From The Hoover Institution: Stanley Kurtz On Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington

Full essay here.

Kurtz discusses some differences between what he sees as Samuel Huntington’s ‘Clash Of Civilizations’ model with Francis Fukuyama’s more optimistic spread of democracy worldview:

” For Fukuyama, the mainspring of history is the liberal yearning for equal recognition. Huntington gruffly retorts, “It is human to hate.” Humans require identity, and they acquire it, says Huntington, through the enemies they choose.”

Kurtz argues that Fukuyama took G.W.F. Hegel (via Alexandre Kojeve) on board, and thus gains his foundations for optimism, but also a certain German idealism:  Fukuyama:

“…revive[s] and reformulate[s] the Anglo-American tradition of liberalism.2 The liberalism of Hobbes and Locke is founded upon the relatively “low” human goals of self-preservation and the desire for wealth. Hobbes, for example, singles out “vainglory” as the greatest threat to peace:”


“Fukuyama notices that liberal theory, in grounding itself on security and prosperity, overlooks something fundamental about democracy — namely, the desire for recognition by others of one’s freedom and equality as a human being.”

Thus Kurtz, despite respecting the flexibility of Fukyama’s vision, has reservations about such an influence and seems to fall back into the Huntingtonian model.   He argues that Fukuyama has also assumed that individualism as a central concept in Western societies’ also extends to non-Western ones:

 “In most of the non-Western world, on the other hand, kinship is at the core of traditional social structure, and kinship ties have proven highly portable and adaptable to urban environments.”

A valuable insight.  Perhaps the specter of Plato’s Republic lurks here as well.  That is to say:  freedom will become the highest good in our democracy, and people being what we are, we will pursue this good excessively until it creates a threat to democracy itself.   So how do you save egalitarianism from the egalitarians?  by looking toward German and Continental thought?  Is this a worthy goal? 

But I’m getting off topic:

“Fukuyama wants to see America actively promote democracy abroad. Huntington, on the other hand, ever the realist, warns about the potentially disastrous effects of an arrogant and naïve democratic imperialism.”

I think Huntington also wanted to simply point out that there was a deeper Western tradition of which American liberalism (and I think obviously a lot of neo-conservatism as well) is a part, and when applied to American liberalism (and in U.S. foreign policy toward non-Western societies)…shows their limitations. 

Kurtz ends with:

“Perhaps someday, the peoples of the world will all be seeking to strike the balance of modernity and tradition within a broadly liberal democratic framework. Until that day, however, the end of history and the clash of civilizations will remain perplexing and simultaneous truths, the measure of which we shall be compelled to take without benefit of overarching formula or guide”

Well, I’m not sure he’s got beyond the Huntingtonian map, but then again, he didn’t really set out to do so (obviously I haven’t either).   

Also On This Site:  The previous 3 posts:  From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom Bloggingheads: Eli Lake And Heather Hurlbert On Samuel HuntingtonFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

Samuel P. Huntington - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2004 by World Economic Forum 

from The World Economic Forum’s photostream.

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