Monday, February 20, 2006

Utopian v. Utopian: Fukuyama Speaks

Francis Fukuyama, author of the Republican supremacist tract The End of History doesn't like the neo-conservatives, at least not now that they've failed:
"The End of History," in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.
In other words, none of them actually have much regard for historical reality. It's all very well to have a vision, but not to think of yourself as an "agent of destiny." It's just not healthy.

Fukuyama goes on at great length (thanks, Ralph) about the problems with 'benevolent hegemony,' the screwups we've committed in and around Iraq, and how we need a realistic, long-term approach to the problems of terrorism, extremism and the democratic will of people who don't like us.

Sounds remarkably like the foreign policy Democrats were promoting two years (five years. Thirty years?) ago; how nice of him to finally come around.

Opportunistic wanker.

Speaking of johnny-come-lately wankers, Dave Neiwert [not a wanker] has finally found evidence of Glenn Reynolds [major wanker] criticising Ann "convert the ragheads" Coulter
To win this war, we need to kill the people who want to kill us. But we need to win over the rest. The terrorists of Al Qaeda want to polarize things so that it appears to be a war of Christianity against Islam, of America and the West against all Arabs and Muslims. With remarks like those, she's helping their cause, not ours. Call it "objectively pro-terrorist."
You could even apply that domestically, Glenn. And there's lots more like her that you haven't even started talking about yet.

These guys -- Fukuyama, Reynolds -- are gonna take credit for figuring out what we knew years ago. You just know it.

p.s.: Orac's back at blogspot temporarily, talking about the David Irving trial and connecting it to the Ann Coulter issue. Apparently Irving is about to join the "johnny-come-lately wanker" club by admitting that a Holocaust did happen and he denied it in spite of having seen hard evidence with his own eyes.

Update: Avedon Carol linked here, which provoked some interesting responses. Gary Farber in particular, points out that Fukuyama's been a critic of Bush/Neo-Con foreign policy since 9/11 or shortly thereafter. There's no evidence of it in the article I read; to the contrary, the presentation there is very much of someone who has viewed the accumulated evidence of failure over the last five years and only recently come to realize the error of his ways. Perhaps he's transitioned from criticism of policy to criticism of political theory; either way, he's presenting it poorly, in my opinion.


Pooh said...

In October 2001, Fukuyama stated that his “end of history” thesis remained valid: that after the defeat of communism and fascism, no serious ideological competitor to Western- style liberal democracy was likely to emerge in the future. Thus, in terms of political philosophy, liberal democracy is the end of the evolutionary process. There will be wars and terrorism, but no alternative ideology with a universal appeal will seriously challenge the principles of Western liberal democracy on a global scale.

The 9/11 attacks notwithstanding, there is nothing beyond liberal democracy “towards which we could expect to evolve.” Fukuyama concluded that there will be challenges from those who resist progress, “but time and resources are on the side of modernity.”

Source. That doesn't exactly sound like a critic of "Freedom on the march" does it?

Ahistoricality said...

To be fair, lots of folks said stuff in October 2001 that they wouldn't want carved on their tombstones....

Seriously though, this is precisely my point: Fukuyama's brand of snake oil -- solipsistic teleological progressivism -- is a terrible vantage point from which to critique the nearly indistinguishable snake oil of the neo-conservatives in power. While I'm thrilled to see a bit of reality peeping around his blinders, there's no way e's an "ally" of the left.

Gary Farber said...

"There's no evidence of it in the article I read...."

I linked to my own post about the NY Times Magazine piece in my comments at Avedon's for a reason. Namely, what I wrote there, and the links I provided.

Look, I hold no brief for Fukuyama, am not a fan by the furthest stretch of the imagination, have had numerous unkind words for him, thought The End Of History was pretty crappy, think his views on bioethics are asinine, and simply have never thought well of the man.

But it's simply incontrovertible that he was running around in 2004 speechifying and essaying on why Bush had to be defeated. It's simply incontrovertible that he was earlier running around doing the same on why Rumsfeld must resign. Just read the darn speeches and essay's he wrote then, or any of the accounts others gave of them.

I don't say this to be kind to him, but because I don't know how it could be any plainer. I take it you didn't read my post, or this or this or this?

"While I'm thrilled to see a bit of reality peeping around his blinders, there's no way e's an "ally" of the left."

Okay, fine, so when he was, years ago, denouncing Bush and Rumsfeld, and was demanding in 2004 that people vote against Bush and that Rumsfeld must resign, you should have been objecting, and telling everyone to do the opposite. I guess. [waves hands helplessly, scratches head, doesn't know what else to say]

Ahistoricality said...

You misunderstand me, Mr. Farber. I'm not saying that there's no evidence Fukuyama was doing what you said, and I did read your post (I can't remember the last time I linked to something without reading it....). I said, and I meant, that there was no evidence in the original Fukuyama article of his past critical positions.

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend" is not a terribly sophisticated way of looking at political issues, honestly. Just because he's critical of the administration, even vocal and active, does not mean that I or any other liberal should view him as an ally. (perhaps we're using the term differently?) As you rightfully point out, his analysis of issue after issue is so wrongheaded that his only real use, for a liberal, is to be able to point out that, even from within the neo-con movement, the administration is viewed as a failure. Any more close association between liberals and Fukuyama would be likely to have bad results, in my opinion.

Gary Farber said...

"I said, and I meant, that there was no evidence in the original Fukuyama article of his past critical positions."

Okay, fair enough.

"'The enemy of my enemy is my friend' is not a terribly sophisticated way of looking at political issues, honestly."

Of course.

"(perhaps we're using the term differently?)"

I think. I didn't mean we need (not that I speak for anyone besides myself, of course) to give him the secret decoder ring and and key to the executive clubhouse washroom. I just meant that if he's busily denouncing Bush and Rumsfeld, there's no harm, and in fact, some use, in pointing that out to people who still support Bush and Fukuymama's former fellows.

"Any more close association between liberals and Fukuyama would be likely to have bad results, in my opinion."

I wasn't suggesting making him someone's campaign advisor. :-)

I was as much reacting to other people's statements on other blogs which seemed to consist of emphasizing that the main thing that has to be said of Fukuyama is that he's a coward and obviously just running away from Bush in the last couple of months so as to not be tarred with failure, which has the demerit of being obviously untrue; the other point many seemed to emphasize is that the most important thing is that years ago, Fukuyama was wrong; I certainly wouldn't want that forgotten, but I tend to think that pointing out where his opinions are usefully aligned with ours of late is rather more interesting than punishing his errors of the past. If he's making errors still -- and he is, such as on bioethics, in my opinion, and doubtless on other issues -- and they come up, by all means, spank him, but if he's renounced opinions of the past, well, I don't think endlessly focusing on his past errors alone is usefully the highest priority issue. That's all.

This is something of a subissue of a general tendency of the left that has always bothered me, which is a tendency by some to focus on ideological purity over making coalitions and getting things done, and a tendency to Never Forgive Error, which I think often gets in the way of the aforementioned making coalitions and getting things done.

You don't have to call me "Mr. Farber," unless you want to reprimand me or something, by the way. :-) "Gary" will do fine. Better than "Mr. Poopieface," anyway.

Ahistoricality said...

Gary (I tend to be relatively formal with folks I don't know, until I get to know them better; just because we're bloggers doesn't mean we're all friends, after all), we're pretty much talking about the same thing, then, just with slightly different emphases. That happens, particularly on-line.

I tend to agree with you that ideological purity and consistency is somewhat overrated (though I don't think it's limited to the left, honestly), particularly given the complicated and conflicting nature of reality.

It's a bit hard, though, to make use of the arguments of someone like Fukuyama without engaging his past: his utility, in the absence of actually good ideas, is that he's criticizing the administration when his political past strongly suggests that he would do otherwise. It is precisely his past errors that make his current correct views interesting; I don't know how you separate the two, though I do admit that you were more right to point out that he's been, at least, consistent about this for longer than most bloggers have been blogging.....

Gary Farber said...

"I tend to agree with you that ideological purity and consistency is somewhat overrated (though I don't think it's limited to the left, honestly)...."

Of course it isn't. I'm more bothered, however, when it's done on the left, since I grew up as part of the liberal/left, and still more or less identify, in my own individualistic way, with that tradition, and certainly will self-identify as one whenever there's a figurative round-up (which, of course, doesn't mean I automatically agree with every position that gets labeled as liberal or left; I'm very much an a la carte issue-by-issue sort of guy).

So I take it as a given that on more things than not, I'm in disagreement with innumerable conservative/Republican positions; it's therefore more bothersome to me when I bump up against lefty/liberal positions that I find dubious or objectionable, since it's more or less a case of being forced to disagree with someone I might be theorized to be in agreement with, and more or less a case of finding someone possibly undermining with a bad argument a position whose conclusion I might otherwise share. I'd prefer to take such (all too frequent) experiences as less of a given than I take my frequent disagreements with many conservative and Republican positions and arguments.

And thus I engage in my own slight degree of factionalism and splittism. :-| (That's a smiley of someone being deadpan.)