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Ideology, virtue and well-being : a critical examination of Francis Fukuyama's notion of liberal democracy.

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This thesis is a critical examination of Fukuyama's "end of history" version of liberalism, in which he announces the triumphant emergence of liberal democracy as a universal form of governance. The thesis seeks to investigate Francis Fukuyama's notion of liberal democracy and his arguments for it, in order to assess the normative impact of market driven political and economic outcomes on the human context or life satisfaction, especially recognition. This is contrasted with Amartya Sen's notion of well-being in order to show that Fukuyama does not pay attention to some of the basic moral demands of human life. The thesis is comprised of an introduction and six chapters. The contents of these chapters can be presented briefly as follows: • The first chapter looks at how Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Kant use the theory of social contract to explain the genesis and justification of the state. Featuring prominently in all their versions of social contract are the values of freedom, equality, and independence of the individual, the process of consensus, the primacy of self-preservation and the necessity of the state. Together these laid the basis for a philosophically reasoned and progressive theory of politics. This chapter also looks at the theory of laissez-faire, which paved the way for a free market economy. This doctrine was developed in the thought of Adam Smith, Ricardo, Mill and Bentham. For Fukuyama these thinkers inaugurated a tradition of political thought that ultimately led to liberalism and democracy. • The second chapter discusses the teleological view of history underlying the philosophical theories of history advanced by Kant, Hegel, and Marx. Each of these thinkers assumes that history is moving towards an end point or goal. It is from these philosophers that Fukuyama appropriates the idea of universality to envisage the universality of liberal democracy. • The third chapter analyzes Fukuyama's "end of history" claim and his arguments for it. When communism finally collapsed, liberal democracy was the only remaining option, he claims. Drawing on Kant's idea of universal history, Hegel's notion of a universal and homogeneous state and Marx's materialist interpretation of history, Fukuyama envisages a global order that will be ushered in by the universal and homogeneous liberal state which is the ultimate goal of liberal democracy. It is the duty of the liberal state to ensure equal and mutual recognition and affirmation of its citizens' freedom. • The fourth chapter stages a debate between Fukuyama and Sen in which the question of life satisfaction and its achievability is addressed. Fukuyama claims that human-beings desire recognition, and can best satisfy this desire through liberal democracy. Sen for his part claims that people need well-being, and can only achieve it through democracy, which he views as a universal value. The discussion shows that although Fukuyama and Sen may share similar political values they differ ideologically and in historical vision. • The fifth chapter deals with the critical evaluation of liberal democracy. Several issues present major problems for liberal democracy. These issues are liberal individualism as the central focus of liberalism and liberal democracy; the global trend against gender bias; the political and cultural homogenization of the world; the problem of parallel histories versus a single inclusive history; desire-satisfaction versus need-satisfaction, and the cultural preconditions of liberal democracy. • The sixth chapter recapitulates the preceding chapters and spells out the conclusion reached in the course of the thesis. The findings on the notion of the "end of history" show that Fukuyama wishes the equal and mutual recognition of the freedom and dignity of all individuals as well as the affirmation of their individual rights. This concern for the individual is laudable. However, excessive individualism threatens the fabric of every society, and Fukuyama realizes that this threat is especially strong in liberal democracy. His suggested solution is to cultivate social capital in the form of trust. This thesis concludes that Fukuyama's medicine is no match for the disease; the whole thrust of the intellectual tradition leading to liberal democracy - and of much else in Western culture since Hobbes - is in the direction of excessive individualism and the withering of community. Moreover, where Fukuyama sees isothymia - the desire for equal recognition, the psychological truth is probably that people desire to be recognized as superior - mega/othymia, again making individualism intrinsically more threatening to a sense of community than Fukuyama seems to realize. Fukuyama suggests that an international consensus in favour of liberal democracy is emerging. But it appears that such a consensus is unlikely to arise nation- states fear disenfranchisement and assimilation and thus insist on their sovereignty, effectively blocking any shift from the nation-state to a homogeneous and universal liberal state. It is difficult to generate the consensus needed to receive it as a universal system, because not all people subscribe to its cultural preconditions. The satisfaction of human desire of any kind cannot be universalized since human existence is centrally characterized by diversity of context, culture, and perception. Any attempt to impose cultural or ideological homogeneity requires conquest - cultural or military imperialism. The triumphant emergence of liberal democracy cannot be the ultimate end of the whole of human history. If this were the case, it would no longer be worth trying to increase human knowledge, since knowledge always points to an open future in terms of how it will be used for further advancement. Due to its internal contradictions, such as the tension between excessive individualism and community, liberal democracy has unintended negative consequences. Liberal democracy is not yet the final ideology leading to human satisfaction at a global level for this generation and generations to come as long as human thought evolves. This will remain the case as long as Fukuyama's admission that liberal democracy only works where its cultural preconditions are met, remains true.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2003.


Liberalism., Fukuyama, Francis--Contributions in political science., Theses--Philosophy.