International Journalism reading response

Fukuyama’s “End of History?” and Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations?”

Fukuyama’s main argument is that the modern liberal democracy is the culmination of human history. In class, it was argued that democracy is such a new concept that we cannot tell how long it will last. However, this argument forgets that a form of democracy actually existed thousands of years ago in Athens. At the time, democracy consisted of a city-state that granted governmental privileges to elite men. Modern democracy of the Western world extended political rights — albeit reluctantly — to non-white men, the poor, and women. Today, democracy also attempts to hold together large nation-states in the form of either representative or parliamentary democracy.

What we experience as modern liberal democracy is really one of many manifestations of the democratic concept. Fukuyama refers to the United States’ form of representative democracy and consumer culture as an “offshoot” of European civilization (final paragraph). However, I do find it problematic when Fukuyama summarizes “the context of the universal homogenous state as liberal democracy in the political sphere combined with easy access to VCRs and stereos in the economic” (part II, final paragraph). Our easy access to consumer goods frequently means devastatingly low wages for someone else on the production end. When this is the case, it is no wonder that “liberal democracies” with free economies have been toppled across Central and South America in favor of regimes with more populist agendas. Fukuyama is wise to note that liberal democracies are plagued by racism, poverty, and other forms of social injustice. On the other hand, claiming one form of political organization to be correct ignores the reality for many minority and/or indigenous communities who simply want autonomy. How would that fit into the picture of the liberal democratic nation-state?

Huntington does more to address the very real tensions between cultures. He describes conflicts between civilizations (West vs. Islam, for example) as well as conflicts within civilizations (Mexico’s attempt to become a North American country, while its indigenous peoples lose their cultures and their livelihoods). It it important to recognize this phenomenon, for the world does yet consist of Fukuyama’s universal homogeneous states. Theories, politics and morals are not universal; rather they are relative to the context of any group of people. However, as Prof. Isakov pointed out in his presentation, we must not allow “conflict of civilizations” concept to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Expecting other cultures to come into conflict with “us” (whoever “we” are) may arguably make us good on the defense, but it could also risk a trigger-happy approach to a rapidly shrinking world.

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