Thus Spoke Fukuyama

May 12, 2011 at 5:55 am (tWP) (, , , , , , , , , , )


Having had the chance to listen Francis Fukuyama speak in the Netherlands, I came out of the lecture with mixed feelings. It was good to understand that Fukuyama no longer believes in the end of history and in fact he values geography as an explanation for the many development differences between civilisations. That said, he still takes a distinctive western approach to history and IR: he speaks of rule of law and democratic accountability as essential building blocks for the future of human society. This is by no means certain if – as he posited – normative civilisation characteristics are afterall circumstantial. Why then does he believe in this? Because he is still limited by the “linear progression” frame of mind. In other words, since he believes that western liberal democracy is the pinnacle of human social evolution, all civilisations must ultimately adopt some form of it in order to thrive.

Obviously this is a fundamental contradiction but it is important to go further and assess why it is that many westerners – inclusively in the political arena – eventually go down this road.

While profoundly sceptical of modern constructivist institutions one cannot also refrain from acknowledging that constructivist inroads into areas of former sovereign state control, keep getting made and at an accelerated pace at that.

  • The False Laicité between Bureaucratic and Political

Something apparent in the West nowadays is what could be called, the normative republican convention. The values of the bourgeois republics have been made the standard in the West and in the world. Any ideology, form of government, legal system or economic model seem to have to be compared a priori to the normative republican standard of the Atlantic liberal democracies.

Just as the Church was once the source of normative standards, today republican bureaucracies have replaced it as the general norm. As per the trend set by the British, the civil servants are to be a separate class, independent from politicians but under their hierarchical command – elections and office terms being a check on an overwhelming institutional superiority of the political class.

Theoretically the bureaucratic apparatus isn’t supposed to be a part of policy making but in fact, as ideologies fade and moderate centrism rules more and more supreme, bureaucrats tend to have a gradually superior say in politics. They deny they have it of course, because they know they’re not supposed to have it. But the reality shows us the opposite. Having had contact with Brussels administrative eurocrats and the Hague’s international juridical community, I now reckon that the independence of the bureaucrats is gained at the expense of that of the politicians’.

While war is as present as always in the international scene for example, numerous conventions attempt to forcefully take Kellogg-Briand to the next level. Thus last year in Kampala, aggression was elevated to the purview of the ICC.

Of course jurists are correct in pointing out that politicians ultimately have the last word in such decisions but as Judge Theodor Meron once cheekily added in the context of the approval of further blurring between internal and international armed conflict as far as international jurisdiction was concerned (speaking specifically of the Tadic Case and its precedent): “I was quite surprised they let us keep it in”. What is more important, since Hitler is often condemned for democratically revoking democracy, jurists should be condemned for legally revoking separation of powers.

Security for example, is perhaps the most important matter which the State is supposed to manage and yet the right to wage war (jus ad bellum) is normatively becoming more and more a competence of the courts. Lets be clear: war didn’t come about because of a complete absence of social mechanisms to resolve disputes between groups or individuals. War has been a constant in human history because social organisations compete and have divergent interests in a world of finite resources and dissimilar cultures.

Law on the other hand, depends on morality. The set of norms that guides us depends on our ideal of justice which in turn depends on a social ethical convention. If theft is a crime common to most cultures, promiscuity is not (some criminalise it, others don’t). Social sciences aren’t exact sciences and therefore there are no rational logical empirical evolutionary grounds as to why some cultures should identify with certain values.

The morality which currently guides the world is not ultimate or absolute – at least it hasn’t been since the Catholic Church stopped dictating it – and just as the clerics were rightfully expelled from the temporal domain, so too the jurists ought to be. Otherwise the claims of those who want democracies to refuse to do business with dictatorships, or of those who wish developing states starved developed nations of natural resources, might very well be heeded.

Even Fukuyama, who still cannot get rid of his western perspective, recognises the importance of geography in denying Africa wealth and stability. Even he can discern that the world’s social chasm derives from different historical experiences. The Professor however always optimistically concludes that liberal democracy and the institutions of the West will win the day. While he is right in pointing out that countries such as China lack the same level of rule of law that we see in the West, he fails to even ask himself if such a characteristic is essential to the future development of the world. One suspects that moral prejudice rather than rational deduction drove him into this conclusion.

Wondering for instance which civilisation would be most capable of amassing the necessary resources or mobilizing the manpower and technology for a programme to explore and settle space, one seriously doubts such project would be commenced in the West. Even India would be a doubtful option and Fukuyama himself attributed to the subcontinent’s timid experiences with historical centralism, much of the blame for their lagging behind China…

With all this said, it is imperative to stop and think why someone who knows history and reflects on it would still allow himself to be seduced by petty contemporary delusions of justice. This is an important question since the universalist obsession infects much of the academia e perhaps even more of the world’s intelligentsia.

  • The Transformational Critical Mass

When trying to rationalise the Arab Spring, the paramount importance of the divide between the globalised intellectual elites of the Arab countries and their traditionalist masses, becomes apparent. But there is more than that at work. The resilience of universalism is based on more than just the West’s prosperity and subsequent influence on the global narrative through West-encultured-brain-drain-origin elites preaching the West’s canon to the ‘Rest’.

Ultimately, we have to face the fact that while the world is by no means normatively universal, the western universalists still manage to push their agenda through the multilateral fora. The answer here is but one: critical mass. The West continues to be able to dictate the narrative because even if growing weaker, its paradigm will continue to be forwarded by the sheer comparative weight of the western civilisation.

Unlike the Asian and African civilisations which survived the wave of Western colonisation by being remote, inaccessible and compact enough to avoid being permeated by the Berlin Consensus, the world as a whole is not. When western philosophy and values rule unopposed in the Americas, Europe, Oceania and even parts of Asia and Africa, it is difficult to avoid consensus being generated around the one discourse which seems to be the only minimum common denominator: liberalism. This is why even minority western states with particular traditions cannot escape being further and further integrated into constructivist structures: the UK into the EU, the US into the UN, etc.

Samuel Huntington when dividing the planet into civilisations adopted biased American criteria. In fact, the West as a category should not be merely reserved for the north Atlantic. Latin America and Eurasia also base their values on the Eurocentric space, if for no other reason because they were colonised by it. The fundamentally different cultural areas of the world are Africa, the Middle East, the Subcontinent and the East. But these areas aren’t strong enough to resist the philosophical synthesis that the West impregnates the world with.

  • Worms Vs. Westphalia

The obvious next step is to reflect on what the world will evolve to be. If the current dilution of executive strategic power in favour of normative based prerogatives proceeds unhampered, then will James Burnham be vindicated? Will we observe a Hobbesian technocratic compact of Judaic style Kritarchy, ruling a centralised world? In any event it is very telling that Fukuyama elevates the Worms Concordat as a more seminal event to the western civilisation than the Treaties of Westphalia…

1 Comment

  1. M. Silva said,

    Dimitri K. Simes – Liberal Democracy vs. Autocracy

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