History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Fukuyama’s darwinization

July 14th, 2011 · No Comments

Adam Kirsch
The Dawn of Politics
Francis Fukuyama goes back to the beginning.

Fukuyama’s new book is a sad case. I feel almost embarrassed that I critiqued his Hegelian ‘end of history’ book so strongly over the years. Pehaps he felt driven out of the Hegel disneyland by all such critics as I, often lobbing blasts from the left. But I should note that that criticism was never on the grounds of some kind of reductionist darwinism as preferable. His neo-con perspective lurking behind the scenes drove liberal/left critics to ridicule his book. But in retrospect Fukuyama’s new darwinization is intellectual regression/degradation, while his ‘end of history’ thesis stumbled on something deep, so deep that Fukuyama himself didn’t understand it.
Another problem was the Kojevian slant, still oozing out from the neo-con wrapper. Kojeve is a fascinating character, but has he really understood Hegel, etc…. But Kojeve seems to have rescued Fukuyama at the time from what was obviously his tendency to what we now see, straight sociology, darwinism, etc… Kojeve was a leftist materialist, or was he? His predestigation of Hegel has a brilliant cast, at once cynical, crypto-Stalinist, ruthless, idealism tucked away behind historical materialism. Along comes Fukuyama who stir-fry’s a brilliantly sly political commody-fetish. In that brouhaha the phrase ‘end of history’ totally misunderstood by all parties, including Fukuyiama, became the football of op-ed jargonizing. I can’t rescue the phrase ‘end of history’ from its botched usage, but I can guess from its lineage what might have been its better usage: the ‘end of history’, as often, is a play on the term ‘end’ and ‘ends’ in the teleological sense. Hegel believed in the directional telos of freedom in the history of spirit. That idealism was too much for most, so Fukuyama cleverly repackaged the idea behind a veil of Nietzsche/Kojeve, straight sociological jargon, and capitalist ideology.
The constant harping that we hadn’t reached the ‘end of history’ (cf. troglodytes like Kaplan and his warmongering neo-con drool) missed the point entirely. But Fukuyama seems not to have grasped his own thesis. Now, I doubt if I could explicate Hegel properly myself, but surely the term ‘end of history’ has to be seen in the context of Hegel’s analysis of modernity: the rise of the modern is an ‘end of history’ (that dratted pun again, the ‘end’ /telos of history, an ‘end’/telos of history) that is not the ‘end of historical happenstance’ but something that is, or should be, irreversible, i.e. the achievements of freedom against the inertia of history.
I must note, btw, that if you examine all this in light of the eonic effect and its ‘modern transition’ it all makes instant sense: the end of history is not the end of temporal chronicle, but the realization of a discrete stage in a continuous stream, the rise of liberalism/democracy/freedoms, the achievements of the French Revolution, etc…
In that sense all the paradoxes of the phrase ‘end of history’ fall away as the real meaning of Hegel comes to the fore. But Fukuyama confused the issue by making his thesis so conservative. He had a point, to be sure: the Hegelian ‘end of history’ said nothing about communism, and the fall of bolshevism made the reassertion of the Hegelian liberalism (if it was that) seem very much to the point.
But I don’t think that Hegel was quite the market ideologist that Fukuyama was/is. That the ‘end of history’ might be something beyond the liberal phase of history, with its market fixation, is a continuing question mark, and should have been able to resurface precisely after the fall of so-called communism.
In any case, as noted, the discrete phase of the modern transition yields a concept and model that makes sense of the whole muddle, even Hegel’s, despite his brilliant intuition of what I call the ‘eonic effect’ in its modern aspect.
Using the ‘eonic model’, with is overlay of discrete sequence and continuous history, the distinction between the ‘end of history’ as a telelogical process, and the ‘end of history’ as a streaming chronicle is easily made.

The use of Darwin by Fukuyama now is, sadly, a total failure. It just won’t work. He was closer to the answer with Hegel, however much he bungled the job. The rise of politics, as Hegel sensed, is not reducible to standard evolutionary darwinism.
Again, if we examine the eonic effect, we see that the new and transformed definition of ‘evolution’ in that context shows how macroevolutionary processes are behind all of the major innovations in politics.
And the emergence of democracy, as noted yesterday, is strongly correlated with this non-random emergentism.
In a work, darwinization of his material sets Fukuyama into reverse gear with still another contribution to the bad scholarship and conceptual muddle of the evolutionary psychologists.

The chimp way of war: for Fukuyama, a primitive form of political lifeIt’s possible that Francis Fukuyama does not take unmixed pleasure in his fame as the author of The End of History and the Last Man. Ever since Fukuyama published that book in 1992—indeed, ever since he published the article on which it was based in The National Interest in 1989—he has been shadowed by the phrase “the end of history.” Since then, he has written five more books on big, complex subjects, ranging from the decline of trust in American society to the future of genetic engineering, and he has participated in countless policy debates. Yet on the cover of his new book, The Origins of Political Order, he once again is identified as “the author of The End of History and the Last Man.”

Will this book—a 500-page survey of the growth of states “from prehuman times to the French Revolution,” with a promised second volume taking the story up to the present—finally be the one to emancipate Fukuyama from the end of history? The question is justified not simply by the size, scope, and ambition of the project but, above all, by its emphasis on origins. If the end of the Cold War represented the end of history, Fukuyama’s new book starts over at the beginning, with the emergence of the first states out of kin-based tribes more than 4,000 years ago. In the introduction, Fukuyama explains that his purpose in The Origins of Political Order is to offer a new theory of political development, to supersede the one that his mentor Samuel Huntington advanced in his 1968 study Political Order in Changing Societies.

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