Following the fall of communism in 1989, American political scientist Francis Fukuyama shot to fame with his thesis about the ‘end of history’ – the idea that the entire world was set on a path towards universal liberalism.
But 30 years on, liberalism is in retreat. This doctrine, which first emerged in the 17th century, stresses the importance of equality, individual rights, the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Now liberalism is under attack from both the Right and the Left. And on March 22 2022 Fukuyama comes to Intelligence Squared to talk about the themes of his new book Liberalism and Its Discontents and to dissect what has gone wrong.
To many people on the Right, liberalism’s emphasis on personal autonomy is seen as a threat to their deeply held beliefs about the value of traditional religion and culture. Such doubts have bolstered the rise of authoritarian leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who have all clamped down on political opposition, independent media outlets and the judicial systems in their respective countries. Meanwhile, in the eyes of the progressive Left, liberal societies have failed to live up to their own ideals of equal treatment of all groups. This has led to attacks on the basic tenets of liberalism, such as universal human equality, free speech, scientific rationalism, and the primacy of the individual over the group. And this in turn has led to a battle over the so-called cancelling of people whose views deviate from the progressive orthodoxy, with dissenters being ousted from positions of influence by those who wield cultural power.
Professor Fukuyama will be joined in conversation by John Gray, the British political philosopher, who rejects the idea of universal liberal values and human progress. Can liberalism be reformed in a way that will inspire a new generation, as Fukuyama believes, or is it an outdated system incapable of reforming itself? Join us, hear the arguments and decide for yourself.