Wednesday, September 13, 2017

End of History vs. Clash of Civilizations debate - analysis

"The End of History and the Last Man" by Francis Fukuyama (1992) and  "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" by Samuel Huntington (1996) famously differ not only in their interpretation of the historical event of the end of the Cold-War, but also in their interpretation of history itself.
Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union Fukuyama claimed that the "end of history" has arrived not in the sense of no more events but in the sense of no more opposing historical forces which drive history forward through conflict. Fukuyama utilizes Hegel's philosophy which saw human progress as driven my its internal ideological contradictions. Following Kojeve's interpretation of Hegel, Fukuyama thought that the final victory of the West in the Cold-War marks the final victory of liberal democracy which will remain as the one universal ideology.
Shortly after Fukuyama published his "The End of History and the Last Man" he was criticized by Samuel Huntington who argued that the ideological conflicts which characterized the 20th Century will be replaced by cultural ones. In "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" Huntington held that culture in its broad sense of religion, language, heritage and tradition is becoming the most important factor in human identity. He therefore offered an analysis of global politics as comprised by several civilizations (like the Western, Islamic, Latin American, Orthodox, Eastern Asian and the Sub-Saharan civilization) which clash between one another.
The theoretical debate between "The End of History" and "The Clash of Civilization" was eventually decided by history itself which shows no intention of ending in the near future. Fukuyama was definitely over-optimistic in thinking that the end of the Cold-War marks the end of human conflict. Huntington on the other hand has been so far proved correct in his prediction of the next big battle being fought between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.
But there is still a deeper philosophical sense to the Huntington/Fukuyama debate since it demonstrates the problematic nature of our understanding of historical dialectics. Fukuyama proclaimed "The End of History" since, like many before him, he was unable to see past the constrains of his own position in History, unable to imagine a different meaning to politics. Huntington, very much within the lines of the Hegelian thesis, was only able to see a different current directing history by means of his critique on Fukuyama. In that sense "The Clash of Civilizations" is born out of "The End of History" in perfect line with Hegelian dialectics.                 

Some related books to consider: