Politics

On the End of History

The Politburo of the East German Communist Party had made a fatal mistake. It had met in emergency session on the cold evening of November 9, 1989, as the country’s border controls were collapsing and hundreds of thousands of people were in the streets of East Berlin demanding democratic reforms and human rights. Communist regimes were disintegrating in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania, and similar irreversible processes were under way in the Soviet Union itself. The party chiefs knew there would be no Soviet support for a brutal crackdown, as Mikhail Gorbachev pursued his campaign to modernise communism. Almost casually there emerged a proposal to lift the ban on East Germans leaving the country, and the Politburo grasped at it, hoping to relieve the pressure while aligning itself with the liberalisation being promoted by Moscow. Just before 7 p.m. the order was given, and by midnight thousands of Ossis were surging through the checkpoints to be greeted by Wessis waiting with flowers and champagne on the other side.

Soon people, delirious with joy, were dancing on top of the Wall in front of the Brandenburg Gate, where eight months later half a million people joined Roger Waters of Pink Floyd in a massive star-studded concert version of The Wall, culminating in a stirring rendition of “The Tide is Turning” that helped embed the event as an iconic occasion in popular culture. In one hugely symbolic moment the Cold War effectively came to an end. The dismantling of the Soviet bloc and the foundation of democratic states in its stead had still to unfold, but the Wall was down and the Iron Curtain had parted. It seemed that the world had evaded the abyss of a new dark age and could finally move forward into “the broad, sunlit uplands of freedom” that Churchill had so eloquently evoked fifty years before as he galvanised the besieged liberal democracies after France had capitulated to the other great totalitarian force of the twentieth century.

The rest is history. Indeed, for one enterprising young State Department policy analyst, it was the end of history, or, more precisely, the End of History, an Hegelian apotheosis in which the myriad conflicts inherent in global politics were finally resolved and liberal democracy emerged victorious over communism and its other opponents in the great war of ideologies that had shaped the modern world. In a stupefying act of career-defining prescience, Francis Fukuyama had submitted his article “The End of History” only months before to the National Interest where it was published in its Summer issue of 1989, provoking widespread interest, including in the October 1989 issue of Quadrant, which published incisive critiques by the eminent political philosophers Samuel P. Huntington and David Stove.

Fukuyama later emphasised that he was not making the absurd claim that historical events would now no longer occur. Obviously they would continue, in an endlessly transient fashion, providing a steady supply of content to fill our newspapers and television and computer screens. There would be no end to that. What was culminating was the underlying historical logic to those events, which had finally reached its destination. Consequently, Fukuyama declared an end to “History … understood as a single, coherent, evolutionary process … taking into account the experience of all peoples in all times”. He explored how this all-encompassing teleological vision of Universal History was developed by Kant, Hegel and Marx, and concluded, first, that “it makes sense for us once again to speak of a coherent and directional History of mankind that will lead the greater part of humanity to liberal democracy”; and second, that this could be seen to have been operating through modern history to reach its climax in that epochal moment some two decades ago.

The serendipitous events that placed Fukuyama’s thesis before a world eager to receive such good news has been described by Jacob Heilbrunn in They Knew They Were Right (2008). The editor of National Interest, Owen Harries, and its publisher, Irving Kristol, wanted to promote the journal and were on the lookout for “the Big Article” that would generate controversy and place it at the centre of public debate. Harries (who had honed his skills in Australia as an academic, and a policy adviser and speechwriter for Malcolm Fraser), saw the potential of Fukuyama’s piece and “resorted to an old editor’s trick to try to gain some attention for it [by soliciting] a symposium of contributors to respond to it”, with Kristol amongst them, observing about Fukuyama’s approach that he was “delighted to welcome G.W.F. Hegel to Washington, D.C.”

Suddenly, “embassies, governments, and journalists from all over the globe contacted the National Interest, desperate to obtain a faxed copy [and] the magazine had to order several more print runs to keep up with demand”, including one from the office of Margaret Thatcher. Fukuyama immediately set about turning his article into a large book, which he published in 1992 as The End of History and the Last Man, rekindling some of the excitement that had surrounded his article and further fuelling the conventional wisdom of the time, which postulated the inevitability of a globalised world led by America and the other triumphant liberal democracies. Amongst the more balanced and informed responses to the book was a comprehensive critique by Keith Windschuttle in The Killing of History (1994).

At the time, Fukuyama was one of the younger members of the increasingly influential neoconservative movement. He had done his undergraduate studies at Cornell University in the early 1970s while the university was still reeling in the aftermath of the prolonged and violent protests by armed Black Power advocates and their student and faculty supporters. This had resulted in the capitulation of the university administration to demands to drop disciplinary actions and to make curriculum changes, which prompted an exodus of leading academics. One of these was Allan Bloom, who responded some years later with his famous exposé, The Closing of the American Mind (1987), in which he deplored how university professors, “the repositories of our best traditions and highest intellectual aspirations, were fawning over what was nothing better than a rabble”, complying to demands to make public confessions of guilt in a fashion reminiscent of Stalinist show trials, and meekly adopting the ideological agenda of militants who were little more than fascists. However, before he could leave Cornell, Bloom had to teach for one final semester, and Fukuyama, who was also appalled by the capitulation of the university, took his course.

This decision took the young Fukuyama into the orbit of those neoconservatives who were influenced by the German-born Jewish political philosopher Leo Strauss, who had been Bloom’s teacher at the University of Chicago. Central among these neoconservatives was Bloom’s student Paul Wolfowitz, for whom Fukuyama later worked as an intern in government while completing his doctoral studies at Harvard, and who later appointed him to the policy planning staff of the State Department under the new Reagan administration. Fukuyama was now part of a team that “became over the following two decades, the heart of a new neoconservative network within the foreign policy bureaucracy”, as James Mann observed in Rise of the Vulcans (2004). Moreover, this team “turned out to be the training ground for a new generation of national security specialists, many of whom shared Wolfowitz’s ideas, assumptions and interests”, and underlying these was the complex political philosophy of Strauss.

In his lifetime Strauss (1899–1973) was regarded as an apolitical figure who never sought a public profile. He had acquired an academic eminence based on his deep knowledge of ancient and modern philosophical texts and the sacred works of the Christian, Judaic and Muslim traditions, to which he applied a close hermeneutical style of reading that was frequently described as “Talmudic” in its thoroughness and intensity. A principal aim of this approach was the uncovering of the esoteric meaning of the texts embedded below the merely exoteric message with which less attentive and critically attuned readers remain satisfied.

Despite such apparently inoffensive preoccupations Strauss became a very controversial figure. One book, The Truth about Leo Strauss (2006), by Catherine and Michael Zuckert, opens (somewhat ironically) with the observation that “a spectre is haunting America, and that spectre is … Leo Strauss”. Time described him as “one of the most influential men in American politics”; the Economist believed he was the hidden “puppeteer” pulling the strings of American presidents; Le Monde saw him as the master thinker who created the “theoretical substratum” of American foreign policy; while conspiracy theorists have identified him as the godfather of an sinister neoconservative Straussian elite at the highest levels of government; as the principal source of a new American imperialist mission with an agenda for global domination; and as a principal inspiration of the foreign policy that led to America’s wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

His defenders acknowledge that the breadth, depth and complexity of Strauss’s work allow him to be seen as an ambiguous and troubling figure, especially because of the influence wielded by those who were his students, or were students or protégés of his students in academia and government, as with Bloom, Wolfowitz and Fukuyama. Nevertheless, they also insist that Strauss has become essential to the revival of conservative thought, and that his work provides an intellectual depth that is desperately needed, both within that movement and in political discourse more generally. Others have just been bemused at the fuss. As his daughter, Jenny Strauss Clay (herself a professor of classics), objected in 2003: “I do not recognize the Leo Strauss presented in these articles”, as a master manipulator reaching out from the grave; she emphasised instead the role he played as a charismatic teacher, lecturing for hours on arcane issues to devoted students.

Nevertheless, as Wolfowitz, Fukuyama and other neoconservatives knew, there is a dimension to Strauss’s philosophy that is extremely relevant to contemporary politics, and this is his profound analysis of “the crisis of the West”. This view now has wide currency, but Strauss was one of the first to identify and elucidate it in detail. It is a complex conception, but, in terms of understanding Fukuyama’s pivotal notion of an “end of history”, it is vital to note that Strauss had an ambivalent or bifurcated view of the West and its historical role. On one hand, he believed it had an identifiable project—a universalising liberal democratic mission of potentially great benefit for humanity. On the other hand, he had a dark vision of the ontological situation of humanity and despaired of the debilitating crisis of confidence that afflicted the West. In developing his thesis of “the end of history”, Fukuyama derived inspiration principally from the optimistic tendency of Straussian thought, before more recently succumbing somewhat to the anti-Western defeatism and cultural despair of the intelligentsia.

According to Strauss, writing in the middle decades of the twentieth century, the greatest external dangers to the West were clearly the totalitarian movements coming from the East. However, the true crisis was internal, because the West had been betrayed by its intellectual elites and no longer believed in itself or the superiority of its system. Strauss’s lifetime of study and experience in Weimar and Nazi Germany, and then America, had convinced him that integral to the West was its world-historical project, unifying its people around the vision of a universal liberal democratic global civilisation of free and equal nations enjoying affluence, justice and happiness. It is the internal loss of self-belief by the West in this world-historical project, and not merely the existence of external threats, that chiefly constitutes the crisis of the West in the contemporary world.

Strauss believed that the seeds of this crisis were deeply embedded in the origins of the Western tradition and remained potent throughout its trajectory until the modern era, when they were exploited by prophets of nihilism like Nietzsche and Heidegger, and, more recently, Foucault and Derrida. It appears that while this tradition empowered the ascendancy of the West it may now be insufficiently robust to withstand the criticisms of the Western project aggressively expressed by such master thinkers and their intellectual, cultural and political acolytes. Their attacks focus upon the legitimacy of liberal democracy; the value of universalism in its various forms; the authority of rational thought; the parallel pursuit of affluence, justice, equality and human happiness; the role of science in society; the relationship between reason and revelation; and the legitimacy of humanity’s exploitation of nature in the pursuit of its interests. Concerns about such issues emerged in the shadow of the catastrophes of the twentieth century, but they were carefully nurtured by doctrines that deny the possibility of rational and objective knowledge and the universal validity of the core principles involved, and which instead promote increasingly radical forms of relativism and a general Kulturpessimismus. This postmodern counter-project gives expression to a debilitating internal tendency of the Western tradition, once it is deprived of its empowering belief in the rationality and universal value of its historical project, to degenerate into moral nihilism, intellectual sloth and cultural philistinism—to sink entropically to the level of the Nietzschean “last man”, as Fukuyama put it in the conclusion of his book.

In mounting his case, Fukuyama also relied on the interpretation of Hegel promulgated by the Russian-born French philosopher Alexandre Kojève, who was a lifelong friend and correspondent of Strauss and a massive intellectual influence on French intellectual life in the middle of the twentieth century. His interpretation of the master–slave dialectic was particularly influential and is a core component of Fukuyama’s argument, especially in connection with how the desire for recognition amongst people drives political activity. Kojève’s lectures on Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit were “a hypnotic blend of the ideas of Hegel, Marx, Heidegger, and Nietzsche”, as Shadia Drury (a sharp critic of Kojève and Strauss) recounts in Alexandre Kojève: The Roots of Postmodern Politics (1994). Indeed, “all those who listened … were completely spellbound” as he adroitly wove these thoughts into an epic “tale with a tragic ending”, that complemented the analysis developed by Strauss.

Kojève was a bifurcated thinker like Strauss. As Drury observed, he

arouses interest because he is an enigmatic and contradictory figure. On the one hand he is an indefatigable optimist, a modern knight, championing the cause of modernity—rationality, efficiency, a global economy, universal peace, equality, and prosperity. On the other hand, he is a postmodern nihilist—gloomy, pessimistic, melancholic, and just plain bleak.

This duality of thought, a bipolarity of extremes of optimism and pessimism, found in both Strauss and Kojève, asymmetrically informs Fukuyama’s article and especially his book, providing the basis for the divergent assessments of his arguments and uncertainty about his precise political position.

Indeed, Fukuyama’s end-of-history thesis can be seen as a tour de force that both simplified and popularised key notions derived from the analysis he inherited from Bloom, Strauss and Kojève, and which he illustrated by a highly generalised assessment of global politics in the late twentieth century. Fukuyama’s article and especially his book eloquently articulate core elements of the Straussian outlook, most obviously in his commitment to universalism; the notion of Universal History; and in his advocacy of liberal democracy as the telos of history—as its realisation, culmination and completion. It is also apparent in his reliance on nineteenth-century German philosophers like Hegel and Nietzsche, and especially in the particular interpretation of their philosophies that he applies to his analysis of the modern world.

Above all, it was the positive tendency within the thought of his mentors that most inspired Fukuyama, and he had an optimistic, indeed heroic, vision of the historical role and destiny of the West. He had made this clear to Bloom when Bloom invited him to give the paper upon which his article was based in a lecture series on “The Decline of the West” in February 1989. Fukuyama was convinced that the world was witnessing

not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution, and the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

With some qualifications, Fukuyama confirmed the advent of this post-historical world in his book, although the evocation of the anti-heroic “last man” at the end recalls the darker concerns in the work of Strauss, Kojève and Bloom.

Today it is very difficult to ignore the increasingly pervasive mood of Kulturpessimismus. Fukuyama’s optimistic claims now seem little more than absurd, however enticing the notion may be that popular uprisings of liberal democratic enthusiasm can overthrow authoritarian and totalitarian states, as, for example, with the rapidly fading “Arab Spring”. In fact, it seems that such regimes now have the capacity to protect themselves at virtually any cost to their citizenry and that, in the absence of external intervention, their survival is mainly a function of their will-to-power, ruthlessness and military strength, as demonstrated in Iran and more recently in Syria. Certainly, in terms of brute repressive power, the Soviet bloc possessed the same capacity to stifle dissent in 1989 that it had enjoyed throughout the Cold War, and which it had successfully applied when Soviet hegemony was challenged in East Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and Poland in 1980. And Deng Xiaoping had shown in June 1989 that “a million is not a large number” of protesters when he ordered the People’s Liberation Army to clear Tiananmen Square and brutally suppress the reform movement that had emerged in China.

What precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union and its communist client states was therefore not an irresistible popular democratic uprising from below, giving concrete expression to the inevitable triumph of liberal democracy as Fukuyama had proposed. Rather, it was caused by an internal breakdown of legitimacy and confidence within the ruling state apparatus, as the Soviet leadership, under Gorbachev, confronted the reality of Western economic and technological superiority, and chose, fatally, a strategy of “defensive modernisation”, involving an ill-considered “democratisation from above”, over which it was intended the Communist Party would retain control. This strategy involved the provocation, mobilisation and manipulation of the previously supine masses, utilising carefully placed agents of the KGB, Stasi, and other secret police forces across Eastern Europe. That this movement got out of control and pushed on towards some semblance of a liberal democratic revolution was a function of the ineptness of these forces and those directing them, not the deep historical teleology that Fukuyama claimed to have detected operating among the people.

Equally, before Fukuyama’s article there appeared little awareness among the leaders of the Western democracies of such a teleological reading of events, and no real support for an end to the Cold War status quo and a swift transition to liberal democracy in the Soviet bloc. “On the contrary”, as Mark Almond has pointed out in his counterfactual analysis, “1989 Without Gorbachev: What if Communism Had Not Collapsed?” (in Niall Ferguson (ed.), Virtual History, 1997), “the West was happy to see the Soviet Union and its system survive in [the] non-threatening form” it had assumed as America’s massive technological and economic superiority became increasingly obvious. Consequently,

as President Bush showed in his infamous “Chicken Kiev” speech to the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet in the summer of 1991, the United States did not want the Soviet empire to disappear. Referring to the “Soviet nation”—to the bemusement of the Ukrainian deputies—Bush intoned against the threat posed to Gorbachev’s empire by “suicidal nationalism”.

At the time, Bush’s Secretary of State, James Baker, was also assuring the communists that America would not recognise secessionist Slovenia or Croatia, while senior envoys were in Beijing reassuring the regime that the Tiananmen tragedy need not harm US-Chinese trade and security arrangements. And even after the Berlin Wall had been breached, French President Mitterrand was declaring, “Gorbachev will be furious. He won’t accept that. Impossible! I don’t need to oppose it myself; the Soviets will do it for me.” Italian Prime Minister Andreotti was similarly opposed to German reunification and called for the traditional use of tanks to crush the demonstrations. In West Germany, the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left in general resisted reunification, as did the Christian Democrats, while leftist intellectuals wanted only to get on with their endless dialogue with their Marxist comrades, free of interruptions by the communist masses with their “petit-bourgeois” aspirations for freedom along Western lines. Even as late as September 1989, Willy Brandt was condemning talk of reunification as a “living lie”, while the new mayor of West Berlin dismissed the notion as a dead issue. Only Margaret Thatcher welcomed the communist collapse and its implications for Europe. Consequently, “whoever was working for German reunification, it was not the West”, where Fukuyama believed the Weltgeist of liberal democracy reigned supreme.

And tragically, of course, the triumph was fleeting. Released from the Soviet embrace, the Eastern bloc disintegrated economically, leaving the pathetic wreckage that tourists can now visit, to gaze upon ruined factories, vast dilapidated housing estates, and gigantic bureaucratic edifices; while a newly re-established Russia witnessed a rampaging campaign of asset-stripping unprecedented in history, as enterprising apparatchiks became opportunist entrepreneurs.

Politically, some functional democratic regimes emerged, positioning themselves for admission to the European Union with the massive financial benefits this would bring, but other new states declined into corruption and violence. Even as Fukuyama’s book was appearing in shops in 1992, 100,000 people were marching in the streets of Sarajevo demonstrating against Serbian and Croatian plans to partition Bosnia and expel the large Muslim population. Within days, Serbian forces were shelling the city, eventually killing 12,000 people in a 1200-day siege, while the Europe Community refused to intervene in what was dismissed as an “ancient conflict”. The Yugoslavian civil wars, in an apparently civilised country that had hosted the Winter Olympics less than a decade earlier, eventually saw some 300,000 people killed, 50,000 women systematically raped, and 2 million people displaced in an infamous campaign of “ethnic cleansing”, that set a precedent quickly observed in Rwanda in 1994, where 800,000 people were murdered and another systematic campaign of rape rapidly accelerated the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

It was the eruption of such deeply rooted and hate-filled conflicts that prompted one of Fukuyama’s earliest critics, Samuel P. Huntington, to offer a competing thesis about the dynamics of global history. Huntington followed Fukuyama’s example by proposing his argument first in an article on “The Clash of Civilizations?” in Foreign Affairs in 1993, following up with a best-selling book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order in 1996. According to Huntington, world politics was entering a new phase, “in which the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of international conflict will be cultural”, involving the great civilisations of the world, identified in terms of their distinctive religions, histories, languages and traditions. Huntington identified nine of these, including the West, Islam, Hindu and Sinic civilisations, and he argued that the divisions that exist between them are historically “deep and increasing in importance”. These divisions will find their most tumultuous expression along a series of “civilizational fault-lines” and within “torn countries”—areas where civilisations come into tension with each other. Places such as the Balkans, Turkey, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Chechnya, India and Pakistan, Central Asia, Iberia and North Asia would be

the international battle lines of the future [and] in this emerging era of cultural conflict the United States must forge alliances with similar cultures and spread its values wherever possible. With alien civilizations the West must be accommodating if possible, but confrontational if necessary.

The pessimistic realism of Huntington’s thesis attracted hostile criticism, especially from the Left, which rejected the idea of a clash of civilisations as inherently “Eurocentric”, while also fearing a Western victory if such a clash occurred. Ironically, the view that Islam and the West are locked in inevitable conflict is a fundamental conviction of the Islamist forces that announced their arrival on the global scene with the 9/11 attacks, apparently confirming Huntington’s thesis and falsifying Fukuyama’s.

A decade later it has become obvious that there are many powerful, militant and well-resourced anti-democratic ideologies and political forces operating at large. These form a broad neo-fascist continuum encompassing ethno-nationalism, Islamism, authoritarian statism, technocracy and environmentalism, all of which target and disparage liberal democracy in various ways. Mention can be made of authoritarian states like Russia and China, whose systems are based on exploitation, oppression and corruption, and which nurture hegemonic intentions; but also of Europe, where centripetal forces are rapidly stripping political power from bankrupt but sovereign democracies and concentrating it in the hands of unelected technocrats, as politicians wash their hands of the culture of entitlement embedded in their societies, even as it attracts millions of illegal migrants into what will soon become a demographic maelstrom. Similarly, the environmental movement now makes explicit demands for a suspension of democracy and the establishment of a gargantuan world government, not only to combat alleged global warming but also to carry out a massive redistribution of wealth from productive economies to the numerous dysfunctional states of the world. Even the much vaunted “Arab Spring”—which has generated the same sort of naive optimism that emerged with the fall of the Berlin Wall—is emerging as merely a stage in the ongoing process of regime change, which will ultimately install new theocratic Islamist regimes, military juntas and kleptocracies to replace the ones presently being overthrown.

Moreover, democracy now commands diminishing respect even in those countries that have most enjoyed its benefits. For example, in Australia, the parliamentary system is being debauched, free speech is being criminalised, and special interest groups lobby to have preferential treatment for themselves embedded in the constitution on racial lines. Throughout the universities and the intelligentsia there is contempt for liberal democracy, which is dismissed as the engine-room of every form of social injustice, while “the crisis of the West” corrodes all belief in reason, objectivity and universal values. In the schools its legitimacy is being systematically undermined by allegedly “progressive” educational policy; the vigorous promotion of cultural relativism; the denial of a basic history education; the relentless denunciation of Australian society; and by a pervasive notion that rights and entitlements can be enjoyed without responsibilities. Students now arrive at universities ignorant of the historical forces that have providentially shaped their lives, and are happily dependent on a paternalistic state. A recent Lowy Institute survey found that only 39 per cent of those aged of eighteen to twenty-nine affirmed that democracy was preferable to alternative forms of government, compared with 74 per cent of those aged sixty or older.

Consequently, it appears that, in terms of external threats, Huntington’s realist conception of a clash of civilisations is presently more pertinent than Fukuyama’s idealist vision of the end of history. On the other hand, internally, the “crisis of the West” is intensifying, raising the decadent spectre of the Nietzschean “last man” that Fukuyama once lamented. Nevertheless, he has shifted his focus away from such issues and seeks now to occupy the mainstream by distancing himself from neoconservatism and the controversial Straussian legacy, dismissing them as passé. He has also adopted a leftist stance on foreign affairs; attacked America’s involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and publicly endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 election. More recently, he appears to have sunk into the widespread despondency that has engulfed political discourse in America, and which moved Tony Abbott in a speech to the Heritage Foundation in Washington in July to remind his hosts that America has an exceptional global role to play, that “America’s destiny is far from done”, and that it “needs to believe in itself the way others still believe in it”.

Quite disingenuously, Fukuyama has also attempted to redefine his position in “the end of history” debate that he initiated, claiming in the New York Times in 2006 that his argument was misunderstood and that “what is … universal is not the desire for liberal democracy but rather the desire to live in a modern—that is, technologically advanced and prosperous—society”, in which democracy may emerge as a by-product at some future time, perhaps as may happen in China after generations of totalitarian rule and enforced industrialisation. He has also specifically rejected the notion that America has any role to play in promulgating democracy or that there is anything inevitable about its triumph, declaring that “by definition, outsiders can’t impose democracy on a country that doesn’t want it; demand for democracy and reform must be domestic”. Here he ignores the obvious fact that contemporary anti-democratic regimes possess sufficient power to ensure that any such yearnings are suppressed indefinitely. More revealingly, he ignores his own previous insistence that history has a teleological dynamism that impels the world towards liberal democracy and the freedoms only it can provide.

According to this resigned and pessimistic outlook, humanity is little more than flotsam and jetsam carried along amidst an endless stream of transient events, without any telos or meaning to history, or any heroic mission to complete, by America, the West, or anyone else. However, while Fukuyama has relinquished the optimistic vision that made him famous, it is difficult to forget that carpe diem moment some two decades ago when an historical portal suddenly opened and it was possible for masses of humanity to glimpse “the broad, sunlit uplands of freedom” that must still remain a great ideal. And equally there remains much of value in the liberal democratic tradition, and a need to defend it, especially in the continual battle in the West over the nature and legitimacy of the world-historical project that Fukuyama once championed but now seems to have forgotten.

Dr Mervyn F. Bendle is Senior Lecturer, History and Communication, at James Cook University. He wrote on Robert Spencer’s book Did Muhammad Exist? in the July-August issue.

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