X Close

Why Fukuyama was right all along Long dismissed as liberal hubris, The End of History accurately predicted that the West's greatest threat comes from within

War is hell but peace is boring. Photo: Steel Brooks/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

War is hell but peace is boring. Photo: Steel Brooks/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


September 1, 2020   8 mins

The American political philosopher Francis Fukuyama has become, perhaps unfairly, something of a punchline in recent years. Written immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, when global pre-eminence was unexpectedly thrust upon the United States, his National Interest essay The End of History?, later elaborated into a bestselling book, has become a shorthand for liberal hubris. Its central argument, that liberal democracy had essentially won the battle of ideologies and that the arc of history seemed to bend inexorably towards the liberal order, seemed to embody the triumphalist optimism of the 1990s and 2000s, establishing the framework for the politics of the era. 

Now that history has returned with the vengeance of the long-dismissed, few analyses of our present moment are complete without a ritual mockery of Fukuyama’s seemingly naive assumptions. The also-rans of the 1990s, Samuel P. Huntington’s The Clash of Civilisations thesis and Robert D. Kaplan’s The Coming Anarchy, which predicted a paradigm of growing disorder, tribalism and the breakdown of state authority, now seem more immediately prescient than Fukuyama’s offering. 

Yet nearly thirty years later, reading what Fukuyama actually wrote as opposed to the dismissive précis of his ideas, we see that he was right all along. Where Huntington and Kaplan predicted the threat to the Western liberal order coming from outside its cultural borders, Fukuyama discerned the weak points from within, predicting, with startling accuracy, our current moment.

In The Last Man, the under-discussed addendum to The End of History, Fukuyama took his intellectual cues from Nietzsche rather than Hegel, observing that “it is impossible to complete our present discussion without refer­ring to the creature who reportedly emerges at the end of history, the last man,” a creature who is, “in essence, the victorious slave”. With all his demands met and material wants assuaged, will the last man be content at last, pausing the endless revolving wheel of history?

“Left to themselves,” Fukuyama asks, “can those stable, long-standing liberal democracies of Europe and America be indefinitely self-sustaining, or will they one day collapse from some kind of internal rot, much as communism has done?” Beyond the demands for absolute equality, freedom from want and overarching authority which underlie the politics of liberalism, Fukuyama contends, “lies the question of whether there are other deeper sources of discontent within liberal democracy—whether life there is truly satisfying.”

How does this vision compare to the world we live in today? It’s worth noting that Fukuyama radically overestimated the prosperity that the triumphant liberal order would provide for those sheltered under its wings. By all metrics, living standards have declined across the liberal West, leading to the rapid proletarianisation of the middle class in the United States and much of Europe.

The ongoing wave of protests, now curdling into civil conflict in the United States, in which the heavily indebted and downwardly mobile products of the  American university system play such a prominent role, represent a serious challenge to the liberal order birthed from within liberalism. Indeed, here it is darkly ironic to observe Fukuyama in 2011 appreciate just such a threat, though  he directs his warning at China rather than America.

Debating with Weiwei Zhang, the triumphalist theorist of the Chinese civilisation-state, Fukuyama warns that  growing prosperity threatens China’s future stability because “revolutions are never created by poor people. They are actually created by middle-class people. They are created by people who are educated to have opportunities. But these opportunities are blocked by the political or economic system. It is the gap between their expectation and the ability of the system to accommodate their expectation which causes political instability. So the growth of a middle class, I think, is not a guarantee against insurgencies, but a cause of insurgencies.” 

Similarly, in The Last Man, Fukuyama underestimates the potential of liberalism to adopt the zealous moral certainties we now see being proclaimed with revolutionary fervour across the United States, claiming that liberal democracies “do not tell their citizens how they should live, or what will make them happy, virtuous, or great
 In America today, we feel entitled to criticise another person’s smoking habits, but not his or her religious be­liefs or moral behavior.” 

Within the realm of liberalism, Fukuyama asserts, the furious passions of the past had, at the time of writing, been superseded by comfort and plenty, and “the loyalties that drove men to desperate acts of courage and sacrifice were proven by subsequent history to be silly prejudices.” Instead, “men with modern educations are content to sit at home, congratulating themselves on their broadmindedness and lack of fanaticism.”

And yet, Fukuyama predicts, this would be only a temporary reprieve from the great revolving wheel of history. Like August 1914, when “many European publics simply wanted war because they were fed up with the dullness and lack of community in civilian life,” the human soul clamours for more than peace and plenty.

Harking back to the Homeric heroic ideal of Thymos, the greater passions which drive man to seek glory and renown, Fukuyama observes that “Thy­mos is the side of man that deliberately seeks out struggle and sacrifice, that tries to prove that the self is something better and higher than a fearful, needy, instinctual, physically determined animal. Not all men feel this pull, but for those who do, thymos cannot be satisfied by the knowledge that they are merely equal in worth to all other human beings.”

The danger of liberal democracy, for Fukuyama, is that it cannot assuage these passions. With all our material and political wants satisfied, the human soul will search out deeper, older drives, a need for recognition and glory like that which drove Achilles, foreknowing, to his death on the battlefield of Troy. “Those who remain dissatisfied will always have the potential to restart history,” Fukuyama observes, simply because “the virtues and ambitions called forth by war are unlikely to find expression in liberal democracies.” Instead of a world of pacific consumers, blissful lotus eaters happy to enjoy the material benefits and hedonic pleasures of liberalism, “the absence of regular and con­structive outlets for megalothymia may simply lead to its later re­surgence in an extreme and pathological form.” 

In this world— our world— Fukuyama argues, people “will want to risk their lives in a violent battle, and thereby prove beyond any shadow of a doubt to themselves and to their fellows that they are free. They will deliberately seek discomfort and sacrifice, because the pain will be the only way they have of proving definitively that they can think well of themselves, that they remain human beings.”

We are reminded here of Orwell’s comparison of the Utopian technocratic appeals of liberalism, the essential “falsity” of their “hedonistic attitude to life,” with the dark, heroic passions offered by Hitler to the German people. “Hitler has said to them ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet,” Orwell observes, adding “whereas for the common-sense, essentially hedonistic world-view which Mr. Wells puts forward, hardly a human creature is willing to shed a pint of blood.”

In a world with no great causes, where all the grand passions and conflicts of the past have been settled, Fukuyama predicts, “if men cannot struggle on behalf of a just cause because that just cause was victorious in an earlier gen­eration, then they will struggle against the just cause. They will struggle for the sake of struggle. They will struggle, in other words, out of a certain boredom: for they cannot imagine living in a world without struggle. And if the greater part of the world in which they live is characterized by peaceful and prosperous liberal democracy, then they will struggle against that peace and pros­perity, and against democracy.” 

We can see these frustrated passions in the way the miseries of the Syrian Civil War provided a source of relief for thousands of frustrated Westerners who flocked to join one side or another, or to propagandise for their chosen faction from behind a computer screen. As Fukuyama notes, “the fact that a large historical world co-exists with the post-historical one means that the former will hold attractions for cer­tain individuals precisely because it continues to be a realm of struggle, war, injustice, and poverty,” observing astutely that “it is probably healthy for liberal democracies that the Third World exists to absorb the energies and ambitions of such people; whether it is good for the Third World is a different matter.”

We see it also in the stirrings of the multifaceted revolt against the liberal order growing at home, whether the warnings of the Catholic integralist R. R Reno that, tired of the bloodless anomie of liberalism, people will search out “strong gods” in their search for meaning, or in Jacob Siegel and Angela Nagle’s typology of the alt-right as a front in “modernity’s perennial war against itself” which ends with “a camp of rebels fleeing freedom into an embrace of violence, absolutism and the idolatry of race”.

Liberalism, for Fukuyama, if severed from its pre-liberal roots, is destined to fail. “Stable democracy re­quires a sometimes irrational democratic culture,” he cautions, “and a spontaneous civil society growing out of pre-liberal traditions.” Indeed, there is in The Last Man, a striking distaste for the blandness of liberalism, an aesthetic and moral disgust with the world liberal principles has brought into being that goes beyond conservatism into reaction.

“Liberal economic princi­ples provide no support for traditional communities; quite the contrary, they tend to atomize and separate people,” Fukuyama warns. Contrary to the assertions of absolute equality which, at least rhetorically, govern the liberal order, Fukuyama argues that if liberalism attempts “to outlaw differences between the ugly and beautiful, or pretend that a person with no legs is not just the spiritual but the physical equal of someone whole in body, then the argument will in the fullness of time become self-refuting, just as communism was.”  

Like any 21st century internet reactionary, Fukuyama pronounces that “a civilization devoid of anyone who wanted to be recognized as better than others, and which did not affirm in some way the essential health and goodness of such a desire, would have little art or literature, music or intellectual life. It would be incompe­tently governed, for few people of quality would choose a life of public service. It would not have much in the way of economic dynamism; its crafts and industries would be pedestrian and un­changing, and its technology second-rate.”

Furthermore, Fukuyama predicts, in a startlingly prescient passage foreshadowing the rise of the 21st century civilisation-state, “perhaps most crit­ically, it would be unable to defend itself from civilizations that were infused with a greater spirit of megalothymia, whose citizens were ready to forsake comfort and safety and who were not afraid to risk their lives for the sake of dominion”. 

In his aristocratic distaste for the world summoned into being by the temporary triumph of liberalism, his Nietzchean disgust at the Last Man it has created, and his awareness of the stronger and more meaningful passions aroused by the prospect of struggle, sacrifice and glory, Fukuyama is widely at variance with the worldview ascribed to him. Were he writing in today’s more hysterical climate rather than in the early 1990s, he would more likely be accused of meandering towards fascism than of liberal triumphalism.

“The virtues and ambitions called forth by war are unlikely to find expression in liberal democracies,” he observes, and not in celebration. His Last Men, “those earnest young people trooping off to law and business school, who anxiously fill out their rĂ©sumĂ©s in hopes of maintaining the life­styles to which they believe themselves entitled,” neutered by the “liberal project of filling one’s life with material acquisitions and safe, sanctioned ambitions,” are more or less identical to the “Bugmen” of the modern internet far-right. 

Indeed, Fukuyama uncannily foreshadows writers of the modern internet Right like the pseudonymous Bronze Age Pervert, whose Nietzchean glorification of the piratical hero, the Homeric warrior or steppe warlord figure come to overthrow the liberal order in its age of terminal chaos is viewed by liberals as a hateful threat and by a sprinkling of American conservatives as a source of inspiration.

The lazy popular reading of Fukuyama as a liberal triumphalist ignores the darker prophecies he appended to his bestseller, the stark warning that “modern thought raises no barriers to a future nihilistic war against liberal democracy on the part of those brought up in its bosom.” He warns us that, contrary to the assertions so often invoked in his name, “those who remain dissatisfied will always have the potential to restart history”.

Observing the world around us, particularly the wave of popular protests in America, the omphalos of liberalism, that have already devolved into shootings and revenge killings, we now see clearly they already have.


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

arisroussinos

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

158 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

Of course liberalism was always doomed, it was based on the fantasy that if only human beings would depend on reason instead of superstition all would be well, they could perfect themselves and society. It developed out of Protestantism and alongside the growth of Capitalism and became radical after the Second World War with the creation of the UN, welfare state etc.

But whether you turn to Homer or the Bible human beings are not infallibly reasonable, we cannot perfect ourselves or society, the fight between good and evil has always to be fought, both on an individual level as well as out in the wider world.

Without any kind of narrative to explain to people why life is unfair, such as that offered by Christianity or the Classics, people are left with nothing but themselves and their own personal grievances to dwell on.

David George
David George
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Well said (as usual) Clair. You might enjoy this, also one of Jordan Peterson’s Favourites.
“Shower upon him every earthly blessing, drown him in bliss so that nothing but bubbles would dance on the surface of his bliss, as on a sea…and even then every man, out of sheer ingratitude, sheer libel, would play you some loathsome trick. He would even risk his cakes and would deliberately desire the most fatal rubbish, the most uneconomical absurdity, simply to introduce into all this positive rationality his fatal fantastic element…simply in order to prove to himself that men still are men and not piano keys.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from the Underground

David George
David George
3 years ago
Reply to  David George

Full version of Dostoyevsky’s quote:
https://www.goodreads.com/q

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  David George

Thank you. That’s a great quote.
I have to say I’ve never read any Peterson only watched some interviews and bits of lectures, he seems to have made a difference.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Read Dostoevsky, not Peterson.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

No reason why it should’nt be both.

David George
David George
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Cheers Claire, here’s one that chimes with the essay above.
“And even if it were possible to permanently banish everything threatening”everything dangerous (and, therefore, everything challenging and interesting), that would mean only that another danger would emerge: that of permanent human infantilism and absolute uselessness. How could the nature of man ever reach its full potential without challenge and danger? How dull and contemptible would we become if there was no longer reason to pay attention? Maybe God thought His new creation would be able to handle the serpent, and considered its presence the lesser of two evils.”
“‱ Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

authorjf
authorjf
3 years ago
Reply to  David George

Interesting how the Brothers Karamazov speak of the Grand Inquisitor, but it’s as true of materialistic ideologues as of the abuse or misdirection of authentic religion into superstition. It’s possible Dostoyevsky may have been speaking in a deliberately allegorical manner, to condemn materialism as much as the bad side or misuse of religion. Unless there are some diary entries or something (and could we ever take these at face value, any more than the journals of Kierkegaard?) we can probably rest content in that ambiguity. The main point here, as with Tolkien who ‘cordially disliked (deliberate?) allegory,’ seems to be that it can be read profitably and plausibly in this way, and that leaves much space for sober contemplation. Even in the age of Twitter and the Youtube comments section…

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Cultural evolution, which is made out of big narratives, is essentially no different from biological evolution: that what works survives. I think the atomizing individualistic ideology of liberalism is just as strong a narrative as any. But like al narratives, at some point, it has to bend to the circumstances created by itself. These circumstances, for instance technological innovation, happen to be changing faster than in biblical times.
The current speed of change is a feature that can be attributed to a massive and fundamental change in human culture, out of which liberalism was born. The change is that we don’t look back to paradise anymore like we did for 2000 years. These days we tend to look forward to the abyss of the future. The French revolution was a key turning point in that respect. (In fact the narratives of christianity and modernity include both a similar illusion of eternal life, but let’s not deviate to much from the topic….)
So liberal freedom currently seems to be impracticable for to many people, not surprisingly so. The narrative has to change like it always has or be replaced altogether. For now it’s still not very clear what the narrative will be because many of us (including myself) are falling back on some retro-narrative about identity: family life, race/colour, the village/the rural life, religion, nationalism, etc.,, etc., It’s al more or less a modern version of ‘been there done that’.
The current globale state of things gives me the impression of a retracting ocean before the tsunami kicks in (maybe to much speed in this analogy…but still). My analogy maybe fails whereas a tsunami is bound to create mass destruction. The tsunami of course stands for the new narrative. I do believe that liberalism will end where a Brave New World will begin. A Brave New World and also Houellebecq’s great novel La Possibilite d’une ile (The possibility of an Island) are 2 of the most convincing prophecy’s about cultural stability in a world of global governance. Maybe not so much in their actual elaboration but oh so much on a psychological level. If the end of history will really have it’s way than comfort, safety and sterility will be the faith of humanity. In one word: the ultimate boredom. But boredom is of course a human feature. When science-fiction kicks in boredom might be totally irrelevant because why would cyborgs or robots bother about boredom?

Steve Moxon
Steve Moxon
3 years ago

It IS biological evolution. The facility to exhibit culture (which we
share with other species) could only have evolved if it serves to feed
back to fine-tune and reinforce the biology that gave rise to it. So
there is no such thing as some big change with cultural evolution going
off at some novel tangent. On the very contrary, the more that we
develop culture the ever more faithful we are to our biology

authorjf
authorjf
3 years ago

The illusion of eternal life is indeed an illusion, even a delusion, to the degree that it detracts from the here and now. And yet, the tragedy is that it was never supposed to be this way. Unfortunately, centuries of intellectual Jacobinism has misrepresented Christian teaching; and in fairness, every other faith as well! Unfortunately, itchy ears will sometimes be assaulted by dogmatic fundamentalists and pulpit-thumping proselytisers like Dawkins, with their huge presence; the kind of rabidly unhinged ultra-evangelists of infallible Kool-Aid frenzy; they who can be no more trusted to represent historical, authentic Christianity fairly than a porch-tramping televangelist can fairly represent Buddhism or Taoism. In fact, porch-trampers and televangelists like Dawkins are dangerous in their own kind, not just the superficially ‘religious’ kind. A secular Post-Liberalism will just result in new ‘gods’ like country, globe, ecosphere, race, gender, so if the world has found we can’t do without ‘gods’ of some kind, we might as well try and seek better ones than the ones on offer from materialism. I think a lot of people will be understanding this fact very deeply as time goes on.

Steve Moxon
Steve Moxon
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Come again? Western civilisation is not based on reason, and neither is what has been held up as ideological reason at all itself reason — the political religion of Marxism is utter bunkum, being profounding non-scientific. It’s a bastardisation of Christianity.
Our civilisation is based on an evolved sociality that to some extent distinguishes us from Asia and Africa, upon Christianity (and precursors), and an ethos of ‘what works’ (science).
This has been rationalised as reason, but scientific discoveries very firmly inform us that the brain is not a ‘reason machine’: it’s instead a set of successively evolved structures to solve pertinent problems of living (starting with the accumulation of gene replication error).
This knowledge in no way threatens our culture. Indeed, it will strengthen it.
Sensible politics is realism: knowing that humans have contradictory motivations, not least within individuals, and to realise the limits of any way to organise people, NOT to prescribe a set of rules to which everyone must adhere in order to produce some social ‘promised land’ (that way lies genocide).
The death of ideology will be a very positive thing for us and everybody — and it does not mean the demise of religiosity, which is an evolved phenomenon. So the idea that we are destined for spiritual vacuum is mistaken. Likewise, people will always be social beings and will adapt readily to whatever conditions pertain to continue to profoundly connect with each other.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Moxon

“Our civilisation” is based on the Classical World, plus are few idiotic ideas which came with Christianity.

Frankly Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle just about said it all. Caesar, Augustus, and few others put it into practice with really wonderful results.

Ever since the Renaissance we have been struggling (poorly) to return to the Classical idyll, perhaps we will get there eventually?.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Tough luck for the slaves of course …

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

At least they were fed and watered, it could have been worse!

titan0
titan0
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Or they could be free on minimum wage and struggling to feed and water themselves, comparatively to quite a large group that consider they work harder and so deserve more for it.
168 hours in a week. If I work them all, will I become Jeff Bezos?
Given that it is unlikely then some readjustment seems valid if the liberal capitalist economy won’t do it in a sense of self enlightened interest.
I say this because it is fragmenting all around us.
But the common denominator is the lack of the wealthy and the corporation’s fighting on the streets: they’ve no need to.

valleydawnltd
valleydawnltd
3 years ago
Reply to  titan0

I like your last point. However, we did have Emma Thompson flying over to London to speak at an XR event, and we do have Lewis Hamilton dedicating race wins to various people, and we do have NFC athletes taking the knee-possibly without knowing all the facts behind the death of George Floyd. So they are there as agents provocateurs rather than as foot soldiers. Their battlefield is the media spotlight, rather than the streets. After all, did Lenin, Trotsky or Goebbels actually charge into battle with a flag and a gun?

titan0
titan0
3 years ago
Reply to  valleydawnltd

Those you mentioned are undoubtedly wealthy. But I’m more concerned with those that only use money to keep score. We seldom know or see what these people do.
And for every Wealthy Hamilton doing his bit (if people like it or not), there are multitudes of wage slaves who are much like the turkey that voted for Christmas.
I’m not going all superior by saying that, I’m not. I know I’m not. But sometimes it seems that someone earning one and a half times minimum wage, suddenly becomes disinterested with those they left behind. If not, supportive of those that might profit by keeping them there.

markelawhiteley
markelawhiteley
3 years ago
Reply to  valleydawnltd

Excellent points.

Mark Melvin
Mark Melvin
3 years ago
Reply to  valleydawnltd

I think Trotsky did but the other two had flat feet or something

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  valleydawnltd

Lenin, Trotsky and Goebbels were evil geniuses, today’s crowd is a collection of clowns.

authorjf
authorjf
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Interesting comment, Jeremy, because I used to think most politicians were evil geniuses, but over time, it seems that a lot of them are actually complete morons who genuinely believe their nonsense. I saw Piers Morgan decapitate Nick Clegg on GMB a while ago, and poor Cleggy nearly burst into tears. I also think it’s interesting the leaders of political parties are often chosen not because they’re competent, but because they are dumb and easy to control. Jezzer and Theresa May were the perfect fall guys and fall gal who appear to have fallen victim to factionalism: I’ve suspected a long time that Leave and Remain both wanted a weak negotiator like May, albeit for different reasons. May had good intentions but she was out of her depth and did not have the kind of mentality or skill set to play hardball. A lot of people were harsh on her in the past, including me, but I can’t help but speculate she was set up to fail; rather as O’Donnell and Milne had zero intention of running for party leader, because if worse comes to worse, a weak leader like this good ‘Comrade’ of theirs is easily expendable. The hard-left faction of Labour don’t expect overnight success and can happily choose someone else next time around to be their fall guy. It’s a safe bet Jeremy’s allies and comrades haven’t been coming round to give him tea and sympathy, or even marrow souffles. After all, why would they? He’s not an evil genius, just a useful idiot.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  authorjf

I’d agree but it’s not that they’re necessarily incompetent, it’s impossible to be competent in today’s world because the expectations we place on on politicians is too high. Human beings are not capable of managing all things at all times, they can’t stop anything bad from ever happening and they can’t ever say what they really think. The dehumanisation of politicians is one of the problems imho. Accountability and transparency are important but reality and forgiveness have to be part of the mix too. Power should never be too concentrated in too few hands – to me this is one of the great catastrophes of globalisation as it does just that.

authorjf
authorjf
3 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Very good, and thoughtful, comment Cheryl; on many levels. As for the aggregation of power in very few hands, this is indeed a huge problem nowadays, and I think deglobalisation needs to not only work in terms of more power for countries, but also localism within each country.

Andrew Shaughnessy
Andrew Shaughnessy
3 years ago
Reply to  authorjf

Good points, Jonathan. I always had the feeling Corbyn was just a figurehead, and the decisions were really made by the “unholy trinity” of McDonnell, McClusky and Milne.

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Indeed it could! Just ask the c. 300,000 Helvetii massacred in a single day by Julius Caesar, basically as a political stunt; or the 20,000 Jews crucified to line the triumphal route of the conquering legions into Jerusalem.

Turning to a more aristocratic milieu, how about the five-year-old daughter of a prominent dissident under I think Tiberius, who was raped by the executioners before being murdered, so as to get around the prohibition on killing virgins…

Some idyll!

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

The Pax Romana was one of the greatest achievements in History,
I’m surprised you don’t know that.

It is thought by most scholars, that Caesar massively exaggerated his campaign against the Helvetii and the resultant casualties to
enhance his prestige in Rome, and not as a “political stunt”.

Are you sure you haven’t confused the sack of Jerusalem in AD70, with the Spartacus Revolt, and the antics of Marcus Licinius Crassus, in 71BC?

You are correct in your final condemnation. The little girl was Julia, daughter of Sejanus, who was accused of plotting against Tiberius. Both Cassius Dio and, Tacitus record the event.

However may I suggest your read some serious histories of Rome and ignore the salacious horrors so beloved of Hollywood and others?

Shane Dunworth-crompton
Shane Dunworth-crompton
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

You assume you would be ruling elite

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

No, just a Roman Citizen would do!

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Thank you.
very valuable

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Indeed so.

Clay Bertram
Clay Bertram
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Excellent summation.

nicholasmacdonald82
nicholasmacdonald82
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

There has always been a tension between those liberals who had a millenarian vision of a perfect state that could be achieved, versus those who believed that it was possible to eke out some progress through tinkering, reason and empiricism. The first was always an illusion. The second, however, is ultimately the only thing on offer these days other than the reactionary horrors of our contemporary left and right, though sadly those screaming voices muffle it’s patient work.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

That’s a good point, but I hesitate over the “progress” word, which is now so closely associated with Progressivism and Wokeness. It all depends on what we mean by “progress”, eg, whether it means giving children hormone blockers prior to a proposed sex change, or finding a way to farm that encourages wildlife at the same time as producing food for the nation efficiently.

authorjf
authorjf
3 years ago

I suppose the question here is, how far are they separable? They are logically distinct: my concern is that they tend to go together, despite (often sincere and noble and genuine enough) attempts to separate them.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago

I responded to your comment earlier but it is languishing in moderation and may never see the light of day, it made a reference to a contentious issue which some people regard as progressive.
And I think that is the problem with your argument; if we could rely on your “tinkerers” to have commonsense and integrity then what you say is reasonable, but we cannot. The moral framework has collapsed and “millenarian” liberalism has taken it’s place pushing it’s form of progress, ie Progressivism, which I would argue is not progress at all but actually descent.

authorjf
authorjf
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

Couldn’t agree more! ‘Reason’ is as reason does. ‘Much learning has made you mad’ quoth Festus the Great Man of History (also a textbook overrated bureaucrat and Cognac-addled oligarch of his day); but this applies as well to materialism and irrational-rationalism, and indeed more so, than to what William James would call the Healthy Soul of religion, as distinguished from the Sick Soul. We are going out of our minds from ‘Reason!’ As if reducing truth to a question of mere ‘methodology,’ shorn of all deeper premises and first principles, could ever be enough to satisfy the human heart. Communism may be a God that Failed, but it is really the demi-god that failed; Rationalism and the Market caused the rise of Communism and Fascism. I just wish all the faiths could work together and realise naive, uncritical ‘Rationalism’ (along with its hysterical counterpart of woke Unreason of left and right alike) are a common enemy to human dignity and to every faith. But I guess that kind of thinking is not easily monetisable, so we’d better all make sure we’ve got a day job of our own. Don’t expect to see any commenters here appearing on the BBC any time soon! Truth is its own reward, as Jesus warned us all (as did Buddha, and Confucius, and Prophet Isaiah, and Lao-Tzu, and many, many others…)

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

thanks for explaining why young Trumpholes are offing themselves with heroin, opioids and spice in ever increasing numbers while their parents breath deep the SARS-CoV-2 virus maskless and mindlessly defiant right up until they are sedated in prep of intubation.

“Without any kind of narrative to explain to people why life is unfair, such as that offered by Christianity or the Classics, people are left with nothing but themselves and their own personal grievances to dwell on.”

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

thank you for explaining why young Trumpholes are offing themselves with heroin, opioids and spice in ever increasing numbers while their parents breath deep the SARS-CoV-2 virus maskless and mindlessly defiant right up until they are sedated in prep of intubation.

“Without any kind of narrative to explain to people why life is unfair, such as that offered by Christianity or the Classics, people are left with nothing but themselves and their own personal grievances to dwell on.”

Dave H
Dave H
3 years ago

By all metrics, living standards have declined across the liberal West

By *all* metrics?
Not sure I can agree with that.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave H

Yes, that statement stood out for me too, Because by almost all metrics, living standards have improved ‘across the liberal west’. One can argue about the environmental, social, psychological and human costs etc of those improved living standards, but they are a fact.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Average wages (middle & working class) have either stagnated or declined – adjusted for inflation.
A massive private sector debt bubble has kept the economy going.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I don’t need to be told that there is massive debt bubble, zero interest rates and money printing etc. But the fact remains that living standards have improved. Moreover, this is partly a consequence of more efficient means of production and distribution etc. It’s not all based on debt.

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

‘stagnated or declined’, in relation to when? I can assure you that my grandparents certainly did not have the living standard of someone on today’s minimum wage whose standard of living my Grandparents could only dream about.

Robert Malcolm
Robert Malcolm
3 years ago

Oddly enough, as a child of the 1950’s I have sharp recall of old people huddling by their coal or gas fires in their damp little terraced houses: conveniences like central heating, fitted kitchens, and indoor toilets were still regarded as quite posh, and double glazing and insulation were non existent. There was real want, and squalor, and ignorance, as most children left school at 15 to work in the pits or factories. We were still at the mercy of many infectious diseases like Polio, and the flu killed millions. Which also helps to explain why perinatal Infant mortality in the UK in the 1940’s was over ten times higher than today. And night after night we saw on the news (for those of use who were lucky enough to even have a TV set, for most the radio was the only means of gaining it) that the USA and the USSR were building even more terrifying nuclear weapons, with us stuck in the middle.

Albert Kensington
Albert Kensington
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert Malcolm

That’s all very well, but in the forties and fifties the arc of progress was still with us, perhaps best expressed by Atlee’s New Jerusalem – we still had a large manufacturing industry, 300,000 council houses a year could be constructed – there was still hope, the Whig view of history could still be taught(it seems to be a complete dog’s breakfast now). The old adage that it’s better to travel than arrive.

Especially given the nature of the destination

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

1980 is the starting point (Regan/Maggie come to power)

jcurwin
jcurwin
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave H

Agreed. I keep hearing about “the decline of the middle class” but I only have to look around to see that EVERYONE has more than my “middle class” family had back in the 1970’s in Canada. People with jobs similar to those my parents had have a much higher standard of living. They travel more, they all have at least two vehicles. Houses (and the lots they are built on) are bigger. Kids have so many toys and “cute outfits” they outgrow them before they can use them. People dress their dogs in knitted sweaters and buy boutique pet food. I could go on.

Steve Moxon
Steve Moxon
3 years ago

The analysis is mistaken, though right about ‘an enemy within’ — but not one that is in some way terminal.
The big problem today is nothing to do with some inherent contradiction of ‘liberalism’ but that the quasi-religion and anti-scientific nonsense of Marxism has failed, with its adherents blaming the masses — ‘the workers’ they see as turncoats / blacklegs for not acting in accord with ideological prediction/prescription — and wishing to be a group above and apart from the rest of us.
The eventual reckoning to rid us of this cancer may be civil war, but, however it occurs, rid of it we will be.
There is no metaphysical ‘crisis’ in the minds of ordinary people, nor of the non-Left intelligentsia.
The problem of today is Leftism, which is the attempt by a minority to pass off their unnaturally extreme status-seeking and/or pique at not achieving (‘sufficient’) status as instead egalitarianism, by ‘projecting’ their own faults on to the rest of us.
The Left is not long for this world, so there will soon be an end to the problem.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Moxon

To paraphrase something that some guy called Jesus, who may or may not have existed, may or may not have said:

“The Left ye shall have always with you”

The problem is, what do you do about them? Society constantly has to expend enormous amounts of energy resisting the Left and the various hells they would visit upon us. Consequently, society doesn’t have the energy or focus to make sensible adjustments to the system we have – it is all we can do to preserve the status quo.

Yet still the education and welfare systems continue to churn out more and more leftists. By the time these people wake up to any sort of reality they are often 50 years old. Some of them never wake up to any form of reality and spend their entire lives attempting to destroy the West.

It’s a huge problem.

Steve Moxon
Steve Moxon
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It most certainly is, but it’s going to implode, and probably spectacularly.
Every tenet of Leftism and ‘identity politics’ is a truth inversion, and the truth always wins out eventually.

David George
David George
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Moxon

Thanks for the insights Steve.
There’s an excellent essay out by philosopher Yoram Hazony: The Challenge of Marxism on Quillette. I think you’d enjoy it.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  David George

Everybody should read that. It shows the challenges of why Marxism and similar ideologies never fully disappear.

Steve Moxon
Steve Moxon
3 years ago
Reply to  David George

Will do. Thanks for the pointer.
My own essay on the origins and development of ‘identity politics’ is also in full text on-line.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Moxon

Truth winning out can take generations.

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Well put. I sometimes wonder how massively much more progress the world might have made towards economic equality and social justice by now if it hadn’t been for that so and so Karl Marx, who ensured that those ideals would in future be shackled to a utopian, scapegoating ideology that sucks in good people and gives greedy people an excuse and wreaks havoc wherever it goes…

Jeff Chambers
Jeff Chambers
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Moxon

Thanks for this – I hope you’re right. It’s been obvious for a long time that the bourgeois Left loathes the working class because the working class refuses to give the bourgeois Left the revolution Marx promised, and thus the Left has lost its road to power. What’s novel about our situation, though, is that the globalists have adopted neo-Marxism to give a (bogus) gloss of progressivism to what is essentially a reactionary, anti-white racist, and regressive programme. Hence all the money fed to black fascist outfits like BLM.

P B
P B
3 years ago

With the greatest respect, this article could do with more succinct prose, and a far better understanding of the intellectual history/political context of Fukuyama’s writing, which can be traced back to the 1960s neoconservative thought of Irving Kristol, among others.

One of the core beliefs of Kristol (a former Trotskyist and the “godfather of neoconservatism”) and other neoconservative intellectuals is that liberal society contains within it the seeds of its own destruction.

Indeed, this belief was one of the reasons for the future-neoconservatives’ political journey from the Democratic Party of FDR and JFK to the Republican Party of Reagan. Reagan’s UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick exemplified this transition. (Fukuyama too was at the State Department under Reagan, but later distanced himself from the neoconservatives’ brief, disastrous return to influence under George W Bush — the Iraq War being the only part of the neoconservative story that gets any real publicity.)

So, I say be careful reading too much of Fukuyama into what is happening today in the United States. The idea of liberal society’s self-destruction has been worrying the American right — and giving encouragement and schadenfreude to those who dislike what the US stands for in the world — for over half a century, particularly since LBJ’s Great Society reforms and the social unrest that followed. The broad parallels between the US of today and of 1968 are almost too obvious.

Fortunately, history shows that cooler heads tend to prevail in the long term. And there are many more reasons why those willing a US social implosion, as opposed to merely witnessing the relative decline of a continuing superpower and liberal democracy, are I suspect likely to remain disappointed.

Matt K
Matt K
3 years ago
Reply to  P B

Welcome to the world of Aris. Long sweeping articles about nothing at all.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Matt K

I stopped reading Aris a long time ago and now skip straight to the comments. It’s much easier on my brain. And ultimately more interesting.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

I think this article is a lot better than some of his other articles.

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
3 years ago

Do you have a brain? Evidence please.

authorjf
authorjf
3 years ago

Let’s see what you’ve written then Andrew? Always interested to see who is willing to back themselves. 😛

authorjf
authorjf
3 years ago
Reply to  Matt K

Can you show us one of your own articles Matt? 🙂
… Sorry. I had to go there. 😀

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  P B

An excellent précis of the ‘current state of play’, if I may say so.

P B
P B
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Thanks — though some of my responses/new comments have been “pending” for a couple of days now, so it would seem the censors at UnHerd aren’t so keen on the fact that I don’t toe the UnHerd party line.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  P B

Don’t worry it’s always happening to me.
I have found that even if I very slightly amend a piece that has been sent to the ‘Pending bin’, that a day or two later the Censor then ‘approves’ the unamended version.
Thus it is published twice, much to the irritation of UnHerd readers!

Robin Taylor
Robin Taylor
3 years ago
Reply to  P B

Of more relevance is the observation, albeit in reference to China, that “revolutions are never created by poor people. They are actually created by middle-class people. They are created by people who are educated to have opportunities”.

Take away opportunities and security from educated people and you have a recipe for discontent. The unrest you refer to in the US in 1968 had an impact because of the significant involvement of middle class people whose way of life was being threatened by conscription into the Vietnam War. Similarly, on a more dramatic scale, it was the collapse of the middle class in Germany after hyperinflation and mass unemployment that paved the way to the rise of Hitler.

The increasing concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands has been made worse by the crash of 2008, new technology and AI, and now by the economic consequences of lock-down where young people will be paying for decades despite the disease having been of no direct threat to themselves. The failure of liberal democracies to tackle declining opportunity and security, particularly for the young, should be a worry for us all.

Richard Marriott
Richard Marriott
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

The other economic change diminishing middle class security has been globalisation and the offshoring and outsourcing which has been a central feature. This is the change which Trump for example, tapped into in 2016.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

I agree with your first 2 paragraphs but not the whole of the third. The consequences of lockdown to the young who will be paying for decades is correct. But the comment about increased concentration of wealth is irrelevant because everybody is in fact way better off than they were say at the beginning of the 20th century.

For example, everybody has smartphones (which contain more computing power than IBM mainframes in the 70s!). So who cares if Gates et al are multi-multi billionaires. It is of no relevance. What counts is whether one has enough to enjoy life. That’s the key, and that is what lockdown has largely destroyed.

Basil Chamberlain
Basil Chamberlain
3 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Would any of us be any less happy than we are if the smartphone had never been invented? In 1995, did you sit thinking, boy, I wish I had a smartphone?

P B
P B
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

Excellent points, thank you.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Taylor

Middle and Upper class women seemed particularly smitten by Herr Hitler. Perhaps they will be the arbiters of power again?

titan0
titan0
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Exemplified by the admittedly fictional, Miss Jean Brodie and her love affair with IL Duce in the 30s.
Most novelist write what the know about, what they see.

dldouglasleighton
dldouglasleighton
3 years ago
Reply to  P B

at least one coherent piece of comment among so many that are risible

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
3 years ago
Reply to  P B

Thanks for the historical perspective – that would have been helpful in the essay.

Regarding going forward, only time will tell, but I fear you are overly optimistic. I was just a lad in 68 but I do recall in the following decade that the battle lines in the cultural war weren’t as hardened as at present, and that basic civility prevailed, at least for a while. In the US we have passed a point of no return with much more separated tribes – I can’t imagine our broken Republic “healed” any time in the near future – possibly irreparably harming liberalism in the process.

authorjf
authorjf
3 years ago

Over time, any society founded on economic growth as the be-all and end-all has tons of conflicts thrown out as a secondary side effect of the dynamism of the market or (in other kinds of growth-based system) of the erratic, zig-zaggy moral inconsistency of the Party. It goes back to the Grecian (and Hegelian) notion of Being vs Becoming. The stability of having one or more religious traditions teaching values rightly or wrongly deemed eternal, falls into the shadows, while the superficially exhilarating dynamism of Becoming plunges the world into Eliot’s Second Coming. That’s not to say, of course, that everyone who appeals to Being is to be applauded; Martin Heidegger, ISIS and Westboro Baptist Church are clear examples of unintegrated Beingists who were just promoting chaos and destruction by another name. All the same, there needs to be a more comprehensive approach to life that honours both sides of our shared human nature: the fire and the clay alike.

Eugene Norman
Eugene Norman
3 years ago
Reply to  P B

Actually I think the opposite. In 1968 the ideological disputes were discussed amongst a relatively homogeneous society. Now the ideologies are not only more utopian and unachievable (what would ending white supremacy mean in practice) but the country is increasingly divided on race lines; basically between the whites and the not whites. While divisions on class can change over time as people’s class identity changes, race and ethnicity are immutable baring significant intermarriage (and even then you get more mixed groups). Diversity isn’t strength.

P B
P B
3 years ago
Reply to  Eugene Norman

We’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent, but can you provide evidence for your statement that the US is “increasingly divided on race lines; basically between the white and the not whites”?

For example, polling from FiveThirtyEight (link below) shows that in June 53% of registered voters, a majority of white independent voters, and 90% of white Democrat voters supported the Black Lives Matter movement. In a new poll this week, support among registered voters fell to 49%, with 80% of white Republican voters opposing BLM.

I’m not sure these numbers support your theory, insofar as BLM is concerned at least. The numbers suggest that the divide is more party political (Democrat v Republican voter) than racial.

https://fivethirtyeight.com

Hector Mildew
Hector Mildew
3 years ago

While agreeing with the author that Fukuyama has been misinterpreted, he certainly wasn’t the first to see the limited potential and ultimate danger of liberalism.

The following is an extract from an essay written in 1954 by Gilbert Highet, a Scottish classicist:

“The human mind may commit suicide”Š Suppose that the standard of living continues to rise all over the world, as it has done in the last century; that the population continues to increase; that its labours are shortened, its hours of leisure lengthened, its anxieties diminished, and its pleasures more lavishly supplied, Which will it prefer, learning or liquor? Art, music and books, or cards, dice, and horse races?… All over the planet, as soon as men and women get a little money and leisure, something to lift them above the hunger of this week and the apprehensions of next year, at once their diversions tend to become silly or disgusting”Š Nations and civilizations which discover how much easier it is to live for transient pleasures, without troubling about anything permanent in the world of the mind, soon find that their mental muscles turn flabby, that they cannot think about certain difficult problems at all and prefer to substitute bursts of emotional energy for sustained intellectual efforts, and eventually that they have barbarized themselves more delightfully but not less completely than through submitting to an invasion of savages”Š Although nobody knows all the reasons for the collapse of the western Roman empire”Š one of them was evidently that men and women began to have too good a time, and simply stopped thinking. There are some historical novels which depict the rise of Christianity as a movement of rebellion, the humble and oppressed rising with a pure vehemence of irresistible protest against the intolerable tyranny of helmeted legionaries and cruel tormentors. Nonsense. The early Christians repeat again and again that life is around them is too pleasant, everyone can have a Good Time, every lust can be satisfied and new lusts are constantly being invented”Š this could happen to our civilization again. Some observers believe it is happening now”Š It would be possible to demoralize millions of people by making life easy for them, so that they forgot to use their brains. The emperors of Rome scarcely needed a secret police because they supplied the Roman populace with free meals, frequent gifts of money, and in one year as many as 150 days of spectator sports ““ prize-fighting (with swords, not boxing gloves), super-colossal three-dimensional pageants, and horse-and-chariot races. Could a modern nation resist a lavish programme of ‘home relief’, free TV sets for everyone, systematized and legalized gambling, cheap liquor, free football, baseball, boxing, wrestling, dirt-track contests, bathing-beauty shows, races, and movies seven days a week? There is a grim political saying that the Many are always the servants of the Few. Usually the Many are held down by feudalism or some other oppressive social and political pattern but sometimes it is possible for clever cynical men to control them by supplying them with drugs, by keeping them from reading good books or thinking original thoughts, changing them ultimately into idiots by giving them a Good Time…

titan0
titan0
3 years ago
Reply to  Hector Mildew

That’s great. Cheers. I kept responding let’s say, to the African problems of decades ago, ‘do you think that these ( large ) things happen without it being the will of someone who could’ve prevented it?’ Or similar words.
Now look at the situation in the States. It really couldn’t happen unless it served someone’s or some group’s purpose.
This is not paranoia. There is a pattern, even if it’s only that small actions are simply taken advantage of once understood by the great and good that influence and lead.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Hector Mildew

There is a lot in your post, particularly this:

‘their mental muscles turn flabby,’

For some time, but particularly with regard to Covid, I have said that the western mind has turned to mush, or blancmange.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Hector Mildew

A great quote, and very informative. Thank you.

Apart from the customary, forever thus legalised and taxable ‘drugs’ and bread and circuses though I’m not sure the ever shorter working days and oft mooted hours for endless, self-indulgent leisure have really ever come to pass for most and, if they have, still only for the relatively lucky few.

From my 50 years and counting here the world, particularly in the neoliberal West, has increasingly become more precarious and unpredictable for the majority of those who work in the ‘real’ and ‘productive’ economy, not less so.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

An interesting article that draws together a number of themes expressed here and elsewhere in recent months and years. And I defer to Aris’ superior knowledge of Fukuyama. Indeed, I can’t even be sure which of the people in the picture accompanying the article is Mr Fukuyama.

It is certainly true to say that, having failed to convince the rest of the world that liberal democracy is the way forward, liberal democracies are destroying themselves from within. The main culprits here are, as always, the left-wing progressives who have embraced a belief system that hates the west and all its freedoms. And that belief system is emboldened and growing in strength. Eventually it will take Europe. Just this weekend we learned that Swedes are now being openly told to leave Sweden if they don’t like the fate that awaits them.

Julian Hartley
Julian Hartley
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Fraser, if you have the time, could you direct me to any writing about the Swedish issue you mention?

Richard Marriott
Richard Marriott
3 years ago

Interesting read which exposes some of the fallacies of uber liberalism. Brexit is itself a reaction against the liberal order and it is Homeric in its intensity. Remainers keep banging on about the economic risks of Brexit, which demonstrates that they lack any understanding of why Brexit became both desirable and necessary.

Michael McVeigh
Michael McVeigh
3 years ago

You mentioned in an earlier comment about Trump – the votes for both Trump & Brexit were driven by ‘sensible’ people against the current movements of the Liberal/Progressives & as such are destined to continue and grow.

titan0
titan0
3 years ago

The precursors to the Uber Liberals and Uber Conservatives in the US seemed very happy to send millions of untermensch of any colour to Vietnam. The unlucky from the Ubers usually got to be officers or backroom boys so some were saved even if their families couldn’t get them out of it.
How can a culture so damned certain of it’s citizens’ self reliance with a wish to fight Communism ( socialism now), at all costs, have set up a socialist inspired drafting of the population to fight. Where were the millions of self reliant, Communist fighting volunteers?
Brexit if viewed as damaging, by some, will still benefit others. And in the vein of the article. Is it possibly part of the battle, or self destruction that he views as part of the human condition? You know, shake it up and see what happens.

John Stone
John Stone
3 years ago

It would be naive to see the current disturbances as spontaneous rather cynically exploitative.

Claire D
Claire D
3 years ago
Reply to  John Stone

I think they began spontaneously, then the initial hysterical response was cynically co-opted by others and has now taken on a life of it’s own.

John Stone
John Stone
3 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

The others were waiting.

Matt K
Matt K
3 years ago
Reply to  John Stone

Seems to me in the absence of being able to wage actual war we are now just subject to endless series of geopolitical agitations. Virus, racism, not sure what will be next but presumably dependant on whether China gets its way with Biden or not.

williamritchie2001
williamritchie2001
3 years ago

It’s seems a little premature to write America’s obituary. There are undeniable fissures in the nation but if it could survive the civil war in can be reasonably hoped to find a solution to the current crisis.

Andrew D
Andrew D
3 years ago

The Irish are said to have a good version of thymos: ‘Oh, it’s a terrible war, but better than no war at all’.

We should also think about accidie, and the fact that all this has come after a long period of unnatural and unnecessary confinement, especially of the vigorous and healthy (but confused and directionless) young. No wonder they’re mutinous

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago

The “internal rot” is from the corpses of education and science. Education on the basics has been replaced with gender studies and equality to which BLM has now been added. The basis of science has changed from evidence to opinions, so we have human caused climate change because there is a majority opinion that it is a fact but with no evidence to support it. Similarly, the failure of science has turned a not very serious virus into an economic crisis manufactured in Westminster on the advice of lying scientists.

Steve Moxon
Steve Moxon
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Yes indeed, though the problem is not with the basics of science but the thick ideological veneer that has been forced upon it. It’s not long for this world: the whole of the Left’s great backlash against ordinary people for not buying their bull (‘identity politics’) is inherently completely unsustainable, being totally false in its every tenet, so it’s bound to implode.
See: ‘The Falsity of Identity Politics: Negative Attitude is Towards Males who are Different, in Policing Sexual Access by Gate-Keeping Group Membership’. New Male Studies 2019, 8(2), 20-51.
ABSTRACT: Identity politics (often dubbed political correctness: PC) victim categories (protected characteristics) are shown to be false. Negative attitude is specifically towards males, and evoked by any form of significant difference. Previous findings that misogyny has no scientific basis, with the evidence instead of philogyny and misandry, extend to apply across all victim categories, trumping race or sexual orientation. This is revealed in the predominance of males as hate crime victims, the harsher attitude towards apparently more masculine subsets of sexual minority and race, and experimentally. Supposed homophobia is revealed to be a far wider phenomenon, encompassing all victim categories, manifest culturally in male initiation and scientifically evidenced across fields. It functions to gate-keep male full admission to the group, serving to police male sexual access, maximising reproductive efficiency, not to deal with out-group threat, nor to oppress (least of all females). Identity politics is extreme misrepresentation of social and inter-personal reality.

Matt K
Matt K
3 years ago

But we were all getting back into farming last week, Aris! I got some chickens. Now it’s the end of the world. Oh well.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Matt K

Ha ha, yes, last week he was encouraging us all to become small holders growing turnips or whatever. This week he is complaining about a non-existent decline in living standards.

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
3 years ago

‘ the human soul clamours for more than peace and plenty.’

Exactly. Jordan Peterson might say we seek meaning.
War provides a lot of meaning to hang on to

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

We have the example of Rome; wealth, peace brought degeneracy and decline.
The only solution would be a new Reconquista.

Fabian Destouches
Fabian Destouches
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Reconquista of what? Constantinople? Jerusalem? Rhodesia?

Frederick B
Frederick B
3 years ago

All three hopefully.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Fortunately it took centuries of hedonistic excess, before things began to really crumble in the late fifth century AD or 1200AUC.

jdcharlwood
jdcharlwood
3 years ago

When young children visit a planetarium for the first time and see the cosmos and learn that one day the sun will explode and obliterate the earth how many think ‘wow, I wish I could see that!’ rather than ‘thank goodness it won’t happen to me’? I personally know a couple priests who were upset that the millennium did not herald the second coming with all that it might entail. Whilst we do our best to deny it some part of us is in love with death.

Joe Blow
Joe Blow
3 years ago

“I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all people will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, My Lord, if it needs to be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

In contrast today, we debate gender-free toilets.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Can anyone tell me which of the gentle souls in the photograph accompanying the article is Mr Fukuyama?

perrywidhalm
perrywidhalm
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Upvote for humor …..

Albert Kensington
Albert Kensington
3 years ago

Couple of observations – the American Imperium, given the Continental resources it could deploy – seems to have been of remarkably short duration, which I suppose could be dated from the Battle of Midway to the Iraq/Afghan fiascos and critically the rise of China. So only about 60 years or so, for why? The liberal economic order as manifested by Wall St/City capitalism has been enormously destructive in terms of hollowing out the productive economy, creating social devastation and an Empire of Debt. IMO it isn’t any good, though to be fair I’m a fan of the C17th Navigation Acts – an arrant unreconstructed protectionist.

Secondly – light the blue touch paper time, the US tore itself apart over the slavery question in the C19th(specifically over whether new states should be slave or free). After the civil war following a somewhat unconvincing go at Reconstruction they reinvented slavery in all but name.

I’ve just been watching one of Brett Weinstein’s videos, the BLM/leftist challenge is apparently a civilisational one, it is extremely serious. They take the view that you can’t dismantle “master’s house” using “master’s tools” – reason, logic, empiricism kind of thing, further and better particular’s from James Lindsay.

I don’t see how any liberal order – or much else – is sustainable on the basis of CRT, Intersectionality, multiple axes of oppression and so forth. The rot in the United States has gone very far indeed it seems

This poses the awkward consideration that the African American population may have been so historically damaged and perhaps unfortunately lacking in innate intelligence(note the way entry into top universities is fiddled to the detriment of Asians) to render an inclusive liberal order under the US Constitution unsustainable.

My money is on China

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

It’s ‘Bret’ not ‘Brett’ in this particular instance. That aside, yes, he has a very good fix on it all, having been perhaps the most high profile victim so far. The podcasts with his wife are excellent, and everyone should watch the videos of the events at Evergreen.

As you say, this is civilisational. It is 2 + 2 = 5 versus 2 + 2 + 5, and the latter are proclaiming insanities that not even Robespierre and Pol Pot dreamed up.

You are also right to say that the economic order that has emerged in recent decades has been enormously destructive to ‘liberalism’ and the West. Ironically, the economic order’s most rapacious period has been enabled by touchy-feely media favourites such as Clinton, Obama and Blair.

Albert Kensington
Albert Kensington
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I’ve pretty well given up – recent choice whether to read Heather MacDonald’s Diversity Delusion or Mantel’s Mirror and the Light I opted for the latter.
We’re finished, and it’s going to get very nasty and messy

Simon Webster
Simon Webster
3 years ago

Clearly we’re not all equal in the face of the end of history. For some it means mourning a world which valued and encouraged heroic striving and glorious deeds. But for many liberalism clears a space for more sophisticated forms of self-transcendence premised on a postmodern skepticism about the truth of religious and mythical narratives. Peter Sloterdijk, the maverick German philosopher, writes about this sort of self-aware, individualistic striving in “You Must Change your Life”: God is dead but that needn’t mean that each of us can’t find different ways to surpass themselves in art, sport, travel etc. What liberalism does is make the individual responsible for the terms of their self-transcendence, and for many (the majority?) it’s liberalism brutal insistence that we are all as individuals responsible for the shape and value of our lives that is like staring into an bottomless abyss.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Webster

Once is enough, we hear you brother 🙂

Simon Webster
Simon Webster
3 years ago

Terrible connection here! Apologies!

Tim Lever
Tim Lever
3 years ago

This nostalgia for past struggles surely explains why Paul Mason constantly and laughably imagines himself fighting 1930s fascism.

titan0
titan0
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Lever

A valid observation. However; isn’t the man with a howitzer fighting in much the same way as the archetypal caveman armed with an animal’s shoulder bone?
One starts fights for reasons of conquest or animosity. (Other reasons are available). The roots of which usually all go back in time

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

The chickens – perhaps the chickens that Aris wants us all to keep in our garden – are coming home to roost.

johntshea2
johntshea2
3 years ago

So, our greatest threat is boredom? No problem! Just bring back gladiatorial sports. For a start, we could return to soccer’s original Pre-Columbian rules and execute the losing team after each match.

Roland Ayers
Roland Ayers
3 years ago
Reply to  johntshea2

You could always compete in the Marathon des Sables or the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. There are ways of feeding your thymos without resorting to nihilism.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  johntshea2

The Circus Maximus seated about 350K spectators. Twenty four races a day, of between one and four miles. Probably a third of the charioteers killed or maimed.
If you grew bored the Colosseum was only short walk away. “Occ est vivere!”

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
3 years ago

Do not overlook the vitality of the truly committed Christian, whose resistance against contemporary babylonizing decadence can provide purposeful struggle.
Such Christ-centered resistance against amoral zeitgeist, if faithfully undertaken according to the teachings of Jesus, ought to be nonviolent, as Dr Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis and other Christian crusaders of the last century have embodied. The nonviolent struggle would also be represented through Gandhi’s effective resistance, based in Hindu practice, against Brit hegemony .
Struggle, to be meaningful, need not be violent and destructive.
“Love thy neighbor as thyself” is, in tumultuous times, no easy dictum to fulfill, and certainly no walk in Hyde Park or Central Park or Golden Gate Park on any other path . . .

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
3 years ago

This is simply a magnificent piece of writing and thought. Thank you.

Mark St Giles
Mark St Giles
3 years ago

It is the very complacency of liberal democracies that is its flaw. Consider Britain after WWII. It believed it had won against impossible odds (somewhat aided by Russia’s enormous sacrifices and America’s industrial might!). The Empire was still intact but the economy was in tatters. Rather than rebuild it, as Germany did, Britain believed that its industry was still world class. it was actually outdated and inefficiently managed. But successive governments built a social security system on these shaky foundations. Now consider Brexit and the effect that Britain’s belief in its exceptionalism and the Dunkirk spirit won (just). Complacency loses.
Consider also America’s and Europe’s belief that China would never make it as a communist state but would sooner or later have to become a liberal democracy. But China isn’t going that way and doesn’t look likely to in the near future. Rather it is engaged in a struggle for ascendancy. Something quite Homeric about ”surge forward, killing as you go, to blaze us a trail of blood’ . Complacency loses.

titan0
titan0
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark St Giles

It is unfortunate that the system usually required debt in the form of pensions and reconstruction costs to be carried forward. This was while we paid to defend Germany and in part, Japan. Because those nations were kept in a low military state for decades.
When people’s demand reparations from us, even when they seem valid, we never seem to demand the same.
Is our impoverishment part of our legacy or is it a consequence of ongoing profit taking above all else?

nicholasmacdonald82
nicholasmacdonald82
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark St Giles

“Consider also America’s and Europe’s belief that China would never make it as a communist state but would sooner or later have to become a liberal democracy. But China isn’t going that way and doesn’t look likely to in the near future. Rather it is engaged in a struggle for ascendancy. “

Indeed. We made the mistake of believing that democracy was a natural endpoint of governmental evolution, rather than a fluke of America’s victory in WWII and the Cold War. Countries became democracies because we imposed it upon them, or they imposed it upon themselves to curry favor with us. Once a challenger large enough to say “no” re-emerged, this notion was over.

And it was ridiculous to begin with. What, a Democratic China with 1.4 billion people would be any less of a geopolitical competitor? With 1.4 billion people who want to consume resources on the same scale as Americans, this was never going to be the case. The only reason India is not in such a position is that their state remains highly disfunctional and their economy hampered by intractable inefficiencies.

We’re back in the era of Great Power competition, and it’s time for us all to get used to it.

David
David
3 years ago

Re-reading ‘The End of History?’ (1989) I was struck by this passage:

‘Chinese competitiveness and expansionism on the world scene have virtually disappeared: Beijing no longer sponsors Maoist insurgencies or tries to cultivate influence in distant African countries as it did in the 1960s.’

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  David

It was just as prescient about the imminent collapse of the USSR.

John Smith
John Smith
3 years ago

Hfhg

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson
3 years ago

There are several things I’d take issue with. One is about declining living standards by any metric – life expectancy, tech innovations not fully captured in conventional measures of growth? Another is about the definition of ‘liberal’ being used, which seems to vary between the liberalism that means ‘freedom within the law, democracy, equal rights’ that I would readily sign up to and the ‘woke’ uber-liberalism that extends equality in an absurd way and finds fault with western civilization at every step.

But another quote also made me pause: ‘Furthermore, Fukuyama predicts, in a startlingly prescient passage foreshadowing the rise of the 21st century civilisation-state, “perhaps most crit­ically, it would be unable to defend itself from civilizations that were infused with a greater spirit of megalothymia, whose citizens were ready to forsake comfort and safety and who were not afraid to risk their lives for the sake of dominion”.’ From Aris’s recent essay, I take civilization states to include China, Russia, perhaps India and probably Iran. I seriously wonder how many people in those countries would willingly go to war to defend what those states stand for? Maybe in India if they were fighting Pakistan. Maybe in Iran if fighting the great Satan or a Sunni state. China and Russia? I doubt it.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

Sadly, I think you’d find that most people in those countries would go to war more or less willingly.

nicholasmacdonald82
nicholasmacdonald82
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Dawson

Chinese are, in my experience, fiercely nationalistic. Even the ones “diversifying their investments” with foreign homes and passports are, 90% of the time, just creating an emergency backstop should they end up on the wrong side of a power struggle. Russians… even more fanatical, if such a thing is possible.

Never judge a country by it’s eager expats and dissidents. Judge them by the people who have options… and stay voluntarily, despite no clear advantage. I know an awful lot of Chinese like this, and some Russians as well. They’re as common as American patriots.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago

Cultural evolution, which is made out of big narratives, is essentially no different from biological evolution: that what works survives. I think the atomizing individualistic ideology of liberalism is just as strong a narrative as any. But like al narratives, at some point, it has
to bend to the circumstances created by itself. These circumstances, for instance technological innovation, happen to be changing faster than in biblical times.
The current speed of change is a feature that can be attributed to a massive and fundamental change in human culture, out of which liberalism was born. The change is that we don’t look back to paradise anymore like we did for 2000 years. These days we tend to
look forward to the abyss of the future. The French revolution was a key turning point in that respect. (In fact the narratives of christianity and modernity include both a similar illusion of eternal life, but let’s not deviate to much from the topic….).
So liberal freedom currently seems to be impracticable for to many people, not surprisingly
so. The narrative has to change like it always has or be replaced altogether. For now it’s still not very clear what the narrative will be because many of us (including myself) are falling back on some retro-narrative about identity: family life, race/colour, the village/the rural life, religion, nationalism, etc.,, etc., It’s al more or less a modern version of ‘been there done that’.
The current globale state of things gives me the impression of a retracting ocean before the tsunami kicks in (maybe to much speed in this analogy…but still). My analogy maybe fails whereas a tsunami is bound to create mass destruction. The tsunami of course stands for the new narrative. I do believe that liberalism will end where a Brave New World will begin. A Brave New World and also Houellebecq’s great novel La Possibilite d’une ile (The possibility of an Island) are 2 of the most convincing prophecy’s about cultural stability in a world of global governance. Maybe not so much in their actual elaboration but oh so much on a psychological level. If the end of history will really have it’s way than comfort, safety and sterility will be the faith of humanity. In one word: the ultimate boredom.

Steve Moxon
Steve Moxon
3 years ago

It IS biological evolution. The facility to exhibit culture (which we share with other species) could only have evolved if it serves to feed back to fine-tune and reinforce the biology that gave rise to it. So there is no such thing as some big change with cultural evolution going off at some novel tangent. On the very contrary, the more that we develop culture the ever more faithful we are to our biology.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Moxon

What then is biologically reinforced in human beings (besides our brain, that goes without saying…)? I think you confuse biology with nature. Cultural evolution is also nature, it exists and so does biological evolution and ofcourse cultural evolution has a biological origin.

Steve Moxon
Steve Moxon
3 years ago

No, it’s genuinely profound.
All biological entities essentially are devices to address the relentless accumulation of gene replication error. This is why there are sexes, why we have the male, and why males mutually compete for status (as a measure of relative genetic quality) and females choose only those males with the better genomes, etc. The brain evolved re all of this, and evolves ever more sophisticatedly in this service, as does cultural offshoot.

Simon Webster
Simon Webster
3 years ago

Clearly we’re not all equal in the face of the end of history. For some it means mourning a world which valued and encouraged heroic striving and glorious deeds. But for many liberalism clears a space for more sophisticated forms of self-transcendence premised on a postmodern skepticism about the truth of the religious and mythical narratives. Peter Sloterdijk, the maverick German philosopher, writes about sort of individualistic striving in “You Must Change your Life”: God is dead but that needn’t mean that each of us can’t find different ways to surpass themselves in art, sport, travel etc. What liberalism does is make the individual responsible for the terms of their self-transcendence, and for many (the majority?) it’s liberalism brutal insistence that we are all as individuals responsible for the shape and value of our lives that is like staring into an bottomless abyss.

Simon Webster
Simon Webster
3 years ago

Clearly we’re not all equal in the face of the end of history. For some it means mourning a world which valued and encouraged heroic striving and glorious deeds. But for many liberalism clears a space for more sophisticated forms of self-transcendence premised on a postmodern skepticism about the truth of religious and mythical narratives. Peter Sloterdijk, the maverick German philosopher, writes about sort of individualistic striving in “You Must Change your Life”: God is dead but that needn’t mean that each of us can’t find different ways to surpass themselves in art, sport, travel etc. What liberalism does is make the individual responsible for the terms of their self-transcendence, and for many (the majority?) it’s liberalism brutal insistence that we are all as individuals responsible for the shape and value of our lives that is like staring into an bottomless abyss.

perrywidhalm
perrywidhalm
3 years ago

Good essay. Thank you! There is soooo much to unpack in this writing it would interfere in my conquest of Wakanda!

no2flags
no2flags
3 years ago

Like too many philosophical treatises, this one is unmoored to the material world and therefore remains a fairy tale albeit a very interesting one.

There is a flawed assumption that the liberal order was a ‘good’ thing but that, like many good things humans enjoy, goodness is not enough to feed the soul. But liberalism’s reality fell far short of its ideals and its failure to birth its rhetoric into the real world is the root cause of today’s discontent and not “virtues and ambitions called forth by war” or Thy­mos – “the side of man that deliberately seeks out struggle and sacrifice.” Western liberalism always was hypocrisy in action – promising wealth and freedom to all under its protection but in reality delivering a modern form of serfdom in which states willingly subjugated themselves to the rule of global corporatism.

The author only hints at this but doesn’t address it properly when he quotes Fukuyama: “Liberal economic princi­ples provide no support for traditional communities; quite the contrary, they tend to atomize and separate people.” If the author had paid more attention to this he might come to the conclusion that liberalism was a fig leaf for the real poison in Western society. An analysis of liberalism as causing its own demise is a red herring because liberalism was never delivered.

The theme running through the article is that “the human soul clamours for more than peace and plenty” and now that liberalism has delivered these fruits, it can only implode due to the boredom of its beneficiaries. In reality the US is a cesspool of social and economic failure. These are the real forces currently in play and have very little to do with the dubious virtue of Thymos. Fukuyama was certainly right to warn that “those who remain dissatisfied will always have the potential to restart history”. But the writer of this article has not really seized on the reasons for that dissatisfaction and has instead opted to explain the discontent in terms of Thymos. Oh that the human beings and the world they inhabit were that simple!

There is a disturbing undercurrent in this piece, namely that the West has had it good and that “frustrated passions” are the seeds of its victory. Furthermore there is an explicit expression of the idea that these passions will assert themselves in order to create something new and to compete with other civilisations. After all, “thymos cannot be satisfied by the knowledge that they are merely equal in worth to all other human beings”. In this respect there is an insidious embrace of the right-wing philosophy of creative destruction as an inevitable if not noble human pursuit. But the evidence of human history, right from hunter gathering through to modern society, is that the default position of human beings is laziness. We struggle only to survive or when things have gone seriously wrong. We do not engage in collective struggle when all is right with the world.

And of course in today’s world no promotion of the inevitability of Thymos and creative destruction as the driving force of human nature would be complete without tossing an anti-wokeist grenade in for good measure as the writer tacitly supports Fukuyama’s prediction that liberalism will end up in the same grave as communism if it insists on an agenda of “absolute equality”. God forbid that we should hold equality up as a noble value to pursue! In order to support this snide swipe at equality, liberalism is speciously purported to not only “outlaw differences between the ugly and beautiful” but to “pretend that a person with no legs is not just the spiritual but the physical equal of someone whole in body”. Has liberalism really made such a claim? There is plenty of real ammunition with which to shoot down real-world liberalism. You don’t need a lie to do it.

Frederick B
Frederick B
3 years ago
Reply to  no2flags

Why not spell “Equality” with a capital “E” as it’s so clearly sacred to you?

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  no2flags

The problem with ‘equality’ as it is preached today, is that it is the richest and most powerful among us who lecture us on our privilege – as though it is something that can be taken from us at any moment and be transferred to whatever ‘oppressed’ group the social elites decides is worthy of it. This basically describes ‘social justice’ which, in reality, is mob justice directed by cultural elites. Our current cultural elites tend to work in politics, education, journalism, and academia – institutions that are self-perpetuating and cut off from the everyday needs of ordinary people. If their vision of social justice was to be carried out, they would be the first to go under the guillotine. Ironically, they are so disconnected with reality that they are unable to foresee this happening to themselves.

titan0
titan0
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

It’s amazing how many well heeled middle and senior types have been in print, staggered at being expected to get by on Statutory Sick Pay, when they caught Covid 19.
Just a shame that they were living beyond the elevated means with no plan for their own security beyond the untouchable company paid pension pots.
Now don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t want anyone to suffer. But can this be said of many of them, before it happened to them?

Jeff Chambers
Jeff Chambers
3 years ago
Reply to  no2flags

in reality delivering a modern form of serfdom

We’re a very long way indeed from any form of serfdom in the West. The nearest we are to serfdom comes from the wokesterist neo-Marxists and their aspiration to impose something they label “equality” on the people, but which will be, in fact, an untrammelled tyranny. The reason the imposition of equality leads to tyranny is that it cannot ever exist in human society, which means it can only be imposed by a specially privileged political party working above the law by means a specially privileged political police. Obviously it’s impossible to have equality where there are specially privileged groups. In other words “equality” is a not a glorious virtue transcending all other virtues, but the door to tyranny.

David George
David George
3 years ago
Reply to  no2flags

Perhaps this answers, or at least confronts the issue Rosere. From the Noram Hazony essay The Challenge of Marxism:

The first of these is that while Marxism proposes an empirical investigation of the power relations among classes or groups, it simply assumes that wherever one discovers a relationship between a more powerful group and a weaker one, that relation will be one of oppressor and oppressed. This makes it seem as if every hierarchical relationship is just another version of the horrific exploitation of black slaves by Virginia plantation owners before the Civil War. But in most cases, hierarchical relationships are not enslavement. Thus, while it is true that kings have normally been more powerful than their subjects, employers more powerful than their employees, and parents more powerful than their children, these have not necessarily been straightforward relations of oppressor and oppressed. Much more common are mixed relationships, in which both the stronger and the weaker receive certain benefits, and in which both can also point to hardships that must be endured in order to maintain it.

The fact that the Marxist framework presupposes a relationship of oppressor and oppressed leads to the second great difficulty, which is the assumption that every society is so exploitative that it must be heading toward the overthrow of the dominant class or group. But if it is possible for weaker groups to benefit from their position, and not just to be oppressed by it, then we have arrived at the possibility of a conservative society.

titan0
titan0
3 years ago
Reply to  David George

And when the ‘oppressed’ seek non revolutionary methods such as the also imperfect trades unions to increase their collective power, elected government destroys that often also elected power base and then moves into that vacuum in any way it pleases.
Power that is spread out might in general, be preferable to a one man tyranny don’t you think?

Alan Girling
Alan Girling
3 years ago
Reply to  no2flags

“the default position of human beings is
laziness.. . . We do not engage in collective struggle when all is right with the world.”
Then you have a quite poor opinion of human beings. Laziness? That is patently not true. So all we truly value is creature comforts? People everywhere who are perfectly fine are striving to achieve something wonderful that is NOT about survival. You cannot boil down our whole artistic heritage, for example, to a struggle for survival that we would just give up if ‘all was right with the world’. The fundamental flaw in your argument is that there actually can be such a state (and that history shows it??). Even if a utopia of social equality were achieved, all of the great and deepest existential questions remain. Searching for answers, not ‘laziness’, is at the base simply because we have consciousness. What you call ‘laziness’ that can be observed in people is a denial of our humanity. It is UNconsciousness. I would despair of a society that sees such being the goal.

titan0
titan0
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Girling

I’d agree. Look at the lockdown; cyclists and joggers everywhere. People going nuts at various levels, even though they were not actually locked in their homes.
People want to do things.
What prevents some from striving is the diminishing returns of the gig economy and or, ” it’s minimum wage mate, take it or leave it.”
I’ve said many times. My mate with no legs would crawl a mile on his elbows for a one off bag of diamonds. Why would he do that every day for very much less?
It’s about incentive. Bosses often need extra pay as an incentive to work, normal low paid people apparently, don’t.

no2flags
no2flags
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Girling

And can you point to examples in history of social unrest and civil disobedience caused by high living standards? People don’t overthrow governments or engage in campaigns of civil unrest because of Thymos or because they are “striving to achieve something wonderful.”

Alan Girling
Alan Girling
3 years ago
Reply to  no2flags

I didn’t actually disagree on that point, at least as far as a motivation for collective struggle or overthrowing govts. goes. I was struck more by your characterization of humanity when there is no need for struggle. My suggestion was that struggle or striving on some level is at the core of human consciousness, regardless of material circumstances. Citing ‘laziness’ as a default condition in your context kind of implies that people are being derelict when things are going well for them, as if we should all just be in a permanent state of revolution, that the only valuable fruit of life is political. To me that is a narrow and impoverished conception of existence. I suppose, however, there’s some truth in the view that many will gladly trade their freedom for material satisfaction / security even under tyranny or a totalitarian regime. If that’s what you mean by laziness, okay, I can buy that. Maybe we disagree about what constitutes tyranny and the necessity of struggle.

Hilary Arundale
Hilary Arundale
3 years ago
Reply to  no2flags

“The theme running through the article is that “the human soul clamours for more than peace and plenty” and now that liberalism has delivered these fruits, it can only implode due to the boredom of its beneficiaries. In reality the US is a cesspool of social and economic failure. These are the real forces currently in play and have very little to do with the dubious virtue of Thymos.”

Thankyou for adding some balance to the usual Unherd metanonsense. I couldn’t agree more with your comment.

David Naas
David Naas
3 years ago

It appears the author is suggesting Harry Lime was right – –

You know what the fellow said ““ in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace ““ and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

Then it would not be fair to blame any “-ism” for mankind’s condition. We simply long for conflict, for that is when we feel truly alive. Abel, meet Cain. Or did I miss something more nuanced?
In similar vein, Nisbet’s “The Quest for Community”, or Deneen’s more recent “Why Liberalism Failed” speak to the same theme. And if we care to go back through time, other voices, in nearly every era, solemnly assure us of the imminent collapse of civilization due to Factor X.
Yet, somehow, with all the dippsy doodles, “civilization” seems to keep rising, like yeast say some, like scum say others.

billwald123
billwald123
3 years ago

Agree for a different reason. History requires a written record. Nothing is being “written? and old records are being are being destroyed. History will be rewritten every time a government is changed.

valleydawnltd
valleydawnltd
3 years ago

This does not ring true, in places. The uprisings in the USA on the back of BLM are symptoms of a generations-long sense of injustice on the part of poorly-provisioned, under-invested-in black people. Their inequalities are still very much apparent. It is true that they have garnered support from young white people who behave as if they are in 1917 Moscow, but the underlying cause remains. Similarly, the upswelling of violence from second and third generation migrants living in the West has more to do with a dichotomous clinging-on of traditional beliefs and practices in the face of Western secularism and gender equality, and a sense of grievance that the West should attempt to impose its version of Utopia on the lands of their forbears. In that sense, it is more a case of social schizophrenia for those raised in a non western household yet surrounded by the (from one point of view) excesses and depravities that seem to feature so highly in secular Western life.

markelawhiteley
markelawhiteley
3 years ago

I find it mind boggling but predictable that a PhD student (I was one years ago) writes such an apparently ardent and well thought out rehabilitation of Fukyama. Fukyama himself has acknowledged that the neoliberal project has been a disaster for humanity. The fragility of any system is ALWAYS internal. If our younger generation of social, political and economic scientists are thinking in this way, we are fucked.

Anthony Roe
Anthony Roe
3 years ago

To understand relative middle class decline, compare a well regarded teacher of 20 years experience living in London, without inheritance. 1900 large commodious terraced house or well built suburban villa, wife and children at home, servant or two. 2020 bedsit, house share or one bedroom glass box, car (no garage or garden) wife working full-time one or two children in endless education with ever-growing debts.

authorjf
authorjf
3 years ago

There is a tendency to fear ‘the Strange Death of Europe,’ but I would question how far it is the death either of Europe or of the Western world. Actually, what is dying is a particular political and ideological consensus, and that consensus has made many broken promises. Western Civilisation is a beautiful thing, but it’s not always found in grand affairs of state. It’s found in that still, small voice: Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Julian of Norwich, Piers Plowman, G K Chesterton, C S Lewis, J R R Tolkien, George McDonald, J B Priestley, Thomas Traherne, John Bunyan, Gustav Holst, William Parry, Cecil Spring-Rice, William Morris. There is an underbelly of the wounded serpent that has its own beauty; the powers of this world may strike our head, but we will bruise its heel. For though we be wise as serpents, no less so are we harmless as doves.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
3 years ago

I’m really not sure it’s the far right that should be the focus of attention. The destruction of the liberal West is coming from people who call themselves progressives and antifascists. It is the far left that is asserting itself violently and expressing a need for purpose and quasi-religious meaning, complete with heresies and sinners. Deviation is not allowed, free speech is hate speech, silence is violence. They are rotting the West from within and creating a power vacuum that can only be filled by those referred to as having greater megalothymia, namely Communist China and its agents, a Russia seeking to restore the USSR and the Islamists wanting their Caliphate. Personally I think it will come down to a choice. Pick a side. I’m with the West every time, but only a West that really believes in itself again. We either reassert the supremacy of Western enlightenment values – or we will be destroyed. If that’s considered ‘far right’ then so be it but I do not want to live under a Communist or theocratic regime, period.

Mark Cole
Mark Cole
3 years ago

Try reading ” The Tools of Conviviality by Ivan Illich or Small is beautiful by Schumacher

Our system of unrestrained Capitalism has concentrated wealth and reduced the number of “valuable jobs” by focusing on monetary cost and lowest common denominator.

So the burgeoning underclass doesn’t get paid a lot but has easy access to drugs , tv and online gambling and entertainment and these replace sport, music civic involvement

We have effectively destroyed a great post war community in less than than 50 years largely through GREED

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
3 years ago

There was a flaw in the New World Order policy of 1990. ‘Free’ trade was required to draw the rest of the world into the US-led neoliberal capitalist order. Greater inequality within the Western nations and greater equality between the national elites around the globe were inevitable consequences. As stated in the article, the former led to the impoverishment of the middle class and, together with the expansion of university education, to the culture wars. Then there was the continuing growth in Third World population that, even without the wars and conflict, led to higher levels of migration.