HomeAbout Think TankAbout Ben WattenbergPrevious ShowsWhere to WatchSpecials


Watch Videos and Listen to Podcasts at ThinkTankTV.com

  « Back to Fukuyama 101 main page
TranscriptsGuestsRelated ProgramsFeedback

Transcript for:

Fukuyama 101

ANNOUNCER: Brought to you in part by ADM, feeding the world is the biggest challenge of the new century, which is why ADM is conducting research into aquiculture and other new food sources. ADM, supermarket to the world.

Additional funding is provided by the John M. Olin Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation.

MR. WATTENBERG: Hello, I'm Ben Wattenberg. Francis Fukuyama is one of America's most original and provocative social theorists. At age 36, in 1989, he stunned the intellectual community with a lengthy article entitled, The End of History, which ultimately became a best selling book in America and in many other nations. His new book, The Great Disruption, is already making waves. And Frank Fukuyama has already moved beyond that. He is speculating now in print about post-human history, or the end of human nature. He is professor of public policy at George Mason University. The topic before the house, Frank Fukuyama and The Great Disruption, this week on Think Tank.

(Musical break.)

MR. WATTENBERG: Thank you, Frank, for joining us. Before we talk about the end of history, let's talk a little bit about your personal history. Just the basics, you were born where and when?

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, I was born in Chicago, but really grew up as a New Yorker. My father was trained as a congregationalist minister, and then taught religious studies. And so moved on to Penn State University. And then I went to Cornell as an undergraduate and got a degree in political science, at Harvard. Most of my life I worked at the Ran Corporation, and I've been at George Mason University teaching public policy for the last, I guess this is now, three years.

MR. WATTENBERG: And as I understand it, your father was born in America, your grandparents were immigrants?

MR. FUKUYAMA: My grandfather on my father's side came to the U.S. in 1905, to avoid being drafted into the Japanese side of the Russo-Japanese War, at the same time that a lot of my Jewish friends had their grandparents leave on the Russian side. My mother was born in Japan, and she came after the war.

MR. WATTENBERG: I see, now were they -- were your grandparents also professional people?
MR. FUKUYAMA: No, my grandfather owned a hardware store in Little Tokyo, so he was a typical immigrant entrepreneur, on First and San Pedro in downtown L.A., until he lost the business during the war when everyone went to camp. But, basically that side of my family grew up in Los Angeles.

MR. WATTENBERG: Were any of your, I guess, grandparents interned during that?

MR. FUKUYAMA: Yes, on my father's side the whole family was, my grandfather, and grandmother, and aunts. And my father and his brother and sister got out by going to college in the Midwest, and then actually one of my uncles volunteered for service in the U.S. Army in China and got out of camp that way.

MR. WATTENBERG: Okay. Having covered your history, let's deal with your book, The End of History. It aroused a great deal of comment when it came out some years ago, partly because I sense people didn't quite understand the title. Why don't you give us a thumbnail sketch of the thesis of the end of history?

MR. FUKUYAMA: First of all, this is history with a capital H. You know, Jesse Jackson says, you've got to get on the right side of history, and what he means by that is that the world is evolving in certain ways, towards greater democracy, towards certain principles that now underlie most modern societies. And, in fact, the Marxists used to believe that history was directional and progressive, in some sense, and would culminate in a socialist utopia, and in fact for the last 100 years most intellectuals, progressive intellectuals in the West believe that the kind of democratic society we see around us, and capitalism were just a weight station to further evolution towards socialism.

And what The End of History is is simply the observation that here at the end of the 20th Century it looks like we're not, in fact, on the way to evolving towards a higher type of a society, but in fact, what you see is what you get, that everything seems actually to be leading to modern, liberal democracy and to free markets. That there are really no serious competitors any longer to capitalism as an economic form, or to democracy as a political one.

MR. WATTENBERG: When you say modern, liberal democracy, the liberal is in the old English sense.

MR. FUKUYAMA: That's right.

MR. WATTENBERG: Why don't you explain that.

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, democracy is popular sovereignty, elections and the like. The liberal part of it means that the state is limited, and gives individuals a certain sphere of individual freedom that it has to respect, usually through a constitution and a rule of law. And the two, the democratic side, and the liberal side, really have to go with each other, because in a way they're interdependent in the modern world.

MR. WATTENBERG: So when the Soviet Empire collapsed, and then the Soviet Union itself was dismembered, your thought is that this was the last gasp of the old intellectual order, and that societies everywhere either were or were evolving toward, or would evolve toward a liberal democratic order, with personal, political, and economic liberty?

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, that's right. First of all, you saw the collapse not just of the Communist alternative, but the right wing alternative. There are no more monarchies of any serious sort in the modern world, or at least for a country that aspires to be modern. And fascism exists in little corners of the world, maybe Serbia or places like that, but it's not something that's really appealing, and I think the idea is not that everybody necessarily becomes democratic, but there really is a process by which, if you modernize economically, you become a technological player in the modern global economy, it brings about a tendency towards democracy. It's very hard to be an Islamic republic and produce semiconductors, and engage in world trade, because all of that, I think, presupposes a kind of open, liberal, free, intellectual and political order. And I think that's what you see around in the world.

MR. WATTENBERG: So you're making a case that the line of history has, at least as we would see it, has been ascendant, moving toward a generally praiseworthy goal. Now, your new book is called the great disruption. And it turns out that, as you describe it, at precisely the time that we're moving up this ascendant curve, climbing the tree, there's a little beaver down below, gnawing away at the very tree that you're saluting.

MR. FUKUYAMA: That's right.

MR. WATTENBERG: Is that a fair analysis?

MR. FUKUYAMA: That's fair, and in a way the great disruption came about as a result of my trying to answer the critics of The End of History, because people had said, okay, look, it's true that these political institutions in the West look like they're triumphant and ascendant, but isn't our moral order collapsing around us, you know, as we speak. You have very high rates or crime, the family in the West is broken down, there seems to be a lot of selfishness, and lack of any sort of social solidarity in these liberal societies, that on the outside look triumphant. And The Great Disruption is really about that.

MR. WATTENBERG: What were the symptoms of The Great Disruption?

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, in the book I really looked at three classes of social statistic. One had to do with crime rates. Everybody agrees that crime is a bad thing, and that the growth of crime in some sense represents a breakdown of social order. And it's absolutely fascinating if you take the developed countries, the countries of the OECD in Europe, North America, except for the Asian members, virtually every country saw a very rapid increase in crime rates that began all pretty much at the same time, some time around 1963, '64, '65, and those shot up very steadily through the '70s and '80s. Now, in our case, they've peaked and they've started to come down.

MR. WATTENBERG: People all during that time were saying America is such a violent society, there's more murder in America, there's more guns in America, there's more crime in America. You're saying that as that was happening, it wasn't only happening in America?

MR. FUKUYAMA: It wasn't only happening in America. It's true that in terms of violent crime, and particularly homicide, America is truly exceptional, so we have, you know, 10 times the rate of Britain or Japan.

MR. WATTENBERG: Exceptional in the bad sense?

MR. FUKUYAMA: Yes, exceptional in the bad sense. Nonetheless, even if they start down here, and we're here, everybody is going up at a very dramatic pace, and very pretty much at the same time.

MR. WATTENBERG: So an increase in criminality is one aspect of the great disruption, you said there were three?

MR. FUKUYAMA: The second is really what happened to the family, the nuclear family from the 1950s began breaking down, again, pretty much across the Western world at pretty much the same time. And here the United States actually is not exceptional, 1 out of 3 children by the 1990s was being born out of wedlock. In Sweden the comparable number was about two out of every three. So in terms of children being raised --

MR. WATTENBERG: Wasn't that somewhat different, the European pattern of cohabitation, say, in Sweden, was sort of marriage without the papers. I mean, they were people living as husband and wife, who just didn't bother getting married, but stayed together, raised a family. Whereas, what we were troubled by in the United States, at least then, was that this was often leading to female headed households. Is that distinction valid?

MR. FUKUYAMA: No, it's valid, it's true that many of those technically illegitimate children in Sweden were living with both biological parents. But, the rate -- first of all, the Swedish divorce rate was going up, and the rate at which cohabiting couples were breaking up was also very high. And so it's very hard to measure those things, because countries don't keep statistics on how many cohabiting couples have split up. But, from what we can tell that rate is just as high as in the United States. So that in the end it amounts to the same thing. The number of children being raised by a woman by herself, or without both parents is still quite high. And what's important, I think, really is not so much the absolute level, but the trend that this happened in a whole series of countries, really at the same time.

And then the final variable that I think is important is trust, trust in institutions, trust in fellow citizens. And it's hard to get a good handle on this, but there are surveys that have been done where people in different countries are asked the same set of questions, do you trust the government to do the right thing, do you trust your fellow citizens, do you trust the various institutions, labor unions, corporations, doctors, the court system. And again, there you see a very similar pattern that the level of distrust in really most developed societies decreased very dramatically. In the U.S. people trusting the federal government were 1.70 percent, and they did -- by the early '90s that had dropped to about 15 percent. So, again, it's another series of indicators that all moved across the same set of countries, and moved very rapidly.

MR. WATTENBERG: And the answer to the logical next question, which is why did it happen, is what?

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, I think the fundamental reason is that it is related really to movement out of an industrial society, and into whatever comes next. Some people have called it an information society, or a post industrial society, one in which services are much more important, and one in which mental labor, I think, becomes much more critical than physical labor. And that, I think, is the only way that you can explain why this happened to this particular group of countries.

MR. WATTENBERG: Why would a move from an industrial economy into a service economy engender an erosion of family life, and more criminality, and a lack of trust?
MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, it's a complicated set of causality. But, the family is the clearest. What it means to live in a post industrial society is to live in a world where mental labor is more common, or more in demand than physical labor. And that's a world in which women have a much greater natural place in the workplace. And so one of the most important changes that happened in this period was the movement of millions of women into the paid labor force, throughout the Western world. There's a further thing that happened in this period that, in my mind, explains a lot of the timing, which is really the birth control pill and other technologies for controlling reproduction.

I think that the single most important moral norm that shifted in this period was really a norm having to do with male responsibility. It used to be that you had this institution, the shotgun wedding, you know, that if you had sex with a girl and you got her pregnant, the burden was on you to then turn over a major portion of your lifetime earnings to --

MR. WATTENBERG: The burden often pointed out to you by the young woman's older brothers, or father.

MR. FUKUYAMA: Right, or other male relatives.

MR. WATTENBERG: Who came in with muscles rippling and shotguns.

MR. FUKUYAMA: And shotguns, right, hence the title. And that just went through a very dramatic change in the 1960s. I mean, that was the age when I came of age, and I know from one end of the decade to the other, you know, by the end of the '60s, if the girl got pregnant, then it was her fault because she should have been taking the pill or protecting herself, or after Roe v. Wade, you know, she could have had an abortion and gotten herself out of that problem.

MR. WATTENBERG: And even, in fact, for some years before Roe v. Wade in some of the big states, California, New York.

MR. FUKUYAMA: Sure. And I think what that meant was that it's a very paradoxical thing that the birth control pill was supposed to liberate women and give them greater control over their reproductive lives. But, in a way, what it did, I think, was to liberate men and release them from this responsibility for dealing with the consequences of sex, which is to say children, and shifting that burden to women. And so you have this very paradoxical consequence that birth control, the separating of reproduction and sex was suddenly followed by this explosion of illegitimacy and family breakdown and families being raised by --

MR. WATTENBERG: Some of the biggest fans of feminism were always the guys, because it made life a lot easier for them.

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, I think so, and I think there's a misunderstanding that a lot of feminists felt that the sexual revolution was a kindred revolution because, you know, the argument went that women wanted sex as much. But I think that, in a sense, there you bump up against human nature, that in many ways the sexual revolution was, in a way, better suited to male interests because men always had a greater opportunity for playing around, or for having multiple partners and multiple families at later and later ages. And a lot of men took advantage of that. So they came out, I think, very well from this combination of the sexual and feminist revolutions happening simultaneously.

MR. WATTENBERG: Now, in the current case, the great disruption that started in the 1960s or so, have we remoralized ourselves? Are we coming back from the brink in your judgment?

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, I think it's a little bit too early to say but there's some hopeful indicators. Crime in the United States is down maybe 20 to 25 percent nationally. The rate of illegitimacy has finally stopped rising and has come down slightly. Teenage pregnancy is down quite substantially. Levels of civic trust have improved in the 1990s.

MR. WATTENBERG: Under President Clinton.

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, under President Clinton, right.

MR. WATTENBERG: Or alongside of President Clinton.

MR. FUKUYAMA: Right. But, well, in fact, it makes you wonder if with slightly different leadership whether, you know, you might actually have seen even better numbers.

MR. WATTENBERG: As you point out, I mean, the way Clinton ran for office in 1992, he had the wonderful phrase, no more something for nothing, which is exactly, as I sense it, the root of what you thought some of the governmental public policy problems were.

MR. FUKUYAMA: No, that's right. He emphasized personal responsibility and the importance of family, and people taking care of themselves, and I think that was an essentially conservative cultural message. Just that it came out of a person whose personal life didn't really reflect that.

MR. WATTENBERG: Do as I say, not as I do.
MR. FUKUYAMA: That's right. That's right.

MR. WATTENBERG: So, you think we have gone through the beginnings of a remoralization as you call it?

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, that's right.

MR. WATTENBERG: What other symptoms, what would other indicia of that be?

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, it's not -- a lot of my argument isn't really based on empirical observation of things getting better. It's really based on a fundamental understanding of what human beings are all about, because in my view there's a lot of reason for thinking that human beings have natural, very power natural instincts or capabilities for creating moral order for themselves. And in some sense they've been driven to create moral rules as long as they've been human beings, and it would be very surprising if they could somehow invent a society for themselves where moral rules were absent. So, in my view, in a way, the default condition of human society is to have rules, and the rules get disrupted by technological change, by the birth control pill, or changing labor markets, or one thing or another, repeatedly, as history continues. But the societies are always playing catch-up, and ultimately do create a new set of values and norms by which people can live together, because they have to as human beings.

MR. WATTENBERG: All right. So, let's just go on to a final aspect of it. You say that the liberal democracies, the good guys, are not only winning the global fight, but have sort of won it. And then you say, in the process of winning it, in part because there is so much liberty, it's the beaver gnawing away at the trunk of the tree. But, again, in some large part because people are smart and are able to act in a free society, they are in the process of driving the beavers away and keeping the tree healthy. Which is a great thesis.

And then, right in the middle of this whole thing, you got one letter, you got a huge amount of comments, and then the way you described it, you got one letter from one person who said, you know, this end of history thing is wrong because. Why don't you tell me about that.

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, my view of why there's such a thing as History with a capital 'H' really has a lot to do with modern natural science. If you ask why --

MR. WATTENBERG: History with a capital 'H' goes back to Frederick Hagel, is that right?
MR. FUKUYAMA: That's right. I mean, this whole idea that there's progress in human societies, and we move from one form of society to another.

MR. WATTENBERG: It's his thesis and antithesis, that whole --

MR. FUKUYAMA: I mean, it doesn't have to be that formal, but, yes, most people believe in some sense that it's really different living in a modern society than a Third World one, and there are consistent reasons why you want to move from one to the other. And the letter I got, you know, made the point which, in the back of my mind I knew was always true, that in that case you couldn't really have an end of history unless you had an end of science, that is to say a point at which technology simply stopped evolving.

The recent developments in technology, I think, have been supportive of liberal democracy. The information revolution, I think, is by and large a good thing for democracy. It tends to disperse power. It gives people alternative ways of getting information, you know, to go around all of the hierarchical gatekeepers that keep people in their place. But there's no rule that says that technology has always got to have this beneficent effect. And, in fact, a lot of Americans tend to have, I think, an overly optimistic view of what technology will bring for them. Other times it brings things like nuclear weapons, and environmental degradation. And I think that in particular, the 21st Century, you know, if the 20th Century was in some sense the century of physics, the 21st Century is going to be the century of biology. And we are really on the cusp of a whole series of technological innovations in the area of biotechnology that, in many respects are going to be much more revolutionary than the devices in physics that came out in the 20th Century.

MR. WATTENBERG: And that scares you?

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, I think that it -- you know, that's really a power that formally we attributed to God, you know, really to remake human nature itself rather than individuals. And it raises a lot of, I think, disturbing questions about social control, because among other things, it opens up the possibility for social control that we haven't had. For example, crime, now a lot of social scientists think that there is, in fact, a genetic basis for predisposition towards certain kinds of criminal behavior, and alcoholism, or related things. If you can simply go in there with a gene therapy that gets rid of that, you know, the temptation, I think, for societies to do that is going to be very great.

MR. WATTENBERG: Following a century where eugenics became sort of a Frankenstein monster, I mean most apparent in the Hitler era, but not exclusive to that, is it plausible to suggest that humanity with knowledge aforethought, having gone through that catastrophe is going to say, well, we can breed better people?

MR. FUKUYAMA: Well, I think it's already --

MR. WATTENBERG: And end up with worse people, I mean, or ending, as you say, at the end of human nature because it will have changed the gene pool.

MR. FUKUYAMA: It's already beginning to happen. I mean, you already get people, you know, wealthy couples advertising in the Stanford paper for six-foot blonde haired woman to donate an egg with an IQ of 140, so that in some sense that possibility is already on the horizon. And I think that the trouble is that the therapy is very much mixed up. You know, the good things are mixed up with the bad things. And whether we are going to be wise enough to take the therapies but not the enhancement, or to take the benefits without conferring on ourselves really scary powers to do all sorts of things, I'm not that confident of.

MR. WATTENBERG: Just to wrap this up, if 100 years from now there was a course offered called Fukuyama 101, what would the course description be? What is it in a paragraph?

MR. FUKUYAMA: I think the course would really be about the different levels on which any modern society is built on. The end of history was all about the big institutions, you know, democracy, elections, constitutions. You have to have that right. My second book, Trust, was really about civil society and all of the things that occur at the level below that of the big institutions, because you also have to have voluntary associations, you know, unions, the press, and the like. And The Great Disruption, in many ways, is about the family and the things that happen at the level of culture, because if you don't have those ducks in a row, the big institutions aren't going to work either. And, I guess, the course is really about how the three of them are, in a sense, you know, necessary and mutually supportive in designing and making successful any kind of modern society.

MR. WATTENBERG: All right. Good luck, and many thanks Frank Fukuyama.

MR. FUKUYAMA: Thank you, Ben.

ANNOUNCER: We at Think Tank depend on your views to make our show better. Please send your questions and comments to New River Media, 1150 Seventeenth Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C. 20036, or email us at thinktank@pbs.org. To learn more about Think Tank, visit PBS Online at www.pbs.org. And please let us know where you watch Think Tank.

This has been a production of BJW, Incorporated, in association with New River Media, which are solely responsible for its content.

Brought to you in part by ADM, feeding the world is the biggest challenge of the new century, which is why ADM is conducting research into aquiculture and other new food sources. ADM, supermarket to the world.

Additional funding is provided by the John M. Olin Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation.

(End of program.)

Back to top

Think Tank is made possible by generous support from the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Donner Canadian Foundation, the Dodge Jones Foundation, and Pfizer, Inc.

©Copyright Think Tank. All rights reserved.
BJW, Inc.  New River Media 

Web development by Bean Creative.