Francis Fukuyama

(b. 1952)

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Americanpolitical philosopher. He was born in Chicago, to a well-educated middle-class family. Fukuyama's father was a second generation Japanese-American with a doctorate in sociology (as well as religious training) and his mother a Japanese-born daughter of the founder of the economics department at Kyoto University. He obtained his BA at Cornell University, where he studied classics and political philosophy. There he met one of his key influences, the conservative cultural critic Allan Bloom, author of the bestselling polemical account of the decline of American culture The Closing of the American Mind (1987). He then went on to complete a doctorate at Harvard with Samuel P. Huntington, author of the highly influential neo-racist tract The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order (1998). His career has been divided between positions at the RAND Corporation and the US State Department, where he specialized in policy and planning relating to the former Soviet Union and the Middle East, and prestigious American universities such as George Mason and Johns Hopkins. Fukuyama shot to prominence with a short essay published in the right-wing journal, The National Interest entitled ‘The End of History?’ (1989). Written on the eve of the collapse of so-called ‘actually existing socialism’ with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, Fukuyama's essay seemed to capture the spirit of what took place: it was not merely the triumph of the capitalist West, it was also final confirmation of the universal legitimacy of liberal-democratic order. History had come to an end, Fukuyama claimed, because (following a highly Hegelian line of thinking) the pinnacle of possible social formations had been attained. Fukuyama converted this essay into a bestselling book entitled The End of History and the Last Man (1992), sparking an intense debate that included sophisticated repudiations from several critical theory luminaries, such as Jacques Derrida in Spectres de Marx (1993) translated as Spectres of Marx (1994), Fredric Jameson in The Cultural Turn (1998), and Perry Anderson, in A Zone of Engagement (1992). His work since, which has focused on such issues as trust, the inhuman, and governance, has not attracted the same level of critical interest (although it continues to sell well), perhaps because it has not entertained the same philosophically grandiose pretensions as his debut work.

Further Reading:

G. Elliott Ends in Sight: Marx, Fukuyama, Hobsbawm, Anderson (2008).

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.

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