One of the most important phrases in this legacy is the “end of history.” The phrase was made famous by Francis Fukuyama’s essay and book, which argued that liberal democracy was the final form of human government. The trend toward liberal democracy seemed plausible when he was writing in the early post-Cold War euphoria, but a mini-industry sprang up after the 9/11 attacks in debunking the argument. While Fukuyama’s phrase is often derided, but our western political thought is built on the legacy that Fukuyama explores. Even those that debunk Fukuyama’s end of history generally subscribe to the ideas that spawned it: that political development is progressing toward a single, perfected form of human government. From Marxists to neo-conservatives, pundits believe that once we all arrive at this final form of government, we will find a peaceful utopia.
The problem with this idea is that those marching to a different end are seen as heretics. It is for good reason that today’s “clash of civilizations” seems like a holy war. Even secular positions are held with religious fervor. This is because western political thought is colored strongly by teleology: the idea that events are marching toward a single, determined endpoint. The ancients were certainly concerned with perfecting government, yet they tended to have a more cyclical view of human events, with governance and fortune oscillating between perfected and corrupted poles.
With the advent of Christianity, thinkers adapted the linear concept of progress toward the Kingdom of Heaven to human governance. Saint Augustine of Hippo was one of the first to pair the concept of the city of man on earth to the City of God. Augustine, a North African bishop writing during the waning days of the Roman Empire, centered his concerns on the City of God, but he discussed the earthly city of man at length, acknowledging that the city of man would always be an imperfect place of strife, but pointing out ways that man could seek good on earth.
The end of history ideal took off during the Enlightenment. The growing success of the natural sciences in making sense of the universe fuelled academic efforts to understand the social world. Immanuel Kant argued that universal laws determined humanity’s individually incomprehensible actions. Added together, these acts swept humankind toward a singular end determined by Nature: a universal history. A central feature of this history was man’s “unsocial sociability,” which drove him to congregate in society, but oppose his fellows and seek rank amongst them, driving the improvement of human capabilities and lawful order. Thus, he felt the greatest problem facing humanity was “the achievement of a universal civic society which administers law among men.” Kant argued that this was not possible without creating “a lawful external relation among states.” This idea and his 1795 essay Perpetual Peace would become the modern “democratic peace theory,” which posits that democracies do not go to war against each other. Thus, a world of democracies equals a world of peace. This ideal has undeniable roots in the Christian thinking of Augustine. “The wicked fight among themselves; and likewise the wicked fight against the good and the good against the wicked. But the good, if they have reached perfect goodness, cannot fight among themselves.”. While this idea has been challenged and translated into secular terms, its religious roots go a long way to explaining the fervency of democracy promotion. Those states that did not march in the same direction became a threat to the perpetual peace that shimmered at the end of this universal history.
The philosopher and historian Georg Wilhelm Friederich Hegel furthered Kant’s ideas. A professor at the University of Jena, he was smitten when he saw Napoleon riding through the city during the battle that raged there. Hegel felt that the revolution sweeping Europe posited the universal rights of man. Once the transformation was complete, Hegel believed that all of the major issues of man’s socio-political existence were on the cusp of being resolved, after which there would be no history to speak of. Hegel focused on humans’ struggle for recognition and dignity, writing about the historical interaction of masters and slaves. Hegel described history as a dialectical process, consisting of thesis and antithesis, master and slave, which clash to create a synthesis. In the human experience, this was the battle between those who attempted to dominate others and those who either acquiesced to this or battled for recognition.
Hegel and others stood Augustine’s argument on its head, asserting that man must realize the Kingdom of Heaven on earth by creating the perfect state. As an aside, today’s Islamists make the same argument. Their Enlightenment predecessors sought higher truth not in religion, but in supposed universal laws of nature and humanity’s active arbitration of its fate. The attempt to supplant the supernatural with science can be seen in the churches of Paris, which became temples of the Cult of Reason during the French Revolution. It is often forgotten that Catholicism was banned in the quest for liberty, equality, and fraternity. The war between the zealots of progress and of reaction has waxed and waned, but never disappeared. The battle between neo-traditional extremists and the zealous evangelists of “progress” raging today is yet another episode of the same struggle, in which both sides believe they hold the absolute truth. The conflict is waxing once again because the power structure of the political world is changing significantly, while the march of political modernization is expanding across new horizons.
In ways, conflict has entered an era much like that of the religious wars that preceded the Peace of Augsburg, which gave rulers the right to set the religion within their dominion, and Westphalia, which sanctified the sovereignty of the territorial state. Based on various conceptions of universal rights, pundits advocate the abrogation of sovereignty and the imposition of secular ideologies. Systemic conflict over universal norms and values, combined with a belief that these values should transcend the sovereignty of states, harks back nearly half a millennium. Terrified by the wars of religion that plagued the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, European statesmen created a heavy legacy of logical, legal, and moral restrictions on politics and war in the attempt to make their relations more rational and predictable. The wars of the twentieth century turned this body of law on its head and spread the theater of conflict across the world. Rulers used ideology to mobilize entire societies, which subsequently bore the brunt of total war. The victorious leaders then offered the current liberal hypothesis as a natural preventative to future wars. Critically, its adherents believe that for the hypothesis to succeed it must be universally adopted by all states and societies. Any that resist are seen as blocking the march of human progress and impairing the world system.
From Social Darwinism to Marxist thought, philosophers pointed the way toward an eternal ideal of peace. Nineteenth century thinkers derived confidence in their concepts from sources as varied as the will of God, the laws of Nature, and even mathematics, but all attempted to find harmony between the interests of individuals and that of society, pointing them towards concepts of democracy and some degree of socialism. During this period, the concept of laissez-faire, a hands-off government policy, was seen as the best way of reconciling the egoism of individualism with the greater good, driven by logic like that of the Kantian universal history. Marx, too, built off of Kant and Hegel, focusing on a material dialectic, rather than a spiritual one. While Marxism has a negative connotation, especially for American readers, Marxist thought has a towering influence on a vast array of scholarship that came in its wake, either modifying or refuting Marx’s message. Even after the collapse of the communist system thinkers are still conversing with Marx. While the neo-conservative Francis Fukuyama declares communism dead in The End of History and the Last Man, he uses Marxist terminology to argue that it is liberal democracy, not communism, that is finally free of “fundamental internal contradictions.”
While Fukuyama’s work is far more nuanced than many give him credit for, he is just another in a long line of utopian thinkers. This book will provide no blueprint for perfect government. Government is imperfect because it is human. It always will be. Americans are especially prone to such errors of hoping otherwise. We believe in our exceptionalism and in a morally driven, perhaps God-given mission to make the world a better place. Thus, whether American pundits and policymakers overtly believe in “the end of history” or not, the vast majority of them believe that America is closest to that secret. Drawing out this point of view, not only does the nation have an obligation to share its enlightenment with the world, but also it cannot be secure until it has spread liberal democracy and economies across the globe. The idea in western political thought that history must progress toward a single determined end (i.e., teleology), that being the utopia of a community of liberal democracies, makes foreign policy very strident. The belief in and insistence upon following a single path of progress underpinned by undeniable “universal truths” makes dialogue and compromise challenging at best. At worst, secular ideology becomes as inflexible and righteous as religious doctrine and sets states on a collision course.
 Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” The National Interest, no. 16, (Summer 1989): 3-18, and The End of History and the Last Man, (New York: Free Press, 1992).
 Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72, no. 3, (Summer 1993): 22-49 and The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996).
 See for example Aristotle, The Politics, ed. by Stephen Everson, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983), esp. Book III.
 Saint Augustine, City of God, trans. by Henry Bettenson, (New York: Penguin, 2003).
 Immanuel Kant, “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View,” On History, trans. by Lewis White Beck, (New York: Bobbs-Merrilll Co, 1963 (1784)).
 Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Essay, trans. by M. Campbell Smith, (New York: Macmillan, 1903 (1795)).
 Augustine, The City of God, trans. by Henry Bettenson, (New York: Penguin, 1972), 600-601, (XV: 5).
 Among others, see Christopher Layne, “Kant or Can’t: The Myth of the Democratic Peace Theory,” International Security 19, no. 2, (August 1994): 5-49 and Sebastian Rosato, “The Flawed Logic of Democratic Peace Theory,” American Political Science Review 97, (2003): 585-602.
 Georg W.F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. by J.B. Baille, (Digireads, 2009). Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit, ed. by Allan Bloom, trans. by James H. Nichols, Jr., (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1980), 67-68. See also how Augustine treated the master-slave dichotomy: Saint Augustine, City of God, trans. by Henry Bettenson, (New York: Penguin, 2003), 875, (XIX: 15).
 Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit. Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, 67-68. See also John Maynard Keynes, The End of Laissez-Faire, (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004 ), 15-18.
 John Maynard Keynes, The End of Laissez-Faire, (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004 ), 17-21.
 Fukuyama, The End of History, xi.