Transcript: Francis Fukuyama On Liberalism's Crisis
The famed author talks through the threats to liberal democracy.
Fukuyama is simply the most sophisticated and nuanced political scientist in the field today. He’s currently at Stanford, but he’s also taught at Johns Hopkins and George Mason. The author of almost a dozen books, his most famous is The End of History and the Last Man, published shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. His new book is Liberalism and Its Discontents.
This episode aired on May 27, 2022. Money quotes from Frank:
“I do think that there is at least a glimmer of a universal longing for a basic level of freedom and security that liberal societies are best poised to provide people.”
“Liberalism is based on the protection of autonomy … With every passing decade, there’s been an expansion of the scope of autonomy. In the trans debate, it extends to this question of human biology. That we are so autonomous, that we are not limited by the bodies that we are born with.”
“The language we label political correctness ... is actually just a tool that elites use. They create the categories by which they can oppress you, and you don’t even realize.”
“I think that graduation speakers need to give a slightly different message: that you can have a happy life understanding your own limitations. All of us have those limitations, but that doesn't detract from your ability to do things to the fullest of your ability.”
Andrew: Hi there, and welcome to another Dishcast. We're on a roll here, and I am thrilled to have on a man today who I think is probably the most nuanced and sophisticated political scientist writer alive. There you go, Frank, that's a nice compliment to start with!
But I do, I think that Frank Fukuyama's work is intensely subtle, interesting, calm, and persuasive. Also to my mind, regularly and persistently misunderstood and misrepresented.
He's currently at Stanford, and he taught at Johns Hopkins and George Mason. He's the author of almost a dozen books, most famously The End of History and the Last Man published shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union. His new book kind of in my view is a sequel to that, it's a reminder 20 years later of what he actually said in that book: Liberalism and Its Discontents. Because the liberal settlement, however resilient it has been, is under challenge now, and understandably so.
Frank, welcome to the Dishcast. Thanks for coming.
Frank: Thanks very much for having me.
Andrew: You're so welcome. I'm sorry I had to cancel earlier because of Covid, of all things.
But tell me, towards the end of The End of History — the part that most people didn't read or think about — you talk about the people who live in a settled liberal society, liberal democracy, and you call them the last men or “men without chests.” Which is, I think, Nietzsche's description. Who are we in this liberal democracy in 2022?