Saturday, September 13, 2014

Global Warning

Thefollowing article might be slightly longer than usual and it does not even mention Environmentalism. Yet it speaks to what we discussed last week and to the heart of the subject of chapter 25.
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Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Political Order and Political Decay’
By SHERI BERMAN SEPT. 11, 2014 (NYT)
In 1989, Francis Fukuyama published an essay in The National Interest
entitled “The End of History?” that thrust him into the center of public
debate. Although often misunderstood and maligned, its central argument
was straightforward and sensible: With the collapse of Communism, liberal
democracy stood alone as the only form of government compatible with
socio-economic modernity. Over the years since, Fukuyama has continued
to argue the case, and has now summed up his efforts with a two-volume
magnum opus that chronicles global political development from prehistory
to the present. A quarter-century on, he remains convinced that no other
political system is viable in the long run, but concludes his survey with a
sobering twist: Liberal democracy’s future is cloudy, but that is because of
its own internal problems, not competition from any external opponent.
Fukuyama began the first volume, “The Origins of Political Order,”
which appeared in 2011, by stating that the challenge for contemporary
developing countries was how to “get to Denmark” — that is, how to build
prosperous, well-governed, liberal democracies. This, in turn, required
understanding what “Denmark” — liberal democracy — actually involved.
Accountability required mechanisms for making leaders responsive to
their publics, which meant regular free and fair multiparty elections. But
elections alone were not enough: A true liberal democracy needed to have its
institutions of accountability supplemented by a central government that
could get things done and by rules and regulations that applied equally to -
everyone.
Fukuyama showed how throughout human history these three factors
had often emerged independently or in various combinations. China, for
example, developed a state long before any existed in Europe, yet did not
acquire either the rule of law or political accountability. India and much of
the Muslim world, by contrast, developed something like the rule of law
early on, but not strong states (or, in much of the Muslim world, political
accountability). It was only in parts of Europe in the late 18th century,
Fukuyama noted, that all three aspects started to come together
simultaneously.
“Political Order and Political Decay” picks up the story at this point,
taking the reader on a whirlwind tour of modern development from the
French Revolution to the present. Fukuyama is nothing if not ambitious. He
wants to do more than just describe what liberal democracy is; he wants to
discover how and why it develops (or does not). So in this volume, as in the
previous one, he covers a vast amount of ground, summarizing an
extraordinary amount of research and putting forward a welter of arguments
on an astonishing range of topics. Inevitably, some of these arguments are
more convincing than others. And few hard generalizations or magic
formulas emerge, since Fukuyama is too knowledgeable to force history into
a Procrustean bed.
Thus he suggests that military competition can push states to
modernize, citing ancient China and, more recently, Japan and Prussia. But
he also notes many cases where military competition had no positive effect
on state building (19th-century Latin America) and many where it had a
negative effect (Papua New Guinea, as well as other parts of Melanesia). And
he suggests that the sequencing of political development is important,
arguing that “those countries in which democracy preceded modern state
building have had much greater problems achieving high-quality
governance than those that inherited modern states from absolutist times.”
But the cases he gives as examples do not necessarily fit the argument well
(since Prussia’s state eventually had trouble deferring to civilian authorities
and the early weakness of the Italian state was probably caused more by a
lack of democracy than a surfeit of it). In addition, he surely understands
that authoritarianism is even more likely to generate state weakness than
democracy since without free media, an active civil society and regular
elections, authoritarianism has more opportunities to make use of
corruption, clientelism and predation than democracies do.
Perhaps Fukuyama’s most interesting section is his discussion of the
United States, which is used to illustrate the interaction of democracy and
state building. Up through the 19th century, he notes, the United States had
a weak, corrupt and patrimonial state. From the end of the 19th to the
middle of the 20th century, however, the American state was transformed
into a strong and effective independent actor, first by the Progressives and
then by the New Deal. This change was driven by “a social revolution
brought about by industrialization, which mobilized a host of new political
actors with no interest in the old clientelist system.” The American example
shows that democracies can indeed build strong states, but that doing so,
Fukuyama argues, requires a lot of effort over a long time by powerful
players not tied to the older order.
Yet if the United States illustrates how democratic states can develop, it
also illustrates how they can decline. Drawing on Huntington again,
Fukuyama reminds us that “all political systems — past and present — are
liable to decay,” as older institutional structures fail to evolve to meet the
needs of a changing world. “The fact that a system once was a successful and
stable liberal democracy does not mean that it will remain so in perpetuity,”
and he warns that even the United States has no permanent immunity from
institutional decline.
Over the past few decades, American political development has gone
into reverse, Fukuyama says, as its state has become weaker, less efficient
and more corrupt. One cause is growing economic inequality and
concentration of wealth, which has allowed elites to purchase immense
political power and manipulate the system to further their own interests.
Another cause is the permeability of American political institutions to
interest groups, allowing an array of factions that “are collectively
unrepresentative of the public as a whole” to exercise disproportionate
influence on government. The result is a vicious cycle in which the American
state deals poorly with major challenges, which reinforces the public’s
distrust of the state, which leads to the state’s being starved of resources and
authority, which leads to even poorer performance.
Where this cycle leads even the vastly knowledgeable Fukuyama can’t
predict, but suffice to say it is nowhere good. And he fears that America’s
problems may increasingly come to characterize other liberal democracies as
well, including those of Europe, where “the growth of the European Union
and the shift of policy making away from national capitals to Brussels” has
made “the European system as a whole . . . resemble that of the United
States to an increasing degree.”
Fukuyama’s readers are thus left with a depressing paradox. Liberal
democracy remains the best system for dealing with the challenges of
modernity, and there is little reason to believe that Chinese, Russian or
Islamist alternatives can provide the diverse range of economic, social and
political goods that all humans crave. But unless liberal democracies can
somehow manage to reform themselves and combat institutional decay,
history will end not with a bang but with a resounding whimper.

25 comments:

Maria Hernandez-Norris said...

To be honest, I'm not really following what "the end of history" means or what the all has to do with Global warming but I'm sure will follow soon. One thing I think I do follow is the comparison of how different forms of government handle the changing world, particularly the environment. Communism, democracy etc. Though its pretty much up to interpretation according to the reading, one thing that is important to remember is that no mater which form of government gold the green trophy, all forms of government or liable to decay. Along with said government would be the decay of environmental regulations... scary.

Brianna Connelly said...

I am not positive that I understand everything behind Liberal Democracy enough to take a stand. I can say that this article has convinced me to go look for the book in the library to learn more on the subject of his beliefs and knowledge. I do understand that liberal demomcracy protects the rights of the indivdual with fair elections. As well as a separation of powers by different branches in the governement. The article makes people aware of the path the world might be taking.

Brianna Connelly

Anonymous said...


Fukuyama's idea that the only system in place to deal with the challenges of modernity (liberal democracy) will fail because of its own internal problems is used to frame Berman's main points- that liberal democracies are dying of "institutional decay" and those in power and capable of major reform are dealing poorly with major challenges placed upon them. These ideas can be seen analogous to the problem of political action for environmental issues. The old system of dealing with, discussing, and viewing the importance of the sustainability of the planet is irrelevant and action needs to be taken to create a sense of urgency. They can also be seen as overarching views on the workings of liberal democracy, that, despite being the "best system for dealing with the challenges of modernity", it has major flaws that need to be corrected in order to promote sustainable societies.


Micaela Itona

Anonymous said...

This article suggests that just as states, political power, and economies can grow and develop into superpowers such as the United States, once they reach a certain point of top status, they could start to decline. Speaking specifically about the United States, Fukuyama states that we may be in decline right now due to the fact that our government cannot deal with political issues in an efficient manner, which can lead to the civilians not trusting the state, which leads into a viscous circle of decay. This idea relates to issues in the environment within the political spectrum. There will be no way that any issues will be resolved within the environment if our government cannot first solve issues to help the citizens. It goes back to the relationship between what people value first, and once those values are met, then and only then can society move onto a different value. If there are people starving on the streets or economies going down the drain because our government can not communicate effectively due to corruption and lack of compromise, then there will be no move forward in the environmental movement. If our government is in a state of decay, there cannot be much hope into saving what is left of our resources and our earth.

Leanna Molnar

Anonymous said...

I'm not one who generally enjoys discussing politics, mainly because of how heated the arguments can become based on people's opinions, but this article does bring up many interesting points. One that stuck out to me was this: "Over the past few decades, American political development has gone
into reverse, Fukuyama says, as its state has become weaker, less efficient
and more corrupt. One cause is growing economic inequality and
concentration of wealth, which has allowed elites to purchase immense
political power and manipulate the system to further their own interests.
Another cause is the permeability of American political institutions to
interest groups, allowing an array of factions that “are collectively
unrepresentative of the public as a whole” to exercise disproportionate
influence on government. The result is a vicious cycle in which the American
state deals poorly with major challenges, which reinforces the public’s
distrust of the state, which leads to the state’s being starved of resources and
authority, which leads to even poorer performance." I happen to agree with this section. There is so much scandal and corruption surrounding politics in America, that it's nearly impossible to really trust any politician these days. The recent unrest in Ferguson is one of the more recent examples I can use of "...a vicious cycle in which the American
state deals poorly with major challenges, which reinforces the public’s
distrust of the state, which leads to the state’s being starved of resources and
authority, which leads to even poorer performance." Due to Officer Darren Wilson, a white cop in Ferguson, shooting unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, caused a lot of not only unrest, but distrust of both the state and authorities. This unrest can be easily related to some of the uprisings that have happened in recent years, with Egypt, Russia and Ukraine, etc. due to the government's handling of things.

-E. Piper Phillips

Chelsea Dow said...

This article took some time for me to digest and comprehend. Initially while reading it I had a hard time harnessing in on the connection between Fukayama’s political ideals and its connection to environmentalism. I know that perhaps that wasn’t the intention of this passage and it was more politically based, but as an ENV major my mind always goes to connecting those worlds. So I began to think that the connection here is deeply rooted in the foundation of the system. A country that has for example a strong rule of law (ex: Muslim world) might hinder their environment depending on the governments perception of the natural world. If you are a government that recognizes the importance of limits to growth, which sadly I don’t think many have, then perhaps a strong rule of law could help protect the earth. In most cases however it seems that a strong rule of law means less attention to the environment. Perhaps in the States we like to think that we have more of a voice being a democratic state, and I believe we do. However, coming from a country dedicated to consumerism will only breed more damage to the natural world. Thus becomes the question of liberal democracy and what ideal will truly help… which is something that clearly needs further investigation.

Anonymous said...

I took this article to be part a sort of comparison to different ways to deal with the environmental problem and part on how governments deal with things. Fukuyama describes many different governments and countries and how they were successful and how they weren't successful. This can be applied to the environment. We should learn from past mistakes and take the success of each attempt and combined them. He spoke of things eventually "decaying", which is true. Not every way of doing things can work forever without it being updated with the times and reformed. And if we don't update it will fail. Fukuyama shows that as each government gains power it needs to evolve and be open to new ideas and not stuck in their ways. This will result in the main goal both in the environment and the government, which is sustainability.

Mikayla Bonnett

Maria-Vitoria Bernardes said...

This article was a bit confusing to me because I don't know anything about politics, I wouldn't even know where to begin. I think that this Fukuyama has some good points that he addresses about the united states. One of these points is,that the United States has no permanent immunity from
institutional decline. He states, “all political systems — past and present — are
liable to decay,” as older institutional structures fail to evolve to meet the
needs of a changing world. I can build off of this because it is true, in history, not everything lasts forever. Actually most things do not. Just because there once was a successful democratic system, that does not mean that it is guaranteed for government to keep working democratically. People change,situations change, technology changes. Change is the key word; everything changes in life and its hard to say when this change will happen. The democratic end of it I don't understand but, change goes with everything and in society, change needs to occur because we are always adapting and sometimes the old ways aren't the best ways anymore and as a society we need to open our eyes and see that.

-Maria-Vitoria Bernardes-

Sulana Robinson said...

Fukuyama suggests countless times that we are currently walking into our disastrous fate... if we continue on, as if an environmental problem does not exist. There is no possible way to start a revolution if no one is interested in making change towards progress. It is possible for liberal democracies to be changed but not unless we continue to combat already existing ideas. There is constantly going to be a disagreement, and there's not one solution. Unfortunately, it will take a major collective agreement to truly regenerate where we currently stand, environmentally and as a human race period.


Sulana Robinson

Anonymous said...

I do feel that liberal democracy is the best of political states, but I feel that Fukuyama had a point when he said that no democracy, or political state for that matter, is immune to decay. Take the recent vote in Scotland for example. It was somewhat of a close call, but not nearly the landslide they predicted. I feel the vote shows a nation state growing tired of the political policies and government that has been bestowed upon them some 300 years ago. Although the nay votes won the war, the yes votes won the battle of wanting to be heard. Because of the momentous vote, many of their quarrels with the UK government will now (hopefully) be heard.

Someone mentioned something about the decay of government comes the decay of environmental regulations. You may have a point. If the right continues to fight for more deregulation and less intrusive government on some of the more important sectors of this nation, that very well could happen. And yes, that is very scary.

- Patrice Purnell

Anonymous said...

Although I have a very limited amount of knowledge regarding politics, I found the last section of this passage to be quite interesting. In the last paragraph it states "But unless liberal democracies can somehow manage to reform themselves and combat institutional decay, history will end not with a bang but with a resounding whimper." This caught my attention because as much as I am grateful that I am apart of a liberal democracy, I too find myself disappointed sometimes with the lack of progress that we make regarding certain issues. Today the people have more access to information than any other generation yet we fail to take significant action to address these problems. This is supplemented by the fact that government is currently bipartisan and unwilling to compromise on many issues. Unless steps are taken and changes are made, problems such as environmentalism will stay on the back burner.
-Emma Weis

Ashley Unangst said...

When it all boils down. Liberal Democracy, while an ideal alternative/system of being would work in a perfect world...we, unfortunately, do not live in one of those. Just as America is on a slow but sure decay, the concept of liberal democracy is slowly dying as well. Especially because of the influence the US has. If "liberal democracy" will infiltrate all systems in the world, it needs to infiltrate in the purest and unadulterated form. In the perfect liberal democracy, sustainability would be possible. However, the US should not even be allowed to utter those words, because of how invested we are in consumerism which is one of the prime enemies of consumerism, and it's a scary thought. For the country who claims to be one of the best, it sure does promote a lot of bad habits.

Anonymous said...

The United States political system is in a state of decay. Instead of advancing our political power, helping our citizens, and making positive changes to both our country and the world, we are retreating back in time and actually hindering any efforts to make progress. The United States is one of the top countries in the world, yet our political system is cracking at the seams and liberal democracy - the political system this country was essentially built on - is not helping us progress as a nation the way it should be. Crumbling political systems are the cause of protests - the Occupy Wall St. movement, the People's Climate March happening this Sunday, and countless others. The people are demanding that change be made yet the political system is not listening to the citizens' demands. The backbone of American society - the citizens - are not being heard, and that's a problem that the United States and many other countries need to solve in order to progress as a nation and make positive changes.
-Marrina Gallant

Anonymous said...

In Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History? Fukuyama is making the point that
society has developed so much that we can no longer develop any further. In other words,
western liberal democracy has come to a point that it can no longer keep improving. He
uses Philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel who originally came up with the idea
to defend his own position. Hegel believed that although we were not fully a liberal
democracy yet, as of 1806 the beliefs of society were that western liberal democracy had
already won and that the real world just hadn’t yet caught up. He says the ideology at the
time couldn’t be improved upon any further only implemented. He doesn’t claim that the
entire globe is at the end of history; just that the leading countries of the world are
excluding the few communist power that remain. He claims that communist places are an
abnormality and few people still believe in the ideology, because of this they will slowly
shift to liberal democracy. In his mission to discover the end of history Fukuyama seeks
to find anymore socio economic conflicts that could be solved by an ideology other that
modern liberalism.
Nick Stanton

Anonymous said...

The topic that hits me the most after reading this article is the power that the wealthy have. The wealthy control the political system to keep their bank accounts flowing and it is sad. There is major destruction happening to the world around us and we need a change right away. America is known for ignoring things until they start affecting the average person. Hopefully, we can make changes to the environment around us before it is too late.

Anonymous said...

The topic that hits me the most after reading this article is the power that the wealthy have. The wealthy control the political system to keep their bank accounts flowing and it is sad. There is major destruction happening to the world around us and we need a change right away. America is known for ignoring things until they start affecting the average person. Hopefully, we can make changes to the environment around us before it is too late.

-Nicole Virgona

Anonymous said...

Francis Fukuyama conveys the idea that liberal democracy will eventually fail unless it changes to keep up with changing modern times. He uses the United States as an example by explaining that to become powerful the United States ends up needing politicians that do not always agree with the old system that the United States used to operate by. Some examples could be using up too much natural resources in the United States (fossil fuels). In receiving these new politicians, he argues, the public will end up disadvantaged and unhappy. Eventually there will be many problems and possibly a revolution to end liberal democracy.

-Frazer

Dylan Hirsch said...

Fukuyama has some credible ideas, but I often disagree with some of his points, specifically regarding his critique on current American issues as well as his scope of the socio-economic conditions of modernity. The idea of institutional decay is a subjective perspective on the US government and its institutional mechanisms of the present; in reality the US government has always had a margin of corruption and discontinuity. I will in fact argue that this is the way the government was designed, that institutional discontinuity is indeed a means for the government to accurately represent the will of the people. I find a lot of his focus points are repercussions not of the neo-liberal ideology or economic fundamentalist ideals in which our government functions, but rather from a lack of public dedication to the issue. There needs to be an overwhelming amount of public will in order for real change to occur. From civil rights and women empowerment, these social changes took time and would eventually become enshrined in law. The government is designed to protect that status quo, for the sake of the individual. This is why I am not surprised that these social issue take time and energy to push through the neo-liberal institution.

Dylan

Gian Joseph said...

When I was reading the article I felt the totally opposite from the author. I also felt that this article is too opinionated to read, he sort of pushes his opinion on the reader, I feel as if it would do the reader better to read Fukuyama's "the end of history" themselves to form their own criticism. When I read "the end of history" I felt that it was speaking about the globalization of an western economic system (capitalism) or in this article as he calls it " liberal democracy", that would ultimately destroy the cultures or the traditions of foreign countries because it would bring along the idea of the western world along with it. In this article the author rationalizes that Fukuyama is saying that only liberal democracy will be successful that other systems around the world and therefore will end up taking over. But I do not think that this is the case. From what I read from the article, I believe that the globalization of capitalism will eventually ruin the distinction between foreign cultures. This globalization will bring the characteristics of western culture to the eastern world and thus water down those cultures. And since every country will have resembling cultures and everything will be standardized the end of history will happen. I believe that the end of history that Fukuyama speaks of is the standardization of currency , trade, economy, culture, and tradition in the world. Thus causing the earth and its systems to be easily susceptible to failure. Since everything is standardized and there is no competing ideology or system, if the system falls everything everywhere will fall into that same crisis, thus causing the end of history. This is what I felt that Fukuyama was speaking about.

Anonymous said...

The idea behind Liberal Democracy and how different forms of government react to the world. This piece was a little difficult to understand and relate to, but after reading it a couple times and researching some of the topics that were mentioned I believe I have a better understanding of Fukuyama's position. The piece brings awareness to the cycle of governments and how they differ in the ways they deal with the changing world. It shows the need for adaptation and a new view to increase sustainability.

Haylei P

Apoorva said...

I am not sure if I am completely following Fukuyama's beliefs of Liberal Democracy. Maybe with a little more background information on him I can take a better stand at this article. However, if he is discussing democracy, I understand that its a collective decision an entire population takes. And I understand that Fukuyama is leading people to take the right decision on the impacts of global warming.

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