I am very late to Fukuyama, but the guy rocks. I’m reading “The Origins of Political Order” now, and it’s great.
If you have time and inclination – it’s not a “scan read” – this is well worth reading:
Very difficult to synopsize, but here’s a piece (emphasis in bold mine):
For throughout his analysis, Fukuyama insisted on the centrality of thymos (the Greek for ‘spiritedness’), or recognition, to human psychology: what Thomas Hobbes called pride, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau labelled amour propre. This denotes the need to be liked and respected by other people, and to have that recognition outwardly affirmed – if necessary, extracting it by force. Some human beings, Fukuyama thought, are always going to be inherently competitive and greedy for recognition. Some will therefore always vie to be thought of as the best – and others will resent them for that, and vie back. This has the potential to cause a lot of trouble. Human beings demand respect, and if they don’t feel that they are getting it, they break things – and people – in response.
It was this psychological feature of people, Fukuyama claimed, that guaranteed that although we might have reached the end of History, there was nothing to be triumphalist about. Just because humans could do no better than liberal capitalist democracy – could progress to no form of society that contained fewer inherent conflicts and contradictions – it didn’t mean that the unruly and competitive populations of such societies would sit still and be content with that. Late capitalist modernity might be the highest civilisational point we could achieve, because it contained the fewest contradictions. But there was strong reason to suspect that we’d slide off the top, back into History, down into something worse.
This was because, Fukuyama thought, human beings didn’t just exhibit thymos, but also what he termed ‘megalothymia’: a desire not just for respect and proportionate recognition, but a need to disproportionately dominate over others in ostentatious and spectacular ways. Megalothymia was by no means always or necessarily a bad thing: it was what had driven human beings to build cathedrals, achieve great works of art, found empires and political movements, and generally help push the direction of History forwards. But if not channelled to appropriate ends it could quickly turn vicious, finding an outlet in the domination and oppression of others.
What was remarkable about liberal capitalist democracy, Fukuyama thought, was that it had managed to put a lid on the more destructive expressions of megalothymia, encouraging citizens to direct such energies into socially harmless expressions, such as mountaineering or competitive sports. Which might sound like a pleasant conclusion. Except, Fukuyama thought, that a sanguine response failed to see the hidden dangers lurking in the end of History.
Fukuyama predicted that such restlessness and resentment would eventually need a political outlet – and when it came, it would be explosive. The anti-capitalist Left, however, was a busted flush. Communism was now a known fraud and failure, and post-Historical people driven by megalothymia would have no truck with its egalitarian pretensions, or its nakedly tyrannical realities. Far more threatening to the stability of liberal capitalist societies would be the emergence of demagogic strongmen from the fascistic Right, cynically feeding narrow self-interest and popular discontent, preying on human impulses for mastery and domination that the hollow comforts of consumer capitalism could not hope to appease. …
One final thing. In describing the shallow celebrity culture, the essential emptiness, of the habitat of the last man, Fukuyama had a particular example in mind. He went to the same individual for illustration when looking for an archetype of megalothymia – who else but ‘a developer like Donald Trump’. Fukuyama didn’t predict that it would be that very individual who would crash through the comforts of the end of History, turning the certainties of the post-Historical world upside down. But he got closer than most.