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The Liberal Democratic State: The End Of History Or Simply Another Epoch?

1276 words - 5 pages

In his contentious book, "The End of History and the Last Man" (1992), Francis Fukuyama argues that with the “defeat” of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent abandonment of communism as an ideological rival to liberal democracy, mankind has made its final evolution in political theory and liberal democratic governance has been proven to be the superior model. But is Fukuyama’s thesis simply a glib celebration of Western hegemony or is there credence to the idea that the inherent supremacy of the liberal democratic theory of state will inevitably displace any rival world view?In his thesis, Fukuyama contends that injustice or social problems within liberal democratic states, is not in itself proof of the failure of the ideal, but rather evidence of a flawed implementation. However, Fukuyama’s declaration in the introduction to The End of History, that “the ideal of a Liberal Democracy could not be improved on” seemingly overlooks certain contradictions within the liberal-democratic paradigm. In fact, the contention rests precariously on the assumption that “the twin principles of liberty and equality on which modern democracy is founded” are symbiotic, when several prominent thinkers have in fact challenged that very assumption.Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy is America (1835-1840) is a somewhat ambivalent exploration of the young republic in the early nineteenth century; ambivalent because Tocqueville found aspects of American democracy to be both commendable and troubling, furthermore he found American to be a nation of paradoxes. A degree of these paradoxes derived from what he regarded to be “the incommensurability of America’s founding principles” (712), namely the somewhat conflicting traditions of secular enlightenment philosophy and Puritanism. But ultimately he found those traditions to work harmoniously and to be rather significant in the unique stability of the nation (287). What he found most disconcerting were aspects of the democratic system itself, specifically an incongruity between Fukuyama’s “twin principles of liberty and equality”. Tocqueville expressed concern about a tendency towards individualism:“a feeling that disposes each citizen to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and draw apart with his own family and friends; having thus created a smaller society for his own use, he willingly relinquishes the greater society to itself.” (1994: 506).Individualism, a product of liberty, was a concern for Tocqueville because he believed it encouraged a certain apolitical outlook, a tendency to invest little energy in public matters which had the potential to undermine the principle that all governmental action depends on the will of the citizenry – popular sovereignty being a principle fundamental to a democratic society (1994: 604). Sociologist Gianfranco Poggi identified two ways that Tocqueville suggests individualism threatens...

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