Andy Blunden May 2003

Fukuyama on Trust and Recognition

The End of History and the Last Man. Francis Fukuyama. Penguin 1992.
Trust. The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. Fukuyama, The Free Press 1995.

Fukuyama on Recognition

This first and best known of Fukuyama’s books is a thoroughly despicable, triumphalist eulogy to liberal individualism, written in the wake of the collapse of the USSR. With more sweeping generalisations than the Readers Digest Book of Wisdom and more myths and legends than the Cambridge Companion to Ancient Greek, it is very open to criticism and has received plenty of it in the decade since it was published. Nevertheless, somehow or other a myth has been created that a Hegelian called Fukuyama has proved something about the importance of Recognition. This needs to be dealt with.

Fukuyama’s thesis is that there is a “part of the soul” which has been known to philosophers since the dawn of time, called thymos by Plato, which strives for recognition, just as the first part of the soul struggled for knowledge and the second for satisfaction of animal desires. “according to Hegel”, this craving for recognition emanating from the thymos is the “driving force of history”.

In what follows, I want to use Hegel to respond to Fukuyama, since to an extent, Fukuyama’s own claim for recognition as well as the claim for his thymos rests on the acceptance of his claim to be popularising an idea originating with Hegel.

Fukuyama does terrible violence with his sources. The frequent attribution of his ideas to Hegel are qualified as follows:

“There is, of course, a legitimate question as to whether Kojčve’s interpretation of Hegel, presented here, is really Hegel as he understood himself, or whether it contains an admixture of ideas that are properly “Kojčvian.” Kojčve does take certain elements of Hegel’s teaching, such as the struggle for recognition and the end of history, and make them the centrepiece of that teaching in a way that Hegel himself may not have done. While uncovering the original Hegel is an important task for the purposes of the “present argument”, we are interested not in Hegel per se but in Hegel-as-interpreted-by-Kojčve, or perhaps a new, synthetic philosopher named Hegel-Kojčve. In subsequent references to Hegel, we will actually be referring to Hegel-Kojčve, and we will be more interested in the ideas themselves than in the philosophers who originally articulated them”. [p. 144]

To say, throughout the remaining 400 pages, “Hegel”, when you really mean Hegel as interpreted by Kojčve as interpreted by Fukuyama, is a fraud. Fukuyama is claiming an innate, ahistorical drive for recognition, built into “human nature”, and there is no way he can claim Hegel as an ally, let alone a source.

For a review of the place of Recognition in Hegel’s philosophy I shall go back to the young Hegel of 1802/3, where Fukuyama’s claim has the best chance of success. We shall see that there is no basis for such a claim.

Secondly, we will look at this concept of thymos and what others have said about its place in Greek philosophy and the ridicule that Hegel poured on “discoveries” of such a kind which were far more common his day than in our own times.

Thirdly, we will look at the method of positing an aspect of contemporary society as a natural property of man, manifested by man in a state of nature.

Finally, we will look at the claim that for Hegel, the American version of liberal individualism was the end of history.

Hegel’s System of Ethical Life

The System of Ethical Life was written in 1802/3 and is Hegel’s earliest completed, surviving manuscript and in it his complete system is discernible. Beginning:

“Knowledge of the Idea of the absolute ethical order depends entirely on the establishment of perfect adequacy between intuition and concept, because the Idea itself is nothing other than the identity of the two. But if this identity is to be actually known, it must be thought as a made adequacy.” [System of Ethical Life, Introduction]

Hegel makes it clear from the outset that he is approaching a study of the human spirit existing, as it must, in the world. Further, he defines his objective in the reconciliation of immediate personal perception or ‘intuition’ and social, linguistic, cultural conception. The exposition touches very little however on ‘intuition’ and ‘concept’, concerning itself with a description of the forms of social and political life and their logical interconnection. It rises from “Absolute Ethical Life” (broadly the human condition: Feeling and Ideality) through the “Negative of Freedom” to “Ethical Life”, i.e., a ‘social system’ and Government. The section on Government is divided into three levels: Absolute, Universal and Free Government, but the third section, where obviously Hegel intends to complete his argument, is left hanging, with the identification of the three forms: Monarchy, Aristocracy and Democracy, and Hegel does not carry the argument beyond merely naming these three types with brief summaries of their pros and cons.

The exposition is neither phylogenetic (historical) nor ontogenetic (psychological) but rather logical. Like his earlier writings, the subject matter is largely social and political; the scope would broaden somewhat with the Phenomenology (1807) and then with the Science of Logic (1812) and the Encyclopedia (1817), but the themes treated in this manuscript can be followed right up to his last book, the Philosophy of Right (1821). What is remarkable in the early work is the place given to the categories of Recognition and Mediation in this first exposition of his system.

The first level is practice, the subsumption of the Concept under Intuition as Feeling; practice is the supersession of need by labour, in enjoyment. The “bearing of the subject on the object, or the ideal determining of the object by desire ... is taking possession of the object, “... but “possession is not present at all at the first stage of practical feeling, and likewise taking possession is there purely as a moment”.

Practice develops through the use of plants, the use of animals to intelligence; “eating and drinking are its paradigm”; accordingly the concept develops through the raising of children, the making and use of tools to speech and language. At this level, human beings are already living with others and what is under consideration is the logical relation, which places the practice of day-to-day life at the base; it is not a “state of nature”, though Hegel calls it “natural ethical life”.

The second level of Absolute Ethical Life develops on the basis of division of labour and the creation of a surplus which is available to meet the needs of others and for exchange. So:

“The subject is not simply determined as a possessor, but is taken up into the form of universality; he is a single individual with a bearing on others and universality negative as a possessor recognised as such by others. For recognition is singular being, it is negation, in such a way that it remains as such (though ideally) in others, in short the abstraction of ideality, not ideality in the others.”

This is how Recognition arises for Hegel, as property, arising from the social division of labour and the exchange of products.

“In this respect possession is property; but the abstraction of universality in property is legal right. ... The individual is not a property owner, a rightful possessor, absolutely in and of himself. His personality or the abstraction of his unity and singularity is purely an abstraction and an ens rationis.”

On this basis, the third level of Absolute Ethical Life begins with money, trade and surplus. Individuality arises as “formal, relationless, recognition, presented in relation and difference or according to the concept":

“the individual is the indifference of all specific characteristics and as such is in form a living being and is recognised as such; just as he was recognised previously only as possessing single things, so now he is recognised as existing independently in the whole.”

It is from here, subsequent to the introduction of money, that “Lordship and Bondage” first appears in Hegel’s exposition, though without the Sturm und Drung that it later acquires in the Phenomenology.

“At this level a living individual confronts a living individual, but their power of life is unequal. Thus one is might or power over the other. One is indifference, while the other is fixed in difference. So the former is related to the latter as cause; indifferent itself, it is the latter’s life and soul or spirit. The greater strength or weakness is nothing but the fact that one of them is caught up in difference, fixed and determined in some way in which the other is not, but is free. The indifference of the one not free is his inner being, his formal aspect, not something that has become explicit and that annihilates his difference. Yet this indifference must be there for him; it is his concealed inner life and on this account he intuits it as its opposite, namely, as something external, and the identity is a relative one, not an absolute one or a reconciliation of internal and external. This relation in which the indifferent and free has power over the different is the relation of lordship and bondage.”

“This relation is immediately and absolutely established along with the inequality of the power of life. At this point there is no question of any right or any necessary equality. Equality is nothing but an abstraction — it is the formal thought of life, of the first level, and this thought is purely ideal and without reality. In reality, on the other hand, it is the inequality of life which is established, and therefore the relation of lordship and bondage.”

Thus, the inner freedom of the one is manifest in the actual freedom of the other. Far from arising from some innate drive to dominate others, Lordship and Bondage here arises as a result of the inequality which is a necessary product of the action of the market. The market first establishes the recognition of individuals through the universal exchange of labour, giving people potential freedom, but then, through inequality of wealth, introduces the division between the rich and the poor. This relation shatters the relations of absolute, “natural” ethical life, and lays the basis for the transition to the next phase of ethical life, “The Negative of Freedom, or Transgression”.

The next section is rather short and deals with the havoc which results from the action of the market: murder, robbery, deprivation, oppression, and the injury to life and honour which results. There is as yet no legal system, so injury is simply particular and cannot be felt as universal. Retribution appears in contradistinction to murder as the form whereby a consciousness of justice emerges. Threats, which, in the absence of a legal system, always contain the potentiality to become total, is generalised through the feeling of honour.

It is on the basis of overcoming this havoc that ethical life and thereby government arises. Lordship and Bondage makes a reappearance at this level in contradistinction to robbery; robbery is simply particular and singular, the “coming-to-be of subjugation.” When war is carried to the end and one side is proved stronger, then the relationship of mastery is established; peace, on the other hand, where neither side in a battle is able to overcome the other, leads back to separation and mutual indifference. Only where peoples are subjugated do governments arise.

“But at none of the previous levels does absolute nature occur in a spiritual shape; and for this reason it is also not present as ethical life; not even the family, far less still the subordinate levels, least of all the negative, is ethical. Ethical life must be the absolute identity of intelligence, with complete annihilation of the particularity and relative identity which is all that the natural relation is capable of; ... Intellectual intuition is alone realised by and in ethical life; the eyes of the spirit and the eyes of the body completely coincide. In the course of nature the husband sees flesh of his flesh in the wife, but in ethical life alone does he see the spirit of his spirit in and through the ethical order.”

Ethical life appears as a system of living. It is in ethical life that virtues arise. These virtues are courage, honesty and thus trust, whose bearers are the three social classes — the military is the class of courage, the commercial class that of honesty and the peasantry the class of trust. For Hegel, class is not conceived of in the same way as in our time; both General and infantryman are part of the military class, tradesman and capitalist are part of the commercial class, the large landowner and small peasant are part of the peasantry. Of the bourgeoisie however, Hegel says “This class is incapable of a virtue or of courage because a virtue is a free individuality. Honesty lies in the universality of its class without individuality and , in the particularity of its relations, without freedom”.

Government arises on three levels: Absolute Government, Universal Government and Free Government.

Initially, the ruling power is and must be the Absolute, i.e., the military class, however Hegel is at pains to point out that this class must govern for all classes, not just itself, and consequently the role of ruling should fall to the Elders and Priests, who are most indifferent to personal interest. That is to say, it is the relation of mediation rather than recognition that is now active in government.

Universal government, on the other hand, is characterised by the separation of powers. The first system (or power) is what we would call today the economy, or “system of needs”.

“the surplus that he possesses gives him a totality of satisfaction depends on an alien power over which he has no control. The value of that surplus, i.e., what expresses the bearing of the surplus on his need, is independent of him and alterable. ... Thus in this system what rules appears as the unconscious and blind entirety of needs and the modes of their satisfaction. But the universal must be able to master this unconscious and blind fate and become a government.”

Under this heading, Hegel discusses the issues of avoiding the amassing of excessive wealth, the problem of poverty, the extremes of the business cycle, the need for public infrastructure, taxation, etc.

“Great wealth, which is similarly bound up with the deepest poverty (for in the separation between rich and poor labour on both sides is universal and objective), produces on the one side in ideal universality, on the other side in real universality, mechanically. This purely quantitative element, the inorganic aspect of labour, which is parcelled out even in its concept, is the unmitigated extreme of barbarism. The original character of the business class, namely, its being capable of an organic absolute intuition and respect for something divine, even though posited outside it, disappears, and the bestiality of contempt for all higher things enters. The mass of wealth, the pure universal, the absence of wisdom, is the heart of the matter. The absolute bond of the people, namely ethical principle, has vanished, and the people is dissolved.

“The government has to work as hard as possible against this inequality and the destruction of private and public life wrought by it. It can do this directly in an external way by making high gain more difficult, and if it sacrifices one part of this class to mechanical and factory labour and abandons it to barbarism, it must keep the whole people without question in the life possible for it. But this happens most necessarily, or rather immediately, through the inner constitution of the class.”

While restrictions (taxation, anti-monopoly laws, etc.) would have to fall to the government as such, i.e., the “universal class”, which does not have vested interests in business, Hegel believed that regulation of the economy, wealth distribution, care of the poor, etc., were the proper responsibility of the organisations of the business class itself (we would say nowadays “civil society”). Industry associations and the like were to be the vehicle for this regulation; conflicting interests had to be mediated as close to the source of conflict as possible. However, the tendency of the market to lead to inequality and dependence would require both the efforts of the wealthy to “permit a more general participation” and the action of the bureaucracy.

The second system of government (or power) is the system of justice, which is to be the function of a “completely indifferent universal person”, a “universal class” of administrators who have their origins in the military class of Absolute (natural) government.

The third system of government is the system of discipline, basically education, policing and military training.

Over and above this level of the separation of powers, there is to be “Free Government” — Democracy, Monarchy or Aristocracy, but Hegel is at this point unable to develop the exposition any further.

Let us sum up a few points from this brief overview.

(1) Although the presentation is “logical”, it bears an uncanny resemblance to the history of the rise and fall of antiquity, the rise of feudalism in central Europe and the emergence of constitutional government. Hegel however makes no claim in respect to how this logical exposition may correspond to any real history.

(2) The exposition clearly seeks to resolve basic philosophical and ethical problems of his time through the description of necessary and actual forms of social life. Social life and government are manifestations of the human spirit and people get to know this spirit through his participation in the life of their nation. “Intellectual intuition is alone realised by and in ethical life”. There is no trace of a fully formed individual entering into social relations; rather virtues, rationality, social identity are realised as social capacities. People’s animal nature is ever-present but human traits such as the desire for recognition, a sense of honour and justice, arise out of specific social conditions and are manifested in and through ethical life.

(3) All the abstractions of epistemology and moral philosophy make their appearance through definite social agents arising under definite and necessary historical conditions and the division of labour. Hegel does not have a “part of the soul” housing the “desire for recognition” nor a “heart” as the seat of courage, a “brain” as the seat of Reason, or such like. Recognition begins with property rights and is manifested in the rule of law; a person’s identification with the government is the recognition of their own spirit; courage, trust, honesty enter the consciousness of individuals as the activity of certain social agents. “Honour” is the awareness of the capacity of a finite threat to destroy the whole person. And so on. Intuition and concept are united in the realisation of the human spirit, i.e., ethical life.

(4) Propertylessness, dependence, selfishness and slavery are social problems of the first order; the dissolution of natural ethical life by the market threatens havoc; but the market also brings universal consciousness, and lays the basis for the development of modern, universal notions of right, justice, honesty, and so forth; the leading elements of society must find solutions to institutionalised poverty and so forth. Whether the rich and powerful will take responsibility for mitigation of poverty is another thing, but Hegel does not look to the poor to liberate themselves and nor is it a state responsibility.

(5) Modern social democrats will see here very contemporary notions associated with the critique of the welfare state. The difference is though, these voluntary associations of civil society are just not “social capital” holding together the social fabric threatened with destruction by the action of the market, but are themselves an actual arm of government. In other words, what Hegel envisages here is a form of mediation which is properly described as participatory democracy. Of course, people without property would be excluded from such a participatory democracy. This problem is not resolved in the System of Ethical Life, but it re-appears, still unresolved in the Philosophy of Right.

(6) The relation of master and servant (i.e., employer-employee) which appears within the system of needs as a by-product of the inequality of wealth is quite distinct from the relation of Lordship and Bondage which characterised the first descent into havoc with the break up of the natural order, though also due to the action of the market. The fall of the natural order necessitated the emergence of qualities needed to restore order and suppress pillage and banditry; these qualities fell to a certain class of people, and the inheritors of this class of warrior-princes is the universal class of government administrators. The wealthy capitalist who has reduced his competitors to servants must act to ensure the opportunity for those others to participate, and so far as necessary, the government, i.e., the universal class of former “masters”, must intervene to curb such inequalities of wealth.

(7) Recognition is above all property rights. The “struggle for recognition” associated with “Lordship and Bondage” is a passing, negative phase, following the break down of the natural order before the establishment of the rule of law in which property is protected by law and constitutes “abstract right”. It is sublated, and remains as a moment of modern ethical life in the functions of policing, education and military training, and the virtues of justice, honour and courage, i.e., the on-going need to stave off havoc.

In the Phenomenology, Lordship and Bondage is §IV-A.3 — paragraphs 178 to 196 of the total of 808 paragraphs. As is well-known, Alexander Kojčve developed these eight paragraphs into a whole philosophy of his own. The significance of Kojčve, and his greatness, cannot be as an interpreter of Hegel, but rather, in the aftermath of World War Two, to have given philosophical expression to the demand for recognition from those who were being denied recognition in bourgeois society. Hegel’s approach is quite different though.

In The Encyclopedia, Lordship and Bondage is Part 3 (Philosophy of Spirit); Chapter One (Subjective Spirit); Section B (Consciousness); Sub-section b. (Self-consciousness); Paragraph 2 of 3. Self-consciousness develops through three phases: immediate self-consciousness (Desire) recognitive self-consciousness (Lordship and Bondage), to universal self-consciousness: “the affirmative awareness of self in an other self: each self as a free individuality has his own ‘absolute’ independence”. The truth of universal self-consciousness is Reason, the subjective basis of the State. That is, ethical life is predicated on the reconciliation of desire and recognition, superseded as rationality. The roots of these subjective capacities however, are already made clear in the System of Ethical Life, as “realised by and in ethical life”; they do not precede society; they are not part of a “state of nature”, and they are not “rational”.

Hegel’s “Objective Spirit” (the Philosophy of Right, his social theory) on the other hand, begins with Abstract Right, or Property.

§40. Right is in the first place the immediate embodiment which freedom gives itself in an immediate way, i.e. (a) possession, which is property — ownership. Freedom is here the freedom of the abstract will in general or, eo ipso, the freedom of a single person related only to himself.

§41. A person must translate his freedom into an external sphere in order to exist as Idea. Personality is the first, still wholly abstract, determination of the absolute and infinite will, and therefore this sphere distinct from the person, the sphere capable of embodying his freedom, is likewise determined as what is immediately different and separable from him.

§41 note. Addition: The rationale of property is to be found not in the satisfaction of needs but in the supersession of the pure subjectivity of personality. In his property a person exists for the first time as reason. [Philosophy of Right]

This first part of the objective spirit proceeds through the recognition and objectification of the immediate self-recognition of property, with contract, and the rectification of wrongs, punishment of crime, etc..

The ‘historical’ excursus with the descent into barbarism found in the System of Ethical Life, is not part of “objective spirit”; the negative, or second part of the Objective Spirit is Morality. Here the social virtues are developed, “internalising” the basic practices and rights of social life.

The third part, Ethical Life or Sittlichkeit, has three parts: the Family, Civil Society and the State. The system of justice, regulation, education and so on have now been moved into Civil Society, and the ideas touched upon in the System of Ethical Life about the self-organisation of people around their industries, estates and extended family connections. mediating social conflcit, have been considerably enlarged. The State in fact rests on Civil Society; the “universal class” of altruistic administrators (formerly the “absolute” class of warriors) are responsible both to representatives of Civil Society mandated through the voluntary organisations, and on the other side, the Monarch and his Executive. Hegel has opted for Constitutional Monarchy. The Monarch is to be chosen via primogeniture from the formerly “universal” class of landowners. The “relative” or “particular” business class have to look after civil society, but in the individual monarch, they recognise their own individuality, their own will.

There are no general elections; the legislature is composed of representatives delegated by civil society, through its own network of organisations. The Monarch performs a purely ceremonial function within the life of the nation, except that he bears sole responsibility for the waging of war. The ability of every citizen to recognise themselves in the person of the monarch is central to the whole conception, and this is achieved by the complex web of mediations connecting the individual in their daily working life with the various arms of civil government and the Legislature.

While ethical life, and consequently rationality, is possible only in and through a people, international relations are still in a “state of nature":

“The people that finds itself unrecognised must gain this recognition by war or colonies.” [System of Ethical Life]

Thus, insofar as havoc reigns, recognition is a real, material need, for without recognition of one’s basic rights, every threat is potentially absolute. The feeling of honour reflects the understanding of this potential loss of personality; one must defend one’s honour lest everything may be lost. Thus, for Hegel, the struggle for recognition and honour are phenomena characterising the denial of rights in modernity. That class of people whose historic role is the struggle for recognition become not the tyrants and entrepreneurs of the modern world, but rather (for Hegel) the political class, the altruistic administrators.

In short: people work in close connection with nature; this is labour. As a result of the development of labour, there arises the need for private property; on the basis of these property relations arises government and the state. Fukuyama took property relations for egotism. Marx, of course, “failed to understand” this.

Fukuyama’s interpretation of Hegel and Recognition

Summing up The End of History in the subsequent book, Trust, Fukuyama puts it this way:

“In The End of History and the First Man, I argued that the human historical process could be understood as the interplay between two large forces. The first was that of rational desire, in which human beings sought to satisfy their material needs through the accumulation of wealth. The second, equally important motor of the historical process was what Hegel called the “struggle for recognition”, that is, the desire of all human beings to have their essence as free, moral beings recognised by other human beings”. [p. 358]

Is this an accurate representation of Hegel’s view?

Isn’t it abundantly clear that for Hegel, Recognition arises as a pressing need for the preservation of life; without recognition of one’s property rights, your life is spent patrolling your boundaries, chasing away people encroaching on your property. It is no mysterious “drive for recognition”. It is a perfectly normal human need which arises from specific social conditions; the necessity of the rule of law. Likewise, the human qualities which uphold these conditions — honour, courage, trust, and so forth. The poor need recognition, that’s for sure, they need property rights.

Now it is undeniable that in the modern human being, the desire for recognition goes way beyond the need to have their property rights defended by the rule of law. But this is a sense which has been cultivated by the conditions of modern life, not an innate, primeval drive. The conditions of modernity create new, modern threats to existence, and the modern desire for recognition is a response to these new modern threats.

The passage in the Subjective Spirit on the development of self-consciousness identifies the two opposite kinds of self-consciousness: immediate and recognitive or reflected self-consciousness; these are superseded by universal self-consciousness. One might argue that this passage provides a basis for “two large forces” — “rational desire” and “irrational struggle for recognition” (Fukuyama frequently appends the adjectives “rational” and “irrational” when contrasting desire and recognition).

Well, firstly, neither phases of self-consciousness are rational, because it is precisely rational self-consciousness which is the outcome. But at the same time, both are rational in the sense that both are necessary for the maintenance life and limb. There is nothing irrational about the desire for recognition.

Secondly, as will be observed, there is nothing in Hegel to support the concept of “great forces” as the “motor of the historical process”. If we want to know what Hegel sees as the “motor of history”, then we should ask Hegel:

“The history of mind [Die Geschichte des Geistes] is its own act. Mind is only what it does, and its act is to make itself the object of its own consciousness.” [Philosophy of Right § 343]

“In the course of this work of the world mind [Weltgeistes], states, nations, and individuals arise animated by their particular determinate principle which has its interpretation and actuality in their constitutions and in the whole range of their life and condition. While their consciousness is limited to these and they are absorbed in their mundane interests, they are all the time the unconscious tools and organs of the world mind at work within them. The shapes which they take pass away, while the absolute mind prepares and works out its transition to its next higher stage.” [Philosophy of Right § 344]

We may not like it; it is not the fashionable view nowadays, but for Hegel, the “driving force of history” is not some innate, biological drive, but Geist — Spirit. Now this author just as much as Kojčve or Fukuyama, finds in Hegel a rich source of insights, despite not sharing the idea of world history as the deed of Spirit, but it is not admissible to impute to Hegel ideas which are explicitly refuted in Hegel’s own work.


Fukuyama introduces the term thymos to establish the honourable antiquity of the kind of innate egotism which he is arguing for.

“The concept underlying “recognition” was not invented by Hegel. It is as old as Western political philosophy itself, and refers to a thoroughly familiar part of the human personality. Over the millennia, there has been no consistent word used to refer to the psychological phenomenon of the “desire for recognition": Plato spoke of thymos, or “spiritedness”, Machiavelli of man’s desire for glory, Hobbes of his pride or vainglory, Rousseau of his amour-propre, Alexander Hamilton of the love of fame and James Madison of ambition, Hegel of Recognition, and Nietzsche of man as the “beast with red cheeks”. All of these terms refer to that part of man which feels the need to place value on things — himself in the first instance, but on the people, actions, or things around him as well. It is part of the personality which is the fundamental source of the emotions of pride, anger, and shame, and is not reducible to desire, on the one hand, or reason on the other. The drive for recognition is the most specifically political part of the human personality because it is what drives men to want to assert themselves over other men, and thereby into Kant’s condition of “asocial sociability”. [p. 163]


“Plato’s thymos is therefore nothing other than the psychological seat of Hegel’s desire for recognition: for the aristocratic master in the bloody battle is driven by the desire that other people evaluate him at his own sense of self-worth. Indeed, he is driven into a bloody rage when that sense of self-worth is denigrated. Thymos and the “desire for recognition” differ somewhat insofar as the former refers to a part of the soul that invests objects with value, whereas the latter is an activity of thymos that demands that another consciousness share the same valuation. It is possible for one to feel thymotic pride in oneself without demanding recognition. But esteem is not a “thing” like an apple of a Porsche: it is a state of consciousness, and to have subjective certainty about one’s own sense of worth, it must be recognised by another consciousness. Thus thymos typically, but not inevitably, drives men to seek recognition.” [p. 165-6]

We have seen how Fukuyama massacres Hegel (in whom he is supposed to be an expert), so let’s look at some other sources for a definition of thymos:

“In Republic IV the soul itself is divided into three ‘parts’, which roughly correspond to reason, emotion, and desire. But in Republic VIII-IX the ‘reasoning’ part is associated with the desire for knowledge, the so-called ‘spirited’ part with the desire for honour and prestige, and the ‘desiring’ part — itself recognized to be ‘many-headed’ — is clearly confined to bodily desires. [The Oxford Companion to Philosophy]

And Alasdair MacIntyre:

“To translate it [thumos] by ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’, as Liddell and Scott suggested at least for some examples of its use, or by ‘mens’ or ‘animus’ as Henricus Stephanus did, is acceptable if we divest these words of many of their familiar associations.

“Someone’s thumos is what carries them forward; it is his self as a kind of energy; and it is no accident that it comes to be used not only of the seat of someone’s anger but of the anger itself. Passions such as fear or anger or sexual longing swell the thumos and lead to action, often of a destructive kind. [p. Whose Justice?, p. 16]

Well, at least for one time in the life of one Greek philosopher (in the time of Alexander the Great’s conquests) there was a concept something like Fukuyama’s thymos, and doubtless there have been other such concepts. But is the idea of an innate, natural drive explaining the course of history something which can be imputed to Hegel, and, more importantly, is it adequate to our times?

In Hegel’s day, there was quite a fashion for this kind of “science”. Apart from all manner of pseudo-science, explaining why people moved to the cities due to the attractive force of the city, of phlogiston carrying heat from burning material, of a life-force inhabiting living creatures, and so on, Hegel used the concept of gravity as an example of this tautological method in the sciences:

“Capriciously adopting single categories, whose value entirely depends on their place in the gradual evolution of the logical idea, it employs them in the pretended interests of explanation, but in the face of plain, unprejudiced perception and experience, so as to trace back to them every object investigated.” [Shorter Logic, §126]

That is, it adds absolutely nothing to the observation of egotistical behaviour to posit a innate drive for recognition:

“The formal ground-relation contains only one content for ground and grounded; in this identity lies their necessity, but at the same time their tautology.” [Science of Logic, § 1010]

Nothing of this kind will be found in Hegel. The only “drive” is Geist, everything else unfolds according to its own internal logic, a logic which requires the positing of no fictitious matter or force or organ or drive as its ground, but can be understood by paying attention to the whole cultural and historical process of which the thing is a part. That is what Geist is.

That a writer who pins their theory on such a tautological argument should pose as a Hegelian, is outrageous.

Fukuyama’s Robinson Crusoe

Another notorious device of nineteenth century pseudo-science is what is known as “Robinson Crusoe”, i.e., the placing of a fully-developed modern man into a literary “state of nature”, and then demonstrating that the entirety of modern society will be reconstructed by this Robinson Crusoe.

This is exactly what Fukuyama does. He takes the modern American bourgeois and places him into a mythical “beginning of history” and surprise, surprise, he eventually arrives, after millennia of struggle and searching, at the “end of history” in modern America.

A similar device is used by John Rawls and generally any writer who bases their social theory on innate or universal characteristics of human beings. In Hegel’s day, a writer guilty of a similar move was Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who attributed a certain idealised character to men “in a state of nature”, proving that greed and violence originated from the establishment of private property.

Rousseau argued that in a state of nature man was free. Hegel answers (quoting Rousseau at first):

“‘the fundamental task is to find a form of association which will shield and protect with the power of the whole commonwealth combined the person and property of every one of its members, and in which each individual, while joining this association, obeys himself only, and thus remains as free as before. The solution is given by the Social Contract;’ this is the association of which each is a member by his own will. These principles, thus abstractly stated, we must allow to be correct, yet the ambiguity in them soon begins to be felt. Man is free, this is certainly the substantial nature of man; and not only is this liberty not relinquished in the state, but it is actually in the state that it is first realised. The freedom of nature, the gift of freedom, is not anything real; for the state is the first realisation of freedom.” [Hegel, History of Philosophy]

Hegel would answer Fukuyama in the same way. The egotism which Fukuyama thinks is given to man in a state of nature is “not anything real”, but a product of a specific stage in the development of history.

Fukuyama lets us know that the “state of nature” of Rousseau was a logical device, and not a pseudo-historicism:

“For those early modern theorists of liberalism who preceded Hegel, the discussion of human nature was presented as a portrayal of the First Man, that is, man in the “state of nature.” Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau never intended the state of nature to be understood as an empirical or historical account of primitive man, but rather as a kind of experiment in thought to strip away those aspects of human personality that were simply the product of convention — such as the fact that one was Italian or an aristocrat or a Buddhist — and to uncover those characteristics that were common to man as man.” [p. 146]

He assures us, correctly, that Hegel did not argue from such a “state of nature”, but it appears that for Fukuyama, the struggle for recognition between master and slave was a real historical event which set history on its road to modern America.

“By Hegel’s account, the desire to be recognised as a human being with dignity drove man at the beginning of history into a bloody battle to the death for prestige. The outcome of this battle was a division of society into a class of masters, who were willing to risk their lives, and a class of slaves, who gave in to their natural fear of death.” [p. xvii]

and in case you didn’t get that.

“For Hegel ... Society was divided between masters who were willing to risk their lives, and slaves who were not. The Hegelian understanding of early class stratification is probably historically more accurate than that of Marx. Many traditional aristocratic societies initially arose out of the “warrior ethos” of nomadic tribes who conquered more sedentary peoples though superior ruthlessness, cruelty, and bravery.” [p. 147-8]


“For Hegel, the primary motor of human history is not modern natural science or the ever expanding horizon or desire that powers it, but rather a totally non-economic drive, the struggle for recognition.” [p. 135]

Not only is this very bad social psychology, it is very bad history! Insofar as there is truth in this account of history in the beginnings of feudal society out of the ruins of the Roman Empire in Central Europe, this process was well documented by both Hegel and Marx, but neither of these writers thought that this was “the beginning of history” or that the “warriors” concerned held the villagers as “slaves”. So it is also very bad criticism.

To pass this fairytale off as Hegelian is outrageous. Hopefully, what has been said will be sufficient to put a distance between Fukuyama and Hegel. One final observation is necessary though, and that concerns the claim that the American version of liberal individualism was not just for Fukuyama and for Kojčve, but for Hegel also, the “end of history”.

Hegel and America

Hegel is known to have been a supporter of the modernisation of Europe instigated by the French Revolution. In America in his day, these modern conditions were being created from the ground up. There is no doubt at all that Hegel took a great interest in the development of American society. Fukuyama wants to recruit Hegel as a supporter of American-style liberal individualism:

“Hegel believed that the “contradiction” inherent in the relationship of lordship and bondage was finally overcome as a result of the French and, one would have to add, American revolutions. These democratic revolutions abolished the distinction between master and slave by making the former slaves their own masters and by establishing the principles of popular sovereignty and the rule of law. The inherently unequal recognition of masters and slaves is replace by universal and reciprocal recognition, where every citizen recognises the dignity and humanity of every other citizen, and where that dignity is recognised in turn by the state through the granting of rights.” [p. xvii-xviii]

Shlomo Avineri has pointed out on the other hand:

“That problems of war and poverty seem to create so much stress in American society today is probably to be attributed to the fact that America has never been a state (in the Hegelian sense), only a ‘civil society’, where the common bond has always been viewed as a mere instrument for preserving individual life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This, incidentally was Hegel’s view of America in the 1820s (Vernüft in der Geschichte, p. 207). It is probably basically true today as well, despite all the changes America has undergone since then. In the American social ethos, the ‘tax payer’ always comes before the ‘citizen’.” [Shlomo Avineri, Hegel’s Theory of the Modern State, Ch 7]

For Fukuyama, periodic general elections are the sine qua non of liberal democracy. Hegel’s opinion, on the other hand, of general elections is well documented (I quote this at length as I believe that Hegel’s critique of general elections remains of considerable relevance):

“The universal class, or, more precisely, the class of civil servants, must, purely in virtue of its character as universal, have the universal as the end of its essential activity. In the Estates, as an element in the legislative power, the unofficial class acquires its political significance and efficacy; it appears, therefore, in the Estates neither as a mere indiscriminate multitude nor as an aggregate dispersed into its atoms, but as what it already is, namely a class subdivided into two, one sub-class [the agricultural class] being based on a tie of substance between its members, and the other [the business class] on particular needs and the work whereby these are met. It is only in this way that there is a genuine link between the particular which is effective in the state and the universal.

Remark: This runs counter to another prevalent idea, the idea that since it is in the legislature that the unofficial class rises to the level of participating in matters of state, it must appear there in the form of individuals, whether individuals are to choose representatives for this purpose, or whether every single individual is to have a vote in the legislature himself. This atomistic and abstract point of view vanishes at the stage of the family, as well as that of civil society where the individual is in evidence only as a member of a general group. The state, however, is essentially an organisation each of whose members is in itself a group of this kind, and hence no one of its moments should appear as an unorganised aggregate. The Many, as units — a congenial interpretation of ‘people’, are of course something connected, but they are connected only as an aggregate, a formless mass whose commotion and activity could therefore only be elementary, irrational, barbarous, and frightful. When we hear speakers on the constitution expatiating about the ‘people’ — this unorganised collection — we know from the start that we have nothing to expect but generalities and perverse declamations.

“The circles of association in civil society are already communities. To picture these communities as once more breaking up into a mere conglomeration of individuals as soon as they enter the field of politics, i.e. the field of the highest concrete universality, is eo ipso to hold civil and political life apart from one another and as it were to hang the latter in the air, because its basis could then only be the abstract individuality of caprice and opinion, and hence it would be grounded on chance and not on what is absolutely stable and justified. [§303]


Remark: It is obviously of advantage that the deputies should include representatives of each particular main branch of society (e.g. trade, manufactures, &c., &c.) — representatives who are thoroughly conversant with it and who themselves belong to it. The idea of free unrestricted election leaves this important consideration entirely at the mercy of chance. All such branches of society, however, have equal rights of representation. Deputies are sometimes regarded as ‘representatives'; but they are representatives in an organic, rational sense only if they are representatives not of individuals or a conglomeration of them, but of one of the essential spheres of society and its large-scale interests. Hence representation cannot now be taken to mean simply the substitution of one man for another; the point is rather that the interest itself is actually present in its representative, while he himself is there to represent the objective element of his own being.

“As for popular suffrage, it may be further remarked that especially in large states it leads inevitably to electoral indifference, since the casting of a single vote is of no significance where there is a multitude of electors. Even if a voting qualification is highly valued and esteemed by those who are entitled to it, they still do not enter the polling booth. Thus the result of an institution of this kind is more likely to be the opposite of what was intended; election actually falls into the power of a few, of a caucus, and so of the particular and contingent interest which is precisely what was to have been neutralised.” [§ 311]

In the light of 180 years of experience of forms of democracy, it would doubtless be necessary to modify this analysis. It must be kept in mind as well that Hegel’s intricately mediated form of democracy, has at its head, a constitutional monarch. Nevertheless, it seems inescapable that Hegel makes a telling point. And surely it is abundantly clear that Hegel cannot be recruited as an advocate of liberal individualism?

On the other hand, how that Hegel has been exposed as an opponent of liberal individualism, communitarian liberals and social democrats might want to recruit Hegel as an advocate of “social capital”. Fukuyama for example:

“In modern times, citizenship is best exercised through so-called “mediating institutions” — political parties, private corporations, labour unions, civic associations, school boards, literary societies, and the like. It is through such civic associations that people are drawn outside of themselves and their private selfish concerns. We usually understand Tocqueville to have argued that associational life in civil society was useful because it served as a school for democratic politics at a higher level.” [p. 323]

Hegel would agree with this of course, but he would also take it seriously. If the citizen is to recognise in the state the realisation of their own will, then civil society must be, not a “school for democracy at a higher level”, but democratic government itself.

Has Recognition gone too far?

I want to deal with just one final theme of The End of History before moving on; that is the feeling one gets that Fukuyama believes that Recognition has gone too far, and the “universal recognition” afforded by American liberal democracy is unable to satisfy the forces it has unleashed.

“is liberal democracy prey to serious internal contradictions, contradictions so serious that they will eventually undermine it as a political system?” [p. xxi]

“A future left-wing threat to liberal democracy is much more likely to wear the clothing of liberalism while changing its meaning from within, rather than to stage a frontal attack on basic democratic institutions and principles”.

“For example, almost all liberal democracies have seen a massive proliferation of new “rights” over the past generation. Not content merely to protect life, liberty and property, many democracies have also defined rights to privacy, travel, employment, recreation, sexual preference, abortion, childhood, and so on.” [p. 296]

“if thymos remained essentially unfulfilled by universal and reciprocal recognition, would not democratic societies then have exposed a critical weakness?” [p. 302]

Such a crisis would hardly surprise Hegel, given what would be in his eyes, the fraudulent nature of American liberal democracy, and the continued failure to address the problem of inequalities of wealth. However, I want to leave this problem for the moment, for Fukuyama returns to it in his second major work, Trust.

Fukuyama on Trust

“Now that the question of ideology and institutions has been settled, the preservation and accumulation of social capital will occupy center stage.” [p. 362]

Francis Fukuyama, the American Hegelian famous for having declared the “end of history” in 1989, has written a book on economics. Describing himself as an Hegelian, Fukuyama is more than alive to the danger of conceiving of economics as an independent branch of science. Accordingly, his book deals with the production of wealth as an integral part of historical culture.

With the aid of a team of researchers and a host of collaborators, he is able to review the historical development of the bourgeoisie in Italy, France, Korea, Japan, Germany, China (and ex-patriot Chinese communities) and in the United States, and compare and contrast the specific character of the bourgeoisie of each country.

With Church and State in the background, the essential form of organisation of pre-modern ruling classes is the family, in the broadest sense of the word; the form of organisation of the modern bourgeoisie is the company, again in the broadest sense of the term. Apart from Church and State, late-feudal and early-modern societies also produced other non-familial organisation such as religious orders and guilds, but these were conditioned by and inseparable from the form taken by the family in the given culture. Fukuyama shows how the diverse forms of company structure in different more or less successful capitalist developments have been shaped by the modification of the family and other forms of organisation inherited from the past, by deliberate adaptation, state intervention, outside pressures, liberal ideology, established or disestablished church, as well as the effects of capital accumulation.

Fukuyama makes due apology for the inaccuracies that may affect an overview of such broad scope, but the result is certainly a richer and more nuanced look at economics than the usual neo-liberal treatise. Although a follower of Kojčve rather than Hegel, Fukuyama follows Hegel in his conception of society as exclusively composed of property-owners; non-property owners figure only as potential property-owners or the family of property-owners. The working classes fall entirely below the radar for Fukuyama except as material for employment, more or less resistant to the extraction of profit. “Class” is a word that Fukuyama generally uses only in a pejorative sense. While the work is a history of the bourgeoisie, the reader could be forgiven for taking it as a social history of society as a whole. To be sure, “ruling class, ruling ideas”; a history of the ruling classes goes a long way to giving an insight into the culture of the working class in any given country. But it is not the same thing. Wherever the working class disturbs the development of the bourgeoisie, Fukuyama calls it “ideology”, which of course, is now at an end.

Trust and the Family

Just as the Struggle for Recognition was the theme of The End of History, the theme of this work is Trust.

“... economic activity represents a crucial part of life and is knit together by a wide variety of norms, rules, moral obligations, and other habits that together shape the society. As this book will show, one of the most important lessons we can learn from an examination of economic life is that a nation’s well-being, as well as its ability to compete, is conditioned by a single, pervasive characteristic: the level of trust inherent in the society.” [p. 7]

“Trust is the expectation that arises within a community of regular, honest, and cooperative behaviour, based on commonly shared norms, on the part of other members of the community”. [p. 26]

Fukuyama makes a broad categorisation of cultures into “low trust” and “high trust” societies. Trust extends as far as the boundaries of the family; the first kind of company is invariably the family business. “Family structure affects the nature of family businesses.” [p. 336] The questions are firstly, whether the history of a nation has given it forms of family which facilitate the maintenance of enduring and extensive family businesses, and secondly, whether their history has created forms of non-kin association which have promoted the habits of trust and which can be turned to the construction of corporations transcending the boundaries of the family. This capacity to form new bonds of trust he calls sociability:

“There are three paths to sociability: the first is based on family and kinship; the second on voluntary associations outside kinship such as schools, clubs, and professional organisations, and the third is the state. There are three forms of economic organisation corresponding to each path: the family business, the professionally managed corporation, and the state-owned or -sponsored enterprise. The first and third paths, it turns out, are closely related to one another: cultures in which the primary avenue toward sociability is family and kinship have a great deal of trouble creating large, durable economic organisations and therefore look to the state to initiate and support them.” [p. 62]

Southern Italy and China are instances where history has not provided opportunities for the extension of trust beyond the immediate family. China has had the minor advantage of extensive “clan” relations traced through many generations, but these are relatively loose. In addition, Chinese tradition has it that a father must divide his estate equally between all his sons. As a result, any large estate is inevitably dissipated within two generations. The only way for a Southern Italian or Chinese society to form a large business is by the intervention of the state.

In feudal Japan on the other hand, primogeniture was the norm; that is, the entire estate was passed to the eldest son. As a result, not only could the family business grow from generation to generation, but there was always a ready supply of the younger sons of noble families out there looking for work, and these formed excellent professional managers as well as samurai. In fact, a by-product of primogeniture was the sanction given to adoption; not only could you hire a younger son from another noble family to run your estate, you could adopt him into the family, and Japanese culture was accepting even of the adopted child inheriting the estate when the master died.

These ease with which modern Japan has built giant capitalist corporations while China and Taiwan are a seething mass of small businesses then makes sense. Fukuyama shows however how the deliberative intervention of the state in Korea, under Park Chung Hee, was able to change the culture in Korea, whose families were more like the Chinese than the Japanese, and force the creation of large corporations.

But whereas as Southern Italians and Chinese knew that other Southern Italians or Chinese shared the same values, that only meant the presumption that they would be always looking after their own family and therefore could not be trusted. A Japanese on the other hand, could trust a fellow-Japanese of noble birth, even though a total stranger to keep their promises even at pain of death.

Germany and the United States are also examples of societies exhibiting a high propensity for “spontaneous sociability”. In the case of Germany, the medieval guilds continued in existence right up into the present time, while changing their form to meet the exigencies of modernity, and have carried forward not only the ability of non-kin to associate for mutual benefit but the pride in work, professionalism, the valuing of work-related skills and ability to collaborate in relatively egalitarian ways which have served Germany industry so well.

“... the apprenticeship system, which is broadly credited as the basis of Germany’s industrial dominance in Europe, is the direct descendant of the medieval guild system. Throughout the industrial revolution, the guilds were the bęte noire of liberal economic reformers, who believed the latter represented hidebound tradition and a hindrance to modernising economic change.” [p. 245]

“The Germans hardly preserved the guild system in tact any more than the Japanese preserved feudal clan structures, but nether did they remake society entirely anew based on purely liberal principle. Instead, the liberal framework was moderated and given cohesiveness by certain pre-modern holdover institutions.” [p. 249]


Fukuyama is most interesting, however, in his analysis of American history.

The source of spontaneous sociability ... Japan’s stem from family structure and the nature of Japanese feudalism; Germany’s is related to the survival of traditional communal organisations like the guilds into the twelfth century; and that in the United States is the product of its sectarian Protestant religious heritage.” [p. 151]

He convincingly shows that America is historically a society with both an exceptionally well-developed capacity to form new bonds of sociability and that Americans have an exceptionally high tolerance for conformism within large bureaucratic organisations. This history belies the self-concept of the American bourgeoisie as highly “individualist”.

“The business elite that created the impressive corporate world that had emerged by the middle of the twentieth century was as homogeneous ethnically, religiously, racially, and in gender terms as those of Japan or Germany. Virtually all the managers and directors of large American corporations were male, white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants, with an occasional Catholic or non-Anglo-Saxon European thrown in. ... they enforced on their managers and employees codes of behaviour that reflected the values of their WASP backgrounds. They tried to instil in others their own work ethic an discipline, while ostracising divorce, adultery, mental illness, alcoholism, not to mention homosexuality and other kinds of unconventional behaviour. ... at mid-century most critics of American life characterised U.S. society — and particularly the business community — as overly conformist and homogeneous ... the Americans who had built the country in the nineteenth century were inner-directed by religious or spiritual principles, and therefore determined individualists; the contemporary Americans of the 1950s had become other directed, setting their compasses by the least common denominator of mass society.” [p. 277]

He traces this contradiction to the founding of the United States by the Protestant religious sects.

“... the sectarian Protestantism that the early immigrants to North America brought with them from Europe ... is simultaneously one important source of American individualism; a doctrine subversive of established social institutions at the very same time gave a powerful impetus to the formation of new communities and strong binds of social solidarity.” [p. 283]

The founders of Protestant sects are individualists par excellence:

“Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five Theses to the cathedral door at Wittenberg in 1517 was just the first of many individualistic acts in the Protestant tradition. In the long run, the individual’s ability to have a direct relationship with God had extremely subversive consequences for all social relationships, because it gave individuals a moral ground to rebel against the most broadly established traditions and social conventions.” [p. 286]

Protestantism shared this opening for an individual to question authority with Buddhism:

“In Japan, Buddhism has displayed a Protestant-like tendency to spawn new sects. ... Hobbes and Locke ... shared the Christian view that the individual had a right to judge the adequacy of the laws and social institutions surrounding him based on higher principles.” [p. 287]

The individualism of the founders of religious sects is belied by the conformism of the organisations they create. But the ability to engender to conformity in a brand-new sect is a significant departure from conformity to traditional institutions:

“The most useful kind of social capital is often not the ability to work under the authority of a traditional community or group, but the capacity to form new associations and to cooperate within the terms of reference they establish”. [p. 27]

But the germ of non-conformity is lodged in the founding principles:

“Individualism is deeply embedded in the rights-based political theory underlying the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, so it is no accident that Americans think of themselves as individualistic. This constitutional-legal structure represents, in Ferdinand Tönnies’s phrase, the Gesellschaft (“society”) of American civilisation. But there is an equally old communal tradition in the United States that springs from the country’s religious and cultural origins, which constitute the basis of its Gemeinschaft (“community”). If the individualistic tradition has been, in many ways, the dominant one, the communal tradition has acted as a moderating force that prevented the individualistic impulses from reaching their logical conclusion.” [p. 283]

Furthermore, the nonconformist founders of the United States did not seek the establishment of the Church, but rather opted for a “free market in religion”, and Fukuyama believes that this has given American society an unparalleled religiosity:

“the United States, with no established church and an increasingly secular public life, continues to enjoy a far higher degree of religiosity than virtually all European countries national churches. ... when religious identity is mandatory, it often begins to feel life an unwanted burden. ... The Church to which one belongs, rather than becoming a lightning rod for complaints against the state or the larger society, can itself become a vehicle for protest. ... they can also generate a much higher degree of genuine commitment.”. [p. 288]

“While revolt against an established church and the setting up of a new sect promotes community within that sect over the short run, the long-term impact of this habit of mind is to weaken respect for authority per se; and not just of the older institution. In the long run, with the broad secularisation of society the habits of sociability would fade away as the social capital accumulated by the original converts was spent. ... The sociability it created, in other words, became gradually self-undermining”. [p.. 294]

It was these Protestant sects which Fukuyama sees as providing the model for the capacity to set up new enterprises which made American capital so dynamic.

“Sectarian religious life served as a school for social self-organisation and permitted the formation of a kind of social capital that could be useful in a variety of non-religious settings.” [p. 293]

The propensity for forming voluntary associations with total strangers was turned to good use in America with the invention of the railways:

“Railroads were the first economic enterprises that could not be practically managed by a single family, and it was they that gave the impulse for the creation of the first managerial hierarchies.”. [p. 274]

American entrepreneurs were comfortable setting up branch offices hundreds of miles away and doing deals with people over the telephone. This opened the way to building capitalist corporations of unprecedented scope.

A US corporation thus resembles like a secular Protestant sect, just like the Japanese company-man resembles a modern samurai.

“Highly sociable Americans pioneered the development of the modern corporation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, just as the Japanese have explored the possibilities of network organisations in the twentieth”. [p. 27]

One of the interesting points of contrast between the Japanese bourgeois and the American that Fukuyama observes is that the relations between, for example, an automotive assembler in Japan and their suppliers is neither one of direction nor of commercial exchange, but one of collaboration:

“The relationship might not be so hands-off: the assembler’s engineers might critique the supplier’s own manufacturing methods and request changes, ... The whole supplier network is extremely difficult to set up, but when it is fully coordinated, it becomes a vast extension of the lean manufacturing plant itself. ... The keiresu relationship, ... is based on a sense of reciprocal obligation between assembler and supplier”. [p. 261]

The point is of course, that the reciprocal relationship goes further than the exchange of equal values; American firms seem unable to go beyond such relations of exchange in relations either with other firms or with employees. The same problem arose when US companies tried to implement teams and quality circles: they never put in their part of the unwritten bargain.

The Decline of Sociability in the United States

Despite Fukuyama’s declaration of the end of history, he is clearly very concerned about the decline, if not to say collapse, of “spontaneous sociability” in the United States.

“The United States, like Japan and Germany, has historically been a high-trust, group-oriented society, despite the fact that Americans believe themselves to be rugged individuals. But the United States has been changing rather dramatically over the past couple of generations with respect to its art of association. In many ways, American society is becoming as individualistic as Americans have always believed it was: the inherent tendency of rights-based liberalism to expand and multiply those rights against the authority if virtually all existing communities has been pushed to its logical conclusion. The decline of trust and sociability in the United States is also evident in any number of changes in American society: the rise of violent crime and civil litigation; the breakdown of family structure; the decline of a wide range of intermediate social structures like neighbourhoods, churches, unions, clubs, and charities; and the general sense among Americans of a lack of shared values and community with those around them.” [p. 10-11]


The first suspect in his investigation is Taylorism, which Fukuyama regards not as typical American but, really, a big mistake:

“A closer look at the history of American mass production indicates that rather than epitomising the American workplace, Taylorism may have been something of a historic anomaly.” [p. 256]

“The spiral of distrust occurred in key American manufacturing industries like automobiles and steel in the first half of the twentieth century. The result, by the 1970s, was an adversarial pattern of labour-management relations characterised by a high degree of legal formalism. For example, the 1982 national agreement between United Auto Workers and Ford consisted of four volumes, each two hundred pages in length, and supplemented at the plant level by another thick collective bargaining agreement specifying work rules, terms and conditions of employment and the like. ... The agreements called for a four-level grievance procedure that in effect created a miniature court system within the auto industry, mirroring the extensive legalisation of the larger American society. ...

“The unions negotiating these agreements were saying, in effect, that if management insisted on subdividing labour in Taylorite fashion into small specified tasks, they would accept the outcome, but hold management to that specification very rigidly. If the worker was not to be trusted to exercise judgment or take on new responsibilities, then management would not be trusted to assign workers new duties or to judge their skill sand abilities.” [p. 227]

“The real alternatives to Taylorism lie in the mass production sector itself, where, it turns out, there has been a surprising degree of social trust that comes into play. Advances in technology, for example, created demands for new skills even as they destroyed old ones.” [p. 229]

Fukuyama sees in Taylorism is beginnings of the American obsession with litigation and the securing of rights in publicly documented form.


Fukuyama is quite explicitly hostile to multiculturalism.

“A people’s ability to maintain a shared “language of good and evil” is critical to the creation of trust, social capital, and all other positive economic consequences that flow from these attributes. Diversity surely can bring real economic benefits, but past a certain point it erects new barriers to communication and cooperation with potentially devastating economic and political consequences.” [p. 270]

“Americans are so used to celebrating their own individualism and diversity, however, that they sometimes forget that here can be too much of a good thing ... a situation in which people in a society have nothing in common besides the legal system — no shared values, consequently no basis for trust, indeed no common language in which to communicate”. [p. 308]

The formalisation of rights provides the lever for institutionalising new rights and breaking open closed communities. But what is the good of the Boy Scouts if it has to tolerate Girls, Gays and Heathens? And it is for this proliferation of new rights — the struggle for Recognition — that he reserves his real venom.

Rights and Community

Television and other forms of electronic communication are given some credit for “privatising” social life, alongside the creation of high-rise housing estates via “slum-clearance”, the destruction of communities as a result of corporate “downsizing” and the Welfare State (for legitimising one-parent families), but the other, and principal suspect in Fukuyama’s investigation of the rise of individualism, and the decline in sociability in America is the post-World War Two social movements:

“Nuclear families have broken down but ... A more serious threat to community has come, it would seem, from the vast expansion in the number and scope of rights to which Americans believe they are entitled, and the “rights culture” this produces”. [p. 314]

The origins of this belief in rights, rather than duties can be traced back to Hobbes and Locke but particularly to the Founding Fathers, but Fukuyama sees this legacy coming to the surface as a reaction to the conformism of the early- to mid-twentieth century, and in particular the claim for Recognition by those excluded by mainstream America.

“over the second half of the century, this drive to include the formerly excluded led to increasingly broad interpretations of the individual rights defined by the Constitution.”. [p. 315]

Not only has the compulsion to recognise people outside the mainstream and admit them to elite communities shattered the solidarity and trust in those communities, according to Fukuyama, but the very strengths which have made America great are diluted:

“The more one is familiar with different cultures, the more one understands that they are not all created equal. An honest multiculturalist would realise that some cultural traits are not helpful in the sustenance of a healthy democratic political system and capitalist economy.

Trust which is not “Social Capital”

This leads us to the important observation that not all relations of trust and solidarity, not all creative and organisational capacities, constitute “social capital”.

“Certain forms of religious life can also be extremely helpful in a market setting, because religion provides a means of internalising the rules of proper market behaviour”. [p. 155]


“although America remains far more religious than other industrialised countries, net church attendance has fallen by approximately one-sixth; union membership has declined from 32.5 to 15.8 per cent; participation in parent-teacher associations has plummeted from 12 million in 1964 to 7 million today; fraternal organisations like the Lions, Elks, Masons, and Jaycees have lost from an eighth to nearly half of their memberships in the past twenty years. ...” [p. 309]

While churches and Masons have been losing membership:

“On the other hand, there continues to be a steady proliferation of interest groups of all sorts in American public life: lobbying organisations, professional associations, trade organisations, and the like whose purpose is to protect particular economic interests in the political market place. ... It is moral communities alone that can generate the kind of social trust that is critical to organisational efficiency”. [p. 309]

These kinds of organisation, clearly do not represent “social capital”.

“Cartels, guilds, professional associations, unions, political parties, lobbying organisations, and the like all serve an important political function by systematising and articulating interests in a pluralistic democracy. But although they usually serve economic ends of their members by seeking to redistribute wealth to them, they seldom serve the broader economic interests of society as a whole. For this reason many economists regard the proliferation of such groups as a drag on overall economic efficiency”. [p. 158]

This leads to an interesting converse to the concept of “social capital”.

“The same propensity for spontaneous sociability that is key to building durable businesses is also indispensable for putting together effective political organisations”. [p. 357]

That is to say, not only does non-economic social life produce qualities which can be sources of profit, capitalism produces social propensities which are hostile to the accumulation of capital, but not all of which are necessarily “harmful” in any sense that would be meaningful outside the science of economics.

Fukuyama on the African-Americans

Which brings us to Fukuyama’s comments on the plight of African-Americans.

“whether the American urban underclass is poor because it lacks economic opportunities or whether there is something that could be called a “culture of poverty” — dysfunctional social habits like teen pregnancy and drug addiction — that would persist even if the economic opportunities existed”. [p. 38]

It is of no account whatsoever to Fukuyama that US Blacks contributed, with their own hands, to building America way out of proportion to their numbers; nor do they get any recognition for teaching the American middle class how to fight for recognition, and the American working class about industrial unionism, and for giving jazz and much, much else to the world. The point is that they have turned out to be very poor capitalists.

The price for this failure is of course awful.

“Not only are blacks mistrusted by the surrounding white community, but, for reasons we shall discuss, they mistrust one another. This lack of internal social cohesiveness has nothing to do with African cultures, since most of the latter are pervaded by a variety of strong social groups. But today’s native-born African -American are descended from people who, as slaves, were deracinated from their native cultures. This deculturation has been one of the key factors impeding the economic advancement of the African-American community in the United States. [p. 296]

“Blacks, unlike other ethnic groups were brought to the United States involuntarily, were brutalised by slavery, and suffered a significantly higher level of discrimination because of their racial distinctiveness. ... There is nothing comparable to the Chinese or Japanese rotating credit associations in the experience of African-Americans after slavery. Black entrepreneurs had to face the world alone, with their own savings and little by way of help from extended family or friends ... in the United States [as opposed to the Carribean], the slaves were, in effect, decultured. ... Slavery in the United States did more than rob African-Americans of their individual dignity; it robbed them of their social cohesiveness as well by discouraging cooperative behaviour.” [p. 303]

This is what Fukuyama calls “individualism”.

“The contemporary black underclass in America today represents what is perhaps one of the most thoroughly atomised societies that has existed in human history. It is a culture in which individuals find it extremely difficult to work together for any purpose, from raising children to making money o petitioning city hall. If individualism means the unwillingness or inability to subordinate one’s individual inclinations to larger groups, then the underclass is one of the most individualistic segments of American society.” [p. 303]

One gets the feeling that Fukuyama fears that the ghettoes actually show America its future, should they continue down the road of promoting rights at the expense of community, which by and large is a product of past, pre-capitalist history.

“in atomised society ... the community structures that do exist are criminal organisations”. [p. 337]

And his advice to the political leaders of his country are:

“Americans need to understand that theirs is not simply an individualistic tradition and that historically people have come together, cooperated and deferred to the authority of a myriad of larger communities ... ability to obey communal authority is key to the success of the society. ...

“American liberals need to understand that they cannot take organic cohesion of American society for granted as they attempt to use the law to extend an equality of rights and recognition throughout society. American conservatives, for their part, have to understand that before they cut back the role of the state in society, they should have some idea about how to regenerate civil society and find alternative ways of taking care of its weaker members”. [p. 320]

And for his readers generally:

“The desire for economic prosperity is itself not culturally determined but almost universally shared. It is hard, in this context, not to come to some judgments about the relative strengths and weaknesses of different societies. It is not sufficient to say that everyone eventually arrives at the same goal but by different paths. How a society arrives and the speed with which it does so affect the happiness of its people, and some never arrive at all.” [p. 354]


Let us not follow Fukuyama in declaring the end of history. Let us solidarise with millions of other non-property owners who still aspire to something more than a good job in a world organised around the accumulation of capital.

We still have some important things to learn from Fukuyama. It is not only property rights which need recognition and not only property-owners who need relations of trust with those they are dealing with. In fact, for those who are fighting against capitalism, whether simply for survival and mitigation of the worst effects of capitalism, or for its overthrow, trust is even more necessary, and so is recognition of the worth of our own life and labour.

Our struggle to extend the radius of trust beyond our immediate family, comrades or co-workers, to be able to coordinate our activities on a larger scale, faces different barriers, has a different history and a different legacy to that which Fukuyama has studied.

Fukuyama has shown how the institutions and relations of earlier times have been gradually shaped and transformed into the companies and corporations of today. These same companies constitute part of the legacy for those who still want another chapter of history to be written.

The other legacy which we inherit from the past is the secret societies, unions, mutual aid organisations, parties, fronts, neighbourhood and social movements and alliances which have been invented at differents moments in the struggle against capital in order to achieve wider collaboration.

This part of our legacy is of course very much tied up with “ideology” rather than work or property, but that is hardly surprising.

Trust and Recognition

Fukuyama, the former champion of Recognition, now decries the struggle for Recognition as threatening the very fabric of society, and wants to moderate the atomising effects of Recognition with Trust, the other side of the Hegelian legacy.

In The End of History and the Last Man (1992), Fukuyama posed the question of the end of history with liberal democracy in the following terms:

“While Hobbes, Locke, and the American Founding Fathers like Jefferson and Madison, believed that rights to a large extent existed as a means of preserving a private sphere where men can enrich themselves and satisfy the desiring parts of their souls, Hegel saw rights as ends in themselves, because what truly satisfies human beings is not so much material prosperity as recognition of their status and dignity. With the American and French revolutions, Hegel asserted that history comes to an end because the longing that had driven the historical process — the struggle for recognition — has now been satisfied in a society characterised by universal and reciprocal recognition. No other arrangement of human social institutions is better able to satisfy this longing, and hence no further progressive historical change is possible. ...

“Assuming that liberal democracy is, for the moment, safe from external enemies, could we assume that successful democratic societies could remain that way indefinitely? Or is liberal democracy prey to serious internal contradictions, contradictions so serious that they will eventually undermine it as a political system? There is no doubt that contemporary democracies face any number of serious problems, from drugs, homelessness and crime to environmental damage and the frivolity of consumerism. But these problems are not obviously insoluble on the basis of liberal principles, nor so serious that they would necessarily lead to the collapse of society as a whole, as communism collapsed in the 1980s”. [The End of History, Introduction]

What Fukuyama has presented in Trust is that the struggle for recognition has definitively gone too far and is undermining trust. The Founding Fathers built an internal contradiction into the Constitution of the Republic. Rights were only meant for the protection of property, but non-property owners are now demanding recognition as well!

We agree with him about trust. But he has far from convinced us that a relation in which the labour of one person is the property is another constitutes a relation which can ever deliver both trust and recognition or that the American definition of liberal democracy is a constitution in which recognition and trust can grow.

What is the relationship between Trust and Recognition? “Recognition” is a term whose significance for Hegel is widely acknowledged, though unfortunately now widely misunderstood as a result of Fukuyama’s labours. What needs some attention is how Hegel himself resolved the problem of recognition in bourgeois society.

The fundamental form of recognition that a person (read “property-owner”) receives, is recognition of their property rights. When a person alienates their property they need to do so under conditions where their recognition is confirmed in the process of alienating it. Thus contract. From this foundation, Hegel builds up an outline of the development of modern society whose pinnacle is the State. If a person does not recognise in society, i.e., the State, her own work, then she is alienated.

Hegel criticised Rousseau’s and Hobbes’ conception of the state on the following grounds. There is no way in which a mass of citizens can form a contract with each other and the state; Rousseau’s contrat social is just a fiction, at best a metaphor. Hobbes’ state is explicitly alien to society, standing above it as the universal policeman. The fundamental need of people is to recognise in society at large and in the state in particular, their own will. This must be then what Hegel calls the Universal will, not just as it would be for Rousseau, the general will. The only way Hegel can see this being achieved is through mediation. Mediation is Trust; aside from you and me, there must be a we.

Hegel resolves the contradiction of modern society by proposing an intricate system of participation in particular voluntary and traditional organisations mediating between the citizen and the state. Trust is therefore the means by which Recognition is achieved, and vice versa. “Universal self-consciousness”, or rationality, is founded on the twin bases of trust and recognition.

The first target of Hegel’s criticism of liberal democracy is universal suffrage and the large geographical electorates seen in his own time in America and elsewhere. “People don’t bother to vote”, says Hegel. Hegel prefers a state founded upon the various unions, lobby groups, professional associations and so on, which Fukuyama finds so uneconomic and fractious.

The organised working class appeared on the scene of history in the 1830s, shortly after Hegel’s death. From that time forward, the idea of a state formed exclusively of property owners was untenable. If there is to be an end of history, then the farce of parliamentary-style elections stage-managed by billionaires is not it. The task is the one Hegel posed but could not solve: a state founded on participatory democracy in which trust is developed from the ground up, by recognition being given, not just to material goods and land, but to the life-activity of all people just as they choose to define it, by and through those they choose to associate with.

Building that kind of trust is the real task before us.

Andy Blunden
May 2003