‘A liberal democracy,’ according to Francis Fukuyama, ‘cannot be said to be humanly universal, since such regimes have existed for only the last two centuries in the history of a species that goes back tens of thousands of years. But development is a coherent process that produces general as well as specific evolution – that is, the convergence of institutions across culturally disparate societies over time.’ Fukuyama intends this declaration as a statement of the idea that underlies this book – the bulky second instalment of what his publisher describes as ‘the most important work of political thought in at least a generation’.
Fukuyama achieved fame at the end of the Cold War for announcing ‘the end of history’ (an idea he claims has been widely misunderstood) and celebrating the worldwide reach of Western power and values. Today, possibly somewhat chastened by events, he is no longer writing in such triumphalist terms. He