Fukuyama on US Election (reformatted)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Thu Nov 16 20:47:23 MST 2000

Widely known for his book, The End of History and the Last Man, and his
most recent book, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity,
Francis Fukuyama, has been launched to prominence with his argument that
society has entered a new and lasting phase. He claims that the change is
so dramatic that it might be accurately depicted as representing the end of
history. Fukuyama derives his argument from the writings of Kant, Hegel and
a critical, selective reading of Marx.  This new phase represents the
worldwide triumph of neo-liberalism (democracy/market fundamentalism) over
the collapse of Communism. History has ended in the sense that there is no
more room for large ideological battles. Fukuyama relates his theory of
history to Karl Popper's criticism of historicism and attempts to denote
the connection between Fukuyama's account of history, and that of the
Christian religion.  The impact of Fukuyama's work upon the philosophy of
history and its importance in evaluating the recent course of international
relations and US foreign policy have been celebrated in conserative circles.

The Italian Marxist thinker, Antonio Gramsci, dveloped while in Fascist
prison, the concept of cultural hegemony. If you can occupy peoples' heads,
their hearts and their hands will follow. Antonio Gramsci explains how one
dominant class can establish its control over others through ideological
dominance. Whereas Marxism explains social structure as shaped by economic
forces, Gramsci adds the crucial cultural dimension. He showed how, once
ideological authority -- or "cultural hegemony" -- is established, the use
of violence to impose change can become superfluous. Today, the world lives
under the virtually undisputed rule of the market-dominated,
ultracompetitive (yet not fair competition), globalized society with its
cortege of manifold iniquities and civilized violence. Many public and
private institutions in all nations that genuinely believe they are working
for a more equitable world have unwittingly contributed to the violent
triumph of neoliberalism.  As many on this list know, perpetual prosperity
is a mere empty promise of market fundamentalism.

The term hegemony is now proudly used even by Allan Greenspan, Chairman of
the US Federal Reserve Board, to describe US financial preeminence and
structural advantage. Unlike ideology, politics deals not only with moral
validity, but also with power.  The ideology of capitalism appears
rationally operative empirically because capitalism has the hegmonistic
power to construct a "real" world that is capitalistically consistent and
rational.  No matter how many socio-economic disasters the neo-liberal
system of market fundamentalism has visibly caused, no matter what
financial crises neo-liberlaism engenders, no matter how many losers and
outcasts it creates, market fundamentalism is still made to seem
inevitable, like an act of God, the only possible economic and social order
available to humankind. Economic slavery is preferrable to starvation,
according to neo-liberal doctrine which poses slavery or death as natural
alternatives.  The World Banks has estimated that globlization has created
200 million poor people around the world in the last decade.  Yet claims of
globalization's contribution to global properity contine unabated.

Francis Fukuyama's The End of History and the Last Man has been hailed as
an optimistic work, constituting the most important contribution to
substantive philosophy of history since the works of Marx.   But it seems
clear that Fukuyma is merely the quarterback of the cutural hegemony team.
The fall of Communism is an undeniable fact, but it is not an undeniable
basis for theory, unless one subscribes to the rationale of trial by ordeal
and the theory of might is right. Twentieth century Communism failed for
varied and complex reasons, but it is hard to argue that defective moral
compass to be the leading cause.  The fall of global Communism in fact
removes the fog on the mirror of truth that had obscure the ugly face of
market fundamentalism.  Fukuyama in fact echoes Coolidge's famous
pronouncement of economic theory: "When people are out of work,
unemployment will result."

Like Marx, Fukuyama argues that human beings are biologically driven to
establish moral values, and have unique capabilities for reasoning their
way over the long run to spontaneous order. But social order ebbs and flows
in long cycles as societies adjust to constantly changing technological and
economic environments.  Yet Fukuyama's list of moral issues is rather curious.

In his WSJ article: What Divides America (November 15, 2000), Fukuyama
continues with his cultural hegemonic theme:

"But what are Americans sharply divided over?

It's clear that they are not divided over foreign policy, management of the
economy, crime, welfare or other traditional issues that used to separate
left and right. Both candidates tried to grab hold of the electorate
through tried and true political appeals that had worked in earlier
elections. But the real issues in American politics have become cultural
ones that can only indirectly be addressed through politics and public

Fukuyama then proceed to identified the cultural battle as sexual politics:
"... failed to grasp fully the change that has taken place, which is, as
political scientist James Kurth has explained, the feminization of American
politics. It is not just that women vote in greater numbers than they did,
but that they constitute the key vote that has swung toward the Democrats
in contemporary elections. Foreign policy, strong national defense and tax
cuts were key parts of the traditional Republican formula that brought
Ronald Reagan to power. But these issues are also pre-eminently male ones,
and have consistently failed to gain much traction among women. Mr. Clinton
woke up to the feminization of American politics and the cultural issues
this spawned much sooner than the Republicans, and rode it to two election
victories. Of the Republican candidates running last spring, Mr. Bush had
the most appeal among women because of his knowledge of, and concern for,
social policy issues. He managed, in the end, to do better among married
women than Mr. Gore. How politicians play this issue is very complex,
because women are not a homogeneous voting block and have very different
interests on a variety of issues. But on the whole, this shift spells
trouble for conservatives more than for liberals. The single most important
social change to have taken place in the United States over the past 40
years concerns sex and the social role of women, and it is from this single
source that virtually all of the "culture wars" stem. They'd better start
thinking fast, since the cultural issues are the only ones still capable of
stimulating voter passion."

Now sexual politics has been around for a long time and it is bizarre to
identify it as the new goal post in the cultural war, while huge numbers of
people aroung the world are dying daily from hunger, disease, malnutrition,
war, pollution, and what have you, most of which caused by some wanting
more than others. In the order of moral concerns, sexual politics does not
rank among the top.

The fundamental aspect of US foreign policy after the Cold War is that the
US, viewing itself with the equivalence of the all-inclusive Roman Empire
at the height of its power - an invincible singular global superpower with
no effective opposition, no longer feels the need for a foreign policy.
This is in keeping with the view of the end of history.  Historically,
China, at various times during the height of its culture, such as during
the Han, Tang and Qing dynasties, also enjoyed such hegemonic advantage in
the then konw world, and had no need for a foreign ministry or policy. US
foreign policy has become merely a sub-unit of domestic policy.  Its
neglect by the election has little, if any, to do with it being a male issue.

The world is at a critical crossroad, and wise leadership in the world's
sole remaining superpower is very important.  Large issues of survival are
at stake for human civilization, issues of societal vision, of social
justice, of a just peace, of environmental symbiosis, of the balance
between community and individual freedom... the list goes on.  The powerful
have a special responsibility because they possess the means to solve these
critical problems for the good of all.  Complacency about the end of
history will only lead us into an abyss of destruction.

As to moralism, the goal of stimulating voter passion is a poor moral
compass, to say the least. Fukuyama appears to be hosting gentile tea
parties for concerned middle class American ladies who would be
psychologically fulfilled going home with party favors of perfume bottles
filled with empty moralism.

It is nothing but snake oil philosohpy.

Henry C.K. Liu

Louis Proyect
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