Johns Hopkins University Professor Francis Fukuyama, who is best known for his 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man, gave a lecture titled, “Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century,” on October 24 at Emerson Chapel. The lecture was the third in a series organized by the Ewha Academy for Advanced Studies to invite distinguished scholars to Ewha.
“I would like to use this occasion to revisit my thesis in The End of History and the Last Man,” said Fukuyama before he discussed the obstacles to liberal democracy. Fukuyama said his main argument was that modernization will bring democracy instead of communism, as scholars like Marx predicted.
Fukuyama contrasted his ideas with those of Samuel Huntington, whose book The Clash of Civilizations “argued that democracy and human rights are specific to Western civilizations and that culture (defined by religion) is central to the way any society sees itself.” Using the example of Saudi Arabia, in which women are not allowed to drive for religious reasons, Fukuyama said, “We both think that culture affects the path of development. But Huntington believes culture dictates result and Saudi women will not be able to drive their cars in the future while I believe that they would win that right to drive.”
Fukuyama then explained four challenges to democracy. The first was Islam and culture in the Arab world. But he asked, “Will Islamic countries not experience democracy? My answer is no.” Arguing against the opinion that the inseparable link between the church and state would prevent democratization, Fukuyama noted that there was no separation of church and state in the early Christian West. The rise of radical Islamism, he said, is a temporary result of the region’s confrontation with modernization as it is “a morally disorienting process where traditional values are undermined.” “Young Muslims ask ‘Who am I?’ but democracy does not provide a clear answer,” he added.
Second, Fukuyama said that we know how to create democratic institutions in nation states but we do not have a mechanism between states that assures democratic accountability. “A big problem of democracy is the lack of democratic institutions at the international level that can generate greater accountability between countries,” said Fukuyama.
As modernization brings democracy, the continuing poverty trap in many parts of the world is the third challenge Fukuyama sees. He argued that countries are poor because they lack good institutions, saying, “There are highly corrupt governments which fail to do what they should do.”
The fourth challenge is “The potential threat technological developments pose to democracy,” says Fukuyama. Despite the fact that technology is the driver of modernization, he said that the same technology used to heal people can also control them and shape their destiny.
At the end, Fukyuama expressed his thanks to the students for attending the lecture despite the midterm period.
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