End of history
The end of history is a political and philosophical concept that supposes that a particular political, economic, or social system may develop that would constitute the end-point of humanity's sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government. Various forms of systems have been proposed to meet this definition, as posited by Thomas More in Utopia, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx, Vladimir Solovyov and Francis Fukuyama. Fukuyama published a 1989 essay, The End of History?, in the international-affairs journal The National Interest, proposing that the advent of Western liberal democracy represented this end-point. Fukuyama expanded on this essay in a 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man.
The formal development of an idea of an "end of history" is most closely associated with Hegel, although it is noted that Hegel himself discussed the idea in ambiguous terms, making it unclear whether he thought such a thing was a certainty or a mere possibility.
The concept of an end of history differs from ideas of an end of the world as expressed in various religions, which may forecast a complete destruction of the Earth or of life on Earth, and the end of the human race as we know it. The end of history instead proposes a state in which human life continues indefinitely into the future without any further major changes in society, system of governance, or economics.
The phrase, 'the end of history' was first used by French philosopher and mathematician Antoine Augustin Cournot in 1861 "to refer to the end of the historical dynamic with the perfection of civil society". It is noted that "Arnold Gehlen adopted it in 1952 and it has been taken up more recently by Heidegger and Vattimo".
It has been noted that "the idea of an 'end of history' does not imply that nothing more will ever happen. Rather, what the postmodern sense of an end of history tends to signify is, in the words of contemporary historian Keith Jenkins, the idea that 'the peculiar ways in which the past was historicized (was conceptualized in modernist, linear and essentially metanarrative forms) has now come to an end of its productive life; the all-encompassing “experiment of modernity” . . . is passing away into our postmodern condition'.
- William Desmond, "Hegel, Art, and History", in Robert L. Perkins, ed., History and System: Hegel's Philosophy of History (1984), p. 173.
- Mike Featherstone, "Global and Local Cultures", in John Bird, Barry Curtis, Tim Putnam, Mapping the Futures: Local Cultures, Global Change (1993), p. 184, n. 3.
- Simon Malpas, The Postmodern (2004), p. 89, quoting Keith Jenkins (2001), p. 57.