Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The End of History

The intellectual Francis Fukuyama argued in a famous 1989 essay that political ideology all around the world is slowly but irreversibly marching toward the American standard of democracy combined with free market capitalism. As you would expect from a bored man of inappropriately high intelligence, most of the argument is a gooey progression of pithy philosophical parsage forced through sentences whose subjects are not easily confused with their predicate nomnitives. But I especially like his final paragraph, where he suddenly stops talking about history and instead focuses on how history feels:
The end of history will be a very sad time. The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one's life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. In the post-historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history. I can feel in myself, and see in others around me, a powerful nostalgia for the time when history existed. Such nostalgia, in fact, will continue to fuel competition and conflict even in the post-historical world for some time to come. Even though I recognize its inevitability, I have the most ambivalent feelings for the civilization that has been created in Europe since 1945, with its north Atlantic and Asian offshoots. Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again.


Blogger current typist said...

This is quite feelingly good insight, "bored man of inappropriately high intelligence." Would it be possible to skip the nostalgia part and become daring, courageous, imaginative, and idealistic just for the sake of it?

5:41 PM  

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