Saturday, July 15, 2006

My lunch with Francis Fukuyama

Sometime in the 1990s I joined Francis Fukuyama and a senior international relations scholar for lunch.

Fukuyama was then best known for his book The End of History and the Last Man, which argued that Western liberalism had emerged triumphant from the Cold War and would not face new ideological challenges. The other scholar was best known for embracing a tragic view of international history—things change, but the struggle for power is eternal—and ideology is not as significant as other levers of history.

There wasn’t much common ground and we all knew it. It was a quiet lunch.

The only time my counterparts started to warm up to a topic was over their shared antipathy to much contemporary international relations theory. Foolishly, I offered a mild defense of it and that killed that subject.

So, there’s really nothing salacious or interesting to report from that lunch.

More interesting is the account of Fukuyama’s “Lunch with the FT,” an interview over lunch with a writer from the Financial Times. Click here to read it—and click soon: there’s really no such thing as a free “Lunch with the FT,” so check out the interview before it’s available only to subscribers. Among other things, you’ll learn whether Fukuyama, once considered a standard-bearer of the neoconservatives, voted for Bush.

While not as informative, check out this “digested read” of Fukuyama’s latest book at The Guardian. The bottom line: "Je ne regrette rien."

As for the thesis of liberalism triumphant—both Fukuyama’s version as well as that shared (I’m quite sure) by most FT readers—see this bracing article by the scholar Chalmers Johnson.

--Marshal Zeringue