Jasmine Revolutions, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Francis Fukuyama’s still wrong


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Francis Fukuyama argued that the “end of history” was the emergence of liberal democracy – and, of course, capitalism – as the predominant ideological force in the world. According to Fukuyama, the shift to liberalism was inevitable – it was just, quite simply, better than anything else. When he wrote this, in 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, democracy was breaking out across the world, and it was indeed ‘liberal’ in many cases.

Some commentators have suggested that the recent uprisings across the Middle East are the ‘proof’ of Fukuyama’s argument that has been, for so long, elusive. This is a suggestion that the popular, people’s movements for democracy show that liberal democracy is still the ultimate stage in human political development, with its focus on the individual and its attendant trappings of capitalism.

With that in mind, I find it absolutely fascinating to read and to hear “market concerns,” or “business worries,” reflected in stock market trading and commodity prices, that these popular uprisings might spread across the region. The markets are afraid of this.

If Fukuyama was right, and if liberal democracy and capitalism is the ultimate stage in human development, that elusive ‘end of history,’ then shouldnt the markets be embracing these uprisings and revolutions?

They’re not, though. For a good reason. The popular uprisings in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Libya, and nascent ones in China and Yemen and in so many other places are taking a different form. These uprisings are based on communities of action, they are leaderless, they feature collective action and mutual aid as ways that they operate. They’re not calling for democracy and the right to freely trade their stock options and derivatives, they’re calling for democracy and human rights.

These popular uprisings show that Fukuyama’s thesis is far from being confirmed – indeed, it’s again being shown to be just as preposterous as it always has been. Liberalism isn’t the end of history. Any number of these regimes that have fallen or will soon fit perfectly well into the liberal mode. The people are demanding something else – something beyond Fukuyama’s “end of history.”

They are demanding – actually, they are going beyond the demand and they are actively creating – their capacity to collectively decide their own futures. Something that liberal democracy and capitalism deny them.

And the markets and the stock traders and the businessmen know this. Which is why they are afraid of these uprisings spreading. Which is why Fukuyama is still wrong. And why the people in Egypt and Tunisia and Libya and Yemen and China and Wisconsin are right.

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Kevin is a cooperator, an always-student, and passionate about the arts. As a principal of the Incipe Cooperative, Kevin works with colleagues in a workers' co-op offering services for advocacy and nonprofit organizations. He's passionate about education policy, having been through twenty some-odd years of schooling and still thinking it changes the world. He also thinks that art changes the world, and he works with Art for Impact to celebrate art's power for social change. A Vancouver born and raised resident who is exiled from Toronto, he constantly loses umbrellas and probably rants too much.

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4 thoughts on “Jasmine Revolutions, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Francis Fukuyama’s still wrong”

  1. Where’s our uprising??

    Our apathetic Canadian crowd is a fine example of useful idiots. Its like living in zombienation.

  2. from all this, i think about the participatory budgeting model i read about in porto alegre years ago.

    while resisting the polyanna urge, i’m hopeful for the peoples and their pursuits, though libya is really angering me. and as much as the canadian government predictably didn’t support other african/middle east reform movements to any useful degree, our rhetorical interventions with respect to libya are another source of national shame.

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