The Left

The Left and “The Future of History”

Cross-posted from Petra Marquardt-Bigman at The Warped Mirror

Francis Fukuyama of “End of History” fame is contemplating “The Future of History” in the new issue of Foreign Affairs. (Note that the article will be available to non-subscribers only until 12/29/2011). The central focus of his essay is the question if liberal democracy can survive the decline of the middle class that is currently struggling to cope with the impact of technological advances and globalization.

Fukuyama argues that for the past few decades, “the ideological high ground on economic issues has been held by a libertarian right,” while the left has failed “in the realm of ideas.” He warns that the “absence of a plausible progressive counter­narrative is unhealthy, because competition is good for intellectual debate just as it is for economic activity. And serious intellectual debate is urgently needed, since the current form of globalized capitalism is eroding the middle-class social base on which liberal democracy rests.”

Here is Fukuyama’s verdict on the left:

But the deeper reason a broad-based populist left has failed to materialize is an intellectual one. It has been several decades since anyone on the left has been able to articulate, first, a coherent analysis of what happens to the structure of advanced societies as they undergo economic change and, second, a realistic agenda that has any hope of protecting a middle-class society.

The main trends in left-wing thought in the last two generations have been, frankly, disastrous as either conceptual frameworks or tools for mobilization. Marxism died many years ago, and the few old believers still around are ready for nursing homes. The academic left replaced it with postmodernism, multiculturalism, feminism, critical theory, and a host of other fragmented intellectual trends that are more cultural than economic in focus. Postmodernism begins with a denial of the possibility of any master narrative of history or society, undercutting its own authority as a voice for the majority of citizens who feel betrayed by their elites. Multiculturalism validates the victimhood of virtually every out-group. It is impossible to generate a mass progressive movement on the basis of such a motley coalition: most of the working- and lower-middle-class citizens victimized by the system are culturally conservative and would be embarrassed to be seen in the presence of allies like this.