Monday, February 20, 2006

My Useful Education, (Or Not). Pt. 2.

Not only do I not remember my economics, I only vaguely remember my international relations, though in fairness I don't have a degree in the latter.

Not sure how I misread (or misremembered) Fukuyama's "End of History" so badly that I didn't put 2+2 together and say "NeoCon" when I think on it now, but I didn't. Though, in my favor, I can claim that even as a naive 18 year-old, it did strike me as hopelessly idealistic, going well past chutzpah and into hubris. Easy to jump up and down on poor Frances's intellectual corpse now, but honestly, I knew it at the time, as much as I hated agreeing with my paleocon, Kissinger disciple of a professor about anything. (Except baseball. He loooooved baseball, and his Tigers were sufficiently non-threatening to elicit no rivalrous feelings from me.)

Clashing civilizations always seemed more likely to me, but that could just be the result of spending way too much time playing Civilization 2 instead of writing my Geopolitics papers.

Anyway, all that is a wind up for directing anyone who hasn't to read Fukuyama's extended cry of "oops" in today's NYTimes magazine. Well, he doesn't say he was wrong so much as he was wrongly interpreted back in the day, but more points for near-honesty then many others from that camp.

Publius gets the scope of his revisionism about right:
Many people have also interpreted my book "The End of History and the Last Man" (1992) as a neoconservative tract, one that argued in favor of the view that there is a universal hunger for liberty in all people that will inevitably lead them to liberal democracy . . . . This is a misreading of the argument. "The End of History" is in the end an argument about modernization. What is initially universal is not the desire for liberal democracy but rather the desire to live in a modern — that is, technologically advanced and prosperous — society, which, if satisfied, tends to drive demands for political participation. Liberal democracy is one of the byproducts of this modernization process, something that becomes a universal aspiration only in the course of historical time.

"The End of History," in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism.
This is a stunning paragraph. If I’m reading "The End of History" correctly (and I’m pretty sure I am), it is ideological and Hegelian, not materialist and Marxist. The paragraph above, though, is Marxist through and through. After reading this article, I realized that something bigger may be going on with Mr. Fukuyama. Specifically, Iraq may not only have soured him on neoconservatism, it may have pushed him out of the idealist (Hegel) camp and into the materialist (Marx) one. This is the philosophical equivalent of a Tar Heel fan slipping on a J.J. Redick T-shirt.
Way to put it in terms that even a naif like me can understand, read them both, if you have a goodly bit o' time.

Update: I should have made it more clear that it's an excellent piece, it's just curious coming from F2, and parts of it seem slightly self-serving in rehabilitating his bona fides with a new book coming out. It's a bit like Dan Shaughnessy writing in November 2004 that he didn't really mean it when he wrote "Curse of the Bambino" and oh by the way, he had a new book coming out, ("Reversing the Curse," which like a dope, I bought. Shameless.)

9 comments:

Icepick said...

Okay, so you're not an idealist, you're a materialist, correct?

Pooh said...

I wouldn't describe myself as hardcore in either direction, though I'm more in the materialist than the idealist camp.

RonB said...

I wouldnt beat yourself up too bad about not noticing the idealist neoconservative view. It's only entered the lexicon in the last six years, and most of its adherents don't even believe they exist.

mbomb said...

Love the blog seth, but can your byline really be "Reality based comments on . . ."? I mean, shouldn't it be "Reality according to Pooh based comments on ..."? I'm going to try and start reading more regularly...look out. Hope everything is going well.

Ahistoricality said...

I disagree that Fukuyama used to be a Hegelian idealist in a meaningful sense: his ideas were about socio-economic organization not ideological conception. At best, he might qualify as a Left Hegelian (aka, a socialist without the social policy), but the centrality of free markets and economic self-interest to his conception of history and human development makes it hard not to call him a Materialist.

In my view.

Fletch said...

Oh man, I wish that I still had my notes from school on good ol' Francis. I know that you are from Alaska, but didn't his tenure at the RAND Corp. tip you off to his political leanings? Maybe that is just a DC thing.

Pooh said...

Considing that the political scene in Alaska when I grew up could best be described by the answer to "How do you like your Russkies? Regular or Extra Crispy?" I wasn't exactly up on the nuance of what 'Brookings' or 'RAND' or (shudder) AEI meant...

reader_iam said...

In my experience, there is more diversity within think tanks than it might appear, and one can't necessarily make assumptions based only on affiliation.

For what that's worth.

Pooh said...

Too true, RIA. One of my favorite reads, Norm Ornstein, is at AEI, along with John Yoo and Leon Kass who, as one might guess, I have very little time for.