In 1989, political scientist Francis Fukuyama predicted that society had reached the End of History. Not that the world or human life as a whole would end, but instead he claimed the West had won a major victory. The world had tried and totally exhausted all viable political and economic systems, and it was clear Western Liberalism was the undeniable victor. The universalization of Western liberal democracy was “the final form of human government” and “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution.”
At the time, it wasn’t necessarily a wild proposition. That’s not to say Fukuyama didn’t have his detractors and critics, but it was clear Western liberal democracy had won the Cold War. Communism had failed. Its two largest proponents had seen major ideological shifts towards Western ideals. Democracy and the concept of individual freedom had been adopted worldwide. And you could find items of consumerist Western culture in even the most remote villages around the world.
Fukuyama believed that any and all human “contradictions” and ideological disagreements could be solved within the confines of Liberal democracy. It was not that there would be no more conflict, but there were no other historical and ideological forces that could drive history forward.
But, unfortunately, we live in the 21st Century, and history looks far from over. Authoritarian governments have taken power across the world: China, Hungary, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, just to name a few. One such authoritarian government has even invaded a free, independent, and democratic nation while other powers around the world stand on the sidelines in fear that full military intervention will only make matters worse. But also in countries that not only claim to embody Western liberal democracy but also actively worked to spread the ideology, individual freedoms are being restricted and even their foundational democratic systems are under attack.
If history progresses in stages towards a defined end, then it may feel like history is currently in a free fall. An estimated 72% of Americans think the US - the architect of modern liberalism - is moving in the “wrong direction” and political pundits seem to agree regardless of their political leaning. Even Fukuyama has come out with a book claiming that Western Liberalism is under threat and needs to be healed.
There’s no guarantee that democracy will survive – it was an experiment that failed before. This time, however, it became the global standard and for the last 30 years has been the foundation of the world as we know it. And threats are everywhere: A Cold War superpower trying to regain its former glory through any means necessary. An economic powerhouse attempting to assert itself as the new dominant nation through its own autocratic systems. A small yet unpredictable nation unafraid to develop and test their nuclear arsenal.
Or maybe the threat comes from something a little closer to home.
But that begs the question, if the system fails on a global level, which country or countries do you think will be responsible for ending it? Vote for the nations you think are the biggest threat to the world.