Lecture 1: The Return of History
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?