Almost thirty years ago, in February 1989, the political scientist Francis Fukuyama gave a talk that was later turned into an article that was later turned into a book, with the provocative title, “The End of History?” With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, western-style liberalism had triumphed over Communism, and had already fended off Fascism. As a recent article in the New Yorker noted:
If you imagined history as the process by which liberal institutions—representative government, free markets, and consumerist culture—become universal, it might be possible to say that history had reached its goal…. There would be a “Common Marketization” of international relations and the world would achieve homeostasis.
It’s a strange time to be using The End of History as an analogy because, as we now know, the end of the Cold War was not the End of History at all, but the end of just one chapter.
But it is fair to say that for a decade or two the world did achieve some sort of homeostasis, perhaps a break from history instead of its end. Democracy was on the move, global trade boomed, and the world became...