesis. It is one thing for Fukuyama to believe that Third World countries have nothing wrong with them that a turn away from mercantilist import substitution toward free- market capitalism won't cure. But his principles don't provide any ideological cover or legitimacy for first world countries imposing free-market capitalism or democracy on Third World countries. Yet conservative and neoliberal elites in capitalist democratic establishments seek and need such legitimacy to carry on everyday geopolitical and geo- economic tasks. The second problem the establishment will have with Fukuyama's international views is that capitalism still resorts quite frequently to aggressive nationalism, often mixed with racism. We don't need to go to the Balkans to show that aggressive nationalism is alive and well. Manufactured concern about the supply of oil to the U.S. led in 1990-91 to a fever pitch of nationalist vengefulness against Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Hyped up concern about transshipments of drugs to the U.S. from Panama led in 1989 to nationalist outrage against Manuel Noriega, on which a bloody invasion was based. The establishment's ability to push the nationalist button when it needs to runs directly counter to Fukuyama's claim that capitalist democracies have outgrown nationalism by privatizing it. "THE LAST MAN" In Fukuyama's book title, "the last man" is the citizen of a capitalist democracy where equality is fully realized. Will the last man be satisfied with mutual recognition? Or must there be scope for achievement that wins recognition of superiority? If justice has been achieved, Fukuyama worries that people will still need something to struggle for, even if this means struggling against justice. To make the point, Fukuyama slanders the French students of 1968, saying that in a society that gave them everything they escaped their boredom by trying to destroy their society. Could Fukuyama perhaps accept a communitarian way out of this problem? His pluralist democracy would insure tolerance for communities existing inside it with a diversity of substantive goals. Each of these communities might give special recognition those most effective in promoting its particular goals. Tolerance and recognition of superiority would be joined so the last man could avoid boredom while being a democrat. But Fukuyama rejects this option in favor of classical liberalism. He thinks communities would tend toward intolerance of one another. Each would project its values on the others and demand high respect from the other communities of those of its members it judges superior. Understandably, Fukuyama doesn't want to sacrifice the rights of democratic citizens to the intolerance such communities -- each bound tightly together by its own morality -- show toward one another. In this matter, Fukuyama's entire approach is flawed by an individualist assumption. He believes that satisfaction can come only through recognition of individual superiority. Fukuyama cannot challenge this assumption since his historical dialectic of recognition traces recognition back to the individual male warrior's urge to defeat and subdue anyone posing as an equal. Even outside its warlike context, this urge will reappear in the form of an urge to be recognized by free persons as superior. Mutual recognition, which leads to democracy, becomes a compromise that doesn't eradicate the primal urge for superiority. But is this individualist assumption of an urge for superiority really primordial? Or is it rather a cultural product of dominant groups? The urge for superiority is not one that even all males have. Fukuyama doesn't suggest that women have this urge, so they might not be bored with democracy. And his prescription for avoiding dissatisfaction applies only to those in dominant groups: he recommends the highs of capitalist entrepreneurship, a career in foreign policy, Himalayan mountaineering or Shogun tea ceremonies. This whole notion about boredom in democracy is really a bit phoney. It comes down to the fact that dominant groups want to use their privileges and don't want to be constrained by democracy. This confirms the socialist belief that the lower classes must be the guardians of democracy. What Fukuyama overlooks are the satisfactions within capitalist democracies that don't involve recourse to the recognition of superiority demanded by dominant groups. Such are the satisfactions of working collectively for justice in the many areas where capitalist democracies don't offer "mutual recognition" -- fighting against domination by a powerful nation, class, race, and gender. Fukuyama can't imagine how many rewarding things there are left to do for those whose connections won't get them into the State Department or whose pocket books won't get them to the Himalayas! And after equality has eliminated the satisfactions of the collective struggle for justice against dominant groups? Well, there will still be collective effort on behalf of making social life more rewarding. This will be the effort of people discussing their differences in an atmosphere of mutual respect. It will be an effort within a community, but not a community in which members try to become superior by advancing community goals. The satisfaction will, instead, derive from the joint effort to realize those goals, an effort in which everyone's dignity is recognized. This is, though, a socialist community, not one based on older patterns of domination.