Reading about the serious problems facing Libya’s sundry rebel groups as they try to put a unified political structure together I’m struck by the extent to which the past couple of years have vindicated Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History thesis. Historical events, of course, continue to occur. But each and every one of them re-enforces his 1989 point about the “the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism.”
I have no real opinion on the likeliness that a stable and humane political order will emerge in Libya. My gut tells me to be pessimistic. When you read about the issues, though, pay attention to what’s not being disputed. Nobody, as best I can tell, disagrees that in principle Libya ought to be a republican nation state with a government accountable to its people and beholden to some notion of human rights. Nobody is suggesting a dictatorship of the proletariat or the obsolescence of bourgeois democracy in an era of national struggle for blood and soil. The last big thing in Iran was a violent government crackdown on protestors who were brought out in the streets by election fraud. That’s bad. Yet it’s noteworthy that neither Franco nor Stalin would steal an election. Once you’re conceding the point that were it the case that you lost the election you would be obligated to step down, you’ve abandoned the quest for a viable alternative. Hamas’ claim to power in Palestine is that they won an election. The Muslim Brotherhood’s big plan in Egypt is to win an election. The fact that China is a very large and important country still obscures the extent of the triumph to a degree, but it’s clear enough that there is no “Chinese model” to export, no Dengist movement in Libya or anywhere else proposing an alternative vision to liberalism.
It’s a very different world from the long 20th century debates about what constituted a legitimate political order.