Francis Fukuyama: ‘Trump instinctively picks racial themes to drive people on the left crazy’
In 1989, the economist’s essay The End of History? asked whether liberalism had triumphed over ideology. History, however, had other ideas and his new book responds to the return of extremism.
Guardian Books✔@GuardianBooksFrancis Fukuyama: ‘Trump instinctively picks racial themes to drive people on the left crazy’ https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/sep/16/francis-fukuyama-interview-trump-picks-racial-themes-to-drive-people-on-the-left-crazy?CMP=twt_books_b-gdnbooks …
Every “thought-leader” needs a catchy leading thought. Francis Fukuyama made his name and fortune with the definitive “one-liner” political meme The End of History?, which in the early 1990s seemed a smart way of describing the collapse of communism, and the “triumph” of the west. Since then, in the years in which history has clearly refused to end, Fukuyama, a senior fellow at Stanford University, has had various stabs at repeating that initial success. His new book, Identity, proposes the term “thymos” as the key to understanding our unnerving political moment.
“Thymos” (it does no harm, for credibility or book sales if the crucial thought-leading term is best understood by Ancient Greeks) comes from Plato’s Republic.It represents a kind of third way for a soul instinctively divided into two competing impulses – reason and appetite – by Socrates. If the former of those two made us human and the latter kept us animal, thymos fell somewhere in between. Most translations of The Republicsuggest its sense for Plato as “passion”. For his purposes, Fukuyama takes it to mean “the seat of judgements of worth”, a kind of eternal status thermostat.
The importance of thymos, he believes, is not only that it has been seriously overlooked by other political theorists. Whereas classical economics tried to explain the world in terms of individuals acting to maximise their financial self-interest, behaviouralists, thinking fast and slow, have proved that our rational capacity is often undermined by more intuitive forces. Perhaps the most powerful of these, Fukuyama insists, is the desire for respect.