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Societies don't have to be secular to be modern

An interview with Francis Fukuyama, author of 'The End of History and the Last Man.'

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Nathan Gardels: In 1989, you wrote an essay, later developed into a book, that stated your famous "end of history" thesis. You said then:

"What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."

What mostly holds up in your thesis 20 years on? What doesn't? What changed?

Francis Fukuyama: The basic point – that liberal democracy is the final form of government – is still basically right. Obviously there are alternatives out there, like the Islamic Republic of Iran or Chinese authoritarianism. But I don't think that all that many people are persuaded these are higher forms of civilization than what exists in Europe, the United States, Japan, or other developed democracies; societies that provide their citizens with a higher level of prosperity and personal freedom.

The issue is not whether liberal democracy is a perfect system, or whether capitalism doesn't have problems. After all, we've been thrown into this huge global recession because of the failure of unregulated markets. The real question is whether any other system of governance has emerged in the last 20 years that challenges this. The answer remains no.

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