||In 1989, The National Interest published ``The End of History?'' by Fukuyama, then a senior official at the State Department. In that comparatively short but extremely controversial article, Fukuyama speculated that liberal democracy may constitute the ``end point of mankind's ideological evolution'' and hence the ``final form of human government.''
Now Fukuyama has produced a brilliant book that, its title notwithstanding, takes an almost entirely new tack. To begin with, he examines the problem of whether it makes sense to posit a coherent and directional history that would lead the greater part of humanity to liberal democracy. Having answered in the affirmative, he assesses the regulatory effect of modern natural science, a societal activity consensually deemed cumulative as well as directional in its impact. Turning next to a ``second, parallel account of the historical process,'' Fukuyama considers humanity's struggle for recognition, a concept articulated and borrowed (from Plato) by Hegel. In this context, he goes on to reinterpret culture, ethical codes, labor, nationalism, religion, war, and allied phenomena from the past, projecting ways in which the desire for acknowledgement could become manifest in the future.
Eventually, the author addresses history's presumptive end and the so-called ``last man,'' an unheroic construct (drawn from Tocqueville and Nietzsche) who has traded prideful belief in individual worth for the civilized comforts of self-preservation. Assuming the prosperity promised by contemporary liberal democracy indeed come to pass, Fukuyama wonders whether or how the side of human personality that thrives on competition, danger, and risk can be fulfilled in the sterile ambiance of a brave new world.
At the end, the author leaves tantalizingly open the matter of whether mankind's historical journey is approaching a close or another beginning; he even alludes to the likelihood that time travelers may well strike out in directions yet undreamt. An important work that affords significant returns on the investments of time and attention required to get the most from its elegantly structured theme. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates
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