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The End Of History Debate

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Not Yet The End of History: Between Dapo Thomas and Francis Fukuyama A

Response by C. Don Adinuba Segun Ayobolu is always a compelling read.

Truly intellectual in a season of intellectual aridity, his “Not Yet The

End of History: Between Dapo Thomas and Francis Fukuyama” (The Nation,

October 31, 2015, back page), based on a controversial paper by Dapo

Thomas of the Lagos State University at the recent First International

Conference of the African Studies Association of Africa held at the

University of Ibadan, is in keeping with the tradition of honest

intellectual inquiry and interrogation. It is reminiscent of a particular

article which Ayobolu wrote in the 1990s entitled “When Is A Nation?”,

an article which only an original and imaginative thinker could pen.

 Yet, Ayobolu’s article in respect of Fukuyama is controversial. In

fact, it is not only Ayobolu’s remarks which are controversial; both

Thomas’s and Arthur Nwankwo’s views are debatable.  Frankly, it is by

no means surprising that controversy still defines Fukuyama’s thesis

in Nigeria 16 years after he published the famous work on the end of

history in the hitherto little known academic journal, National Interest.

The publication was to lead to the most important debate in the West for

the next decade. Rand Corporation, the New York based think tank,

took away Fukuyama from the policy planning team of the Department of

State in Washington, DC, to develop the article into a book which was

published in 1992as The End of History and the Last Man by The Free Press.

Fukuyama has since been on the staff of George Mason University in

Virginia, Johns Hopkins University, also in Virginia, and now

Sanford University in California, his home state. He has written several

Academic papers and published stimulating books in diverse areas,

including sociology, political science, international political economy,

business management and biotechnology. I am still reading his latest

works, The Origins of Political Order (2012) and Political order and

Political Decay (2014).  Still, The End of History and the Last Man

Remains his most popular work, probably on account of the global debate it

generated. It would seem that much of the controversy owes to a basic

misunderstanding of the thrust of Fukuyama’s arguments, even by top

scholars around the world. Fukuyama’s view is that with the collapse of

communism and the triumph of liberal democracy and free market economy

throughout the world, a new order has emerged. And there does not appear

to be any more ideological opposition to this order. Therefore, history

has come to an end. By history, Fukuyama does not mean a series of events;

after all, history as a series of events cannot come to an end unless the

world itself ends. Fukuyama refers to history in the philosophical sense,

in the sense which Hegel, the German philosopher used it. History

here means dialectical clash or disputation. Karl Marx, another famous

German philosopher, understood history in this sense, but constructed his

own dialectic in terms of class struggle.  In other words, Fukuyama’s

postulation is that with the grand failure of communism in Eastern Europe

in 1989, which led to the ultimate collapse of socialism everywhere,

including Africa, there is no more articulated ideology or system of ideas

which competes with either liberal democracy or free market economy.

Even systems which are, in practical terms, not democratic claim to be

Democratic because it is now fashionable to identify with democratic

values. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR) comes to mind. Duncan

Clarke, the development economist and foremost authority on Africa’s

petroleum industry, notes in his fantastic book, Africa: Crude Continent,

DCR is neither a democracy nor a republic. When Laurent-Desire Kabila was

killed by his teenage bodyguard in February in 2001, he was succeeded by

his 29-year old son, Joseph, who was then not holding any public office,

even though the senior Kabila had earlier unilaterally appointed him a

major general in the guerilla army fighting to oust Mobutu Sessekou.

 Those who point to the rise of militant Islam and other forms of

terrorism as a rebuke of Fukuyama’s argument are, in my considered

opinion, not convincing. Like all forms of terrorism, militant Islam is

not an articulated ideology like socialism or capitalism. In his essay,

“Culture and Democracy”, which is included in the fascinating book,

Culture Matters, edited by Lawrence E. Harrison and Samuel Huntington,

both at Harvard, Ronald Inglehart, a political science theorist at the

University of Michigan, agrees with Samuel Huntington that such conflicts

are “not along ideological or economic lines” but “along cultural

divisions”. We shall return to the issue of cultural divisions towards

the end of this brief essay. Those whose terrorism as evidence that

history has not ended are those misled by the layman’s interpretation of

the title of Fukuyama’s work. This group seems to include here in

Nigeria Dapo Thomas and Wole Soyinka, the 1986 winner of the Nobel Prize

in literature. Fourth Dimension chairman Arthur

Nwankwo’s interpretation, as quoted by Ayobolu, appears to be

philosophically grounded, but nevertheless faulty. It is not unassailable

to argue, as Nwankwo has done, that Fukuyama says “the two essential

elements in the development of world history are the liberal capitalist

and socialist factors”. There are other critical elements. Among other

ideological rivals to liberal democracy defeated in recent decades is

fascism. Socialism is the latest and, one believes, the last ideological

competitor. Fukuyama is a firm believer in the progressive growth of

history and the march of civilization for aeons. Indeed, it is

interesting to read my old friend, Arthur Nwankwo, refer to Marxism as the

“alternative but unacceptable variant of (western) intellectual

heritage”. This is because Nwankwo, a prolific author, wrote

enthusiastically in the 1980s about the imperative of African countries

and the rest of the world to adopt Marxism or socialism. What greater

evidence do we need to accept Fukuyama’s thesis that history

has, indeed, ended with the death of communism? Fukuyama’s arguments are

controversial, but, as one eminent French historian and reviewer in the

early 1990s noted, they are “difficult to refute”. They have stood

the test of time. Fukuyama’s work has influenced a lot of thinkers and

writers in away some people may not easily grasp. Jeffrey Sachs, director

of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special economic adviser

to the United Nations secretary general whom New York Times once described

as perhaps the world’s most influential economist, entitled his 2005

popular book End of Poverty, similar enough to Fukuyama’s End of History.

In an obvious response to Fukuyama’s work, the preeminent political

science at Harvard, Samuel Huntington, went on to write the Clash of

Civilisations? in the summer edition of Foreign Policy in 1993 and

developed it into a book The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of

World Order which Simon & Schuster of New York published in 1996. The book

which categorises global civilization into seven cultures turned out to be

Huntington’s most famous work. The seven cultures are Western-rite

Christianity, Orthodox Christianity, Islamic, African, Buddhist and

Confucian. Contrary to Inglehart’s assertion, Huntington does not see

Latin America as a separate culture, but as part of western culture which

also includes New Zealand and Australia.  Fukuyama is a prodigious

intellect. His ideas endure and they make us think. One is delighted that

the debate over his end of history argument is still raging in Nigeria, a

decade and a half after the essay was published in the United States. We

thank Ayobolu for bringing the debate to public attention.  Adinuba is

head of Discovery Public Affairs Consulting.   

 

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