The End of European History.

In 1992, Francis Fukuyama published an (in)famous book called “The End of History and the Last Man”in which he famously pronounced that the end of the cold war marked the end of history and that we would all ride into the liberal democratic sunset unto the end of all days. Recent events, from 9/11 to the rise of China have put paid to Fukuyama’s predictions, but I think that after making a minor adjustment, he might still be right.

My point being: what if the cold war marked the End of European History? That is to say, was the cold war the last global dialogue/debate/battle of ideas all whom had their origins in Europe? The west is clearly in a furor over the relationship between global Islam and “western values”. I think that the presence of Islam in the global arena is only one sign of the changing times. I wouldnt be surprised, for example, if China and India make increasingly larger contributions to the debate about the future of humanity.

About a year ago, I was travelling from Amherst to Boston by car with two of my friends, one French and the other Swedish. The Frenchwoman, a medieval historian, was complaining that Amherst College was replacing their last medieval historian (who was retiring) with a Chinese historian. At that time, I told her that it was strange that she was complaining about the lack of medieval European historians, when there was not a single historian at Amherst College who taught any Indian history — ancient, medieval or modern. My friend was aghast that I would make that comparison, after all, she said that the US was founded on European principles and is comprised mostly of people of European descent, so it was only fitting that American colleges taught their students “their own history”. I replied that nevertheless, American institutions from corporations to colleges are pragmatic in nature and that given the times, I found it natural that these American institutions are looking west, over the Pacific and not east, over the Atlantic.

After hearing my admittedly provocative remarks, my friend refused to talk to me for the rest of the trip. Be that as it may, I wonder if European history is over, and that the rise of Asia will also involve a slow process of the US becoming a Pacific nation.

Leave a Reply