Ideas

Lecture 1: The Return of History

We see human rights in danger all over the world, little progress in social mobility, the rise of right-wing and centralist governments and the mass fleeing of peoples towards western countries. If there is no end point of political development, and the world is unpredictable, then where do we look for the shape of the future? In the 2016 CBC Massey Lectures, Jennifer Welsh explores how pronouncements about the "end of history" may have been premature.
In 1989 American thinker Francis Fukuyama suggested that Western liberal democracy was the endpoint of our political evolution. Our recent history, filled with terrorism and war, rising inequity and the mass flight of populations -- suggests that we've failed to create any sort of global formula for lasting peace and social equity. In the 2016 CBC Massey Lectures, Jennifer Welsh explores how pronouncements about the "end of history" may have been premature. 1:13
Listen to the full episode53:58

In his 1989 essay The End of History? American thinker Francis Fukuyama suggested that Western liberal democracy was the endpoint of our political evolution, the best and final system to emerge after thousands of years of trial and error. Fukuyama seems to have been wrong: our recent history -- filled with terrorism and war, rising inequity and the mass flight of populations -- suggests that we've failed to create any sort of global formula for lasting peace and social equity. In the 2016 CBC Massey Lectures, Jennifer Welsh explores how pronouncements about the "end of history" may have been premature. **This episode originally aired October 31, 2016.
 

"At the heart of Fukuyama's thesis was the audaciously optimistic idea of progress in history. In fact, he claimed that history ... would effectively end, or culminate, in the victory of liberty - translated into the triad of elected governments, the promotion of individual rights, and the creation of an economic system in which capital and labour circulated with relatively modest state oversight."

Instead, we see human rights in danger all over the world, little progress in social mobility, the rise of right-wing and centralist governments and the mass fleeing of peoples towards western countries. If there is no end point of political development, and the world is unpredictable, then where do we look for the shape of the future?




 

Jennifer Welsh
Jennifer Welsh is Professor and Chair in International Relations at the European University Institute in Florence (Italy) and a Fellow of Somerville College, University of Oxford. From 2013 until 2016, she was the Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on the Responsibility to Protect. She co-founded the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, and has taught international relations at the University of Toronto, McGill University, and the Central European University (Prague). Welsh is the author, co-author, and editor of several books and articles on international relations, the changing character of war, and Canadian foreign policy. She was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan, and is of Metis descent.  She now lives in Italy, with her husband and two children.
 

 
Related stories:

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.