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France’s far right presidential candidate and National Front party president Marine Le Pen attends a political rally in Chateauroux, France, Feb. 26, 2012 (Sipa via AP Images).

History’s Postscript: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy

Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014

A quarter-century ago, a virtually unknown State Department official published an article in a neoconservative policy journal. The title of the piece as well as its author would go on to acquire global fame—or perhaps notoriety. Critics did not hesitate to dismiss Francis Fukuyama’s “The End of History?” Strobe Talbott, for instance, called it “the beginning of nonsense.”

Yet the article, and the subsequent book that grew out of it, was often misinterpreted and misconstrued. Contrary to what has often been alleged, Fukuyama had not predicted anything like the end of all conflict. Rather, he had asserted that only liberal democracy was capable of fulfilling basic human aspirations for freedom and dignity. This claim has not been so obviously disproven today. The few self-proclaimed ideological alternatives to democracy, whether the Chinese Dream articulated by Chinese leader Xi Jinping or the Eurasianism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, do not exercise anything like the global attraction that fascism and communism enjoyed during the 20th century. ...

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