At Aeon, Paul Sagar defends the supposedly prophetic aspect of Francis Fukuyama's oft-derided THE END OF HISTORY, suggesting that Fukuyama might actually "have done a better job of predicting the political turmoil that engulfed Western democracies in 2016 – from Brexit, to Trump, to the Italian Referendum – than anybody else." Sagar admits that Fukuyama, back in the day, may have overreached with his "neo-Hegelianism" and his assertion that "while liberal democracy was by no means perfect, it was the best we were going to get." As for prophecy, Fukuyama failed to predict the rise of radical Islam, the upsurge in international terrorism, the resurgence of post-Soviet Russia, the ascendancy of China; or, for that matter, much of anything at all.
Still, says Sagar, give Fukuyama credit for this:
His prognosis was that the outlook for post-History Western society was not good. It was possible that the last men at the end of History might sink down into a brutish contentment with material comforts, rather like dogs lying around in the afternoon sun...But they might well go the other way. There was every chance that the last men (and women) would be deeply discontented with their historically unprecedented ease and luxury [and]if the last men went this way, they would become bored by what Fukuyama called ‘masterless slavery – the life of rational consumption’. The spread of egalitarian values that went along with secular democratic politics would open up spaces of severe resentment – especially, we might now postulate, among those who had lost their traditional places at the top of social hierarchies, and felt cheated of the recognition that they believed they were owed.
Quite a prediction: "post-History Western society" might go one way, but then again, it might go another; and, by golly, it did--go one way or another, that is.
So here we are, deeply discontented, bored, resentful, and feeling cheated: no wonder we voted for Donald Trump! Indeed, as no less an esteemed pundit than Francis Fukuyama himself wrote, immediately after Trump's victory last November:
"Trump’s impressive victory over Hillary Clinton on November 8 demonstrates that American democracy is still working in one important sense. Trump brilliantly succeeded in mobilizing a neglected and underrepresented slice of the electorate, the white working class, and pushed its agenda to the top of the country’s priorities." 1
Whether or not Fukuyama was the first to see Trump coming, he was certainly right there to welcome him when he arrived; which does nothing to persuade me of Fukuyama's insight or sagacity. Pace Paul Sagar, I think we should hold off on praising Fukuyama until we see how this all works out.