The End of History As We Know It

19 January 2023

1.6 MINS

Has Western civilisation reached its nadir in its politico-economic development? Have we reached the end of “history”?

No thesis has been more pooh-poohed than Francis Fukuyama’s (routinely misunderstood) End of History thesis.

Jonah Goldberg, in thinking about the “miracle” that is capitalism, makes a rare (and refreshing) defence of this thesis:Suicide of the West book - end of history

“We cannot improve upon the core assumptions of the Miracle. Every other kind of economics — if there even is any other kind of economics — concerns itself not with creating wealth but with how to distribute it. That is not economics; that is politics.”

Economic Conundrum

The question posed by Fukuyama and Goldberg is not whether capitalism and some form of liberalism (Suicide of the West is about the fate of what Goldberg terms “liberal capitalist democracy“) will remain the permanent state of human affairs, at least in the West, something that is a very open question at this stage.

No, the real question they pose — one worth contemplating seriously — is whether a better economic system than capitalism and a better political system than liberalism is even possible. If not, then we are indeed at the end of economic and political history in the sense of the discovery of optimal organisational modes.

If we did arrive at the end of history back in the ’90s, then all alternative proposals to capitalism and liberalism, whether old or new, represent degradation.


I think it is fair to say that we are at a utopian moment in history. We may look back (if not us, then perhaps our grandchildren and their children) and realise that we had indeed arrived at the end of history and for whatever reason decided that we did not like it, and thus started fantasising about more ideal forms of political and economic organisation that have not been tried yet, or pining after older modes that are now viewed through romantic eyes.

Whether we will succumb to delusion and try to implement some utopian vision, which this time around will work where all others have failed, pinky-swear, remains to be seen.

If we decide to ditch capitalism and/or liberalism, then there may be no returning to the end of history again. So be careful what you wish for, kids.


Originally published on Dr Jonathan Cole’s page.

Subscribe to his podcast, The Political Animals, for more insights.
Photo by David McBee.


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