End of history

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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. A variety of authors have argued that a particular system is the "end of history" including Thomas More in Utopia, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Vladimir Solovyov, Alexandre Kojève,[1] and Francis Fukuyama in the 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man.[2]

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. 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".[3]Arnold Gehlen adopted it in 1952 and it has been taken up more recently by Heidegger and Vattimo.[3]

The formal development of an idea of an "end of history" is most closely associated with Hegel, although Hegel discussed the idea in ambiguous terms, making it unclear whether he thought such a thing was a certainty or a mere possibility.[4] The goal of Hegel's philosophy on history was to show that history is a process of realization of reason, for which he does not name a definite endpoint. Hegel believes that it is on the one hand the task of history to show that there is essentially reason in the development over time, while on the other hand history itself also has the task of developing reason over time. The realization of history is thus something that one can observe, but also something that is an active task.[5]

In postmodernism[edit]

A postmodern understanding of the term differs in 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".[6]

Francis Fukuyama[edit]

A name that is commonly linked to the concept of the end of history in contemporary discourse is Francis Fukuyama. Fukuyama brought the term back to the forefront with his essay The End of History? that was published months before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In this essay, which he later expanded upon in his book The End of History and the Last Man in 1992, Fukuyama builds on the knowledge of Hegel, Marx and Kojève. The essay centers around the idea that now that its two most important competitors, fascism and communism, have been defeated, there should no longer be any serious competition for liberal democracy and the market economy.[7]

In his theory, Fukuyama distinguishes between the material or real world and the world of ideas or consciousness. He believes that in the realm of ideas liberalism has proven to be triumphant, meaning that even though a successful liberal democracy and market economy have not yet been established everywhere, there are no longer any ideological competitors for these systems. This would mean that any fundamental contradiction in human life can be worked out within the context of modern liberalism and would not need an alternative political-economic structure to be resolved. Now that the end of history is reached, Fukuyama believes that international relations would be primarily concerned with economic matters and no longer with politics or strategy, thus reducing the chances of a large scale international violent conflict.

Fukuyama concludes that the end of history will be a sad time, because the potential of ideological struggles that people were prepared to risk their lives for has now been replaced with the prospect of "economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands."[8] This does not mean that Fukuyama believes that a modern liberal democracy is the perfect political system, but rather that he does not think another political structure can provide citizens with the levels of wealth and personal liberties that a liberal democracy can.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Boucher, Geoff. "History and Desire in Kojève".
  2. ^ Fukuyama himself began to revise his ideas and abandon some of the neoconservative components of his thesis since the Iraq War. Interview with Ex-Neocon Francis Fukuyama: "A Model Democracy Is not Emerging in Iraq" Spiegel Online, March 22, 2006
  3. ^ a b 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.
  4. ^ William Desmond, "Hegel, Art, and History", in Robert L. Perkins, ed., History and System: Hegel's Philosophy of History (1984), p. 173.
  5. ^ Fillion, R. (2008). Multicultural Dynamics and the Ends Of History: Exploring Kant, Hegel and Marx, p. 89
  6. ^ Simon Malpas, The Postmodern (2004), p. 89, quoting Keith Jenkins (2001), p. 57.
  7. ^ Fukuyama, F. (1989) "The End of History?". The National Interest', p 1.
  8. ^ Fukuyama, F. (1989) "The End of History?". The National Interest, p 17.
  9. ^ Fukuyama, F. (2013). "The 'End of History' 20 Years Later". New Perspectives Quarterly. 30 (4): 31. doi:10.1111/npqu.11399. Retrieved 10 October 2023.

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