ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fukuyama and the Question of Identity

Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment by Francis Fukuyama, Hachette India, 2018; pp xvii+218, ₹ 499.


In his most celebrated work The End of History and the Last Man (Fukuyama, 1992), Francis Fukuyama was touted to have articulated the zeitgeist of the world. This zeitgeist was refashioning and championing of Hegel’s version “where development resulted in a liberal state linked to a market economy” (p xii). The collapse of communism in Soviet Union and East Europe, the end of Cold War and emergence of United States (US) as the sole superpower, adoption of market economy by China and the march of globalisation—this rapidly unfolding chain of events was not just the victory of Reagan–Thatcher geopolitical or economic policies. It was a decisive resolution of ideological battles in the favour of the right. This was a repudiation of Marx and vindication of Hegel. No wonder, Fukuyama’s arguments were music to the ears of the powers that be. Not only the conservative or neo-liberal sections, but also many social democratic parties worldwide had adopted this idealist argument of a certain march of history in favour of market and liberal democracy since the days of Euro-communism; so it was no wonder that New Labour and Clintonite Democrats on both sides of Atlantic happily joined this euphoria.

However, this “desirable destination” of history was far from settled. As latter events showed, it was the “Clash of civilisations” kind of world view of the likes of Samuel P Huntington and Bernard Lewis that best articulated the dark side of consumerist neo-liberal market capitalism. The terrorist attacks of 9/11, Iraq–Afghanistan wars, rising Islamophobia, anti-immigrant xenophobia, European Union and its Syrian refugee crisis, the rise of White nationalism, neo-Nazi elements in Europe, the US and many parts of the world, Brexit and the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election in 2016—all these have reversed the “global surge toward democracy”
(p xi). The liberal reaction to this rising tide of far right populist nationalism/fascism has been fairly consistent—horror, moral indignation and denunciation. However, it has failed to achieve much in material terms except much sound and fury through media and social media. Fukuyama has again joined this new ideological crusade on the side of liberal democracy to sift through the present morass called “identity.” Despite rehashing of many old arguments, his new book is pertinent not so much from the point of offering cogent solutions or honest introspections of euphoric neo-liberal/neo-conservative thought about how their magic tree of free market and globalisation bore such evil fruits of neo-Nazism and racist mobilisations; but rather as a symptomatic reading of how Fukuyama’s reflections reveal the structural compact that mainstream neo-liberal/neoconservative thought continues to share with far right politics.

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Updated On : 12th Apr, 2019


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