Episode MMDXXVI of The American Political Melodrama: On Francis Fukuyama’s Straussian pessimism, a comment by Publius (Revised)

How many times must readers be presented with the maladroitly expressed Straussian pessimism of Mr. Fukuyama, as having some kind of objective value? Mr. Fukuyama is part of a coterie of Political Romantics, who view themselves as the natural inheritors of the mantle of Plato’s Philosopher Kings. The Neo-Conservatives are the pioneers of using Plato’s ‘Noble Lie’ as integral part of their political/moral platform, with a strong assist from Carl Schmitt, Strauss’ political ally.

See  Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss,The Hidden Dialogue by Heinrich Meier (http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/C/bo3637206.html)


Here are three examples of the recurring themes of Mr. Fukuyama:in his 20013 American Interest essay attacks the whole of the meliorist politics of the American 20th Century!

Headline: The Decay of American Political Institutions of December 2013


Headline: America in Decay, The Sources of Political Dysfunction of


 Political Order and Political Decay,From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama published  in 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux


The Fukuyama diagnosis of The Decay of American Political Institutions and its various iterations, carefully elides from a narrative history of America, the rise and the catastrophic collapse of the Neo-Liberal model of governance, of the economy and the polity. Where the evolution of republican values and practices were supplanted by the stunted, desiccated singularity of the Market, and its actor the entrepreneur.That attempted to replace the shared civic destiny of the commonwealth, and the citizen as the bearer and practitioner of civic republican virtue*. With the Market as epistemic singularity and the entrepreneur as its actor.What lends verisimilitude to the latest riff on his recurring theme, is the appearance of Trump on the American political scene.Yet he revels in the Political Orthodoxy of the current moment, as is he were part of respectable bourgeois politics, and even acts the role of trusted political commentator, rather than what he is a verbose political ideologue. Some selective quotation from his essay demonstrates his adherence to that current Political Orthodoxy:

‘The success of populism in 2016 should thus not be shocking. The financial crisis of 2008 was the responsibility of an economic elite, but it was ordinary working class citizens who lost their jobs as a result. With neither party offering the white working class a home, economic marginalization coincided with marginalisation in a political system that favoured those with money and status. The real surprise ought to be that the populist uprising did not come sooner’.

Not to name The Financial Reforms of 1999, as the one of the harbingers of the 2008 Collapse,  signed by Bill Clinton, and supported by the New Democrats and Republicans alike, as the dawn of a new age of prosperity, rhetorically reduced to the workings of an anonymous ‘economic elites’ is self-serving political equivocation, and acts rhetorically as an apologetic for an utterly bankrupt Neo-Liberalism.

Then the reader confronts what can only be described as the highly reduced rhetoric of American paranoia/propaganda, about the perpetually bad political actor Vladimir Putin. A collection of the current overworked cliches, produce at will  by the US/EU/NATO political troika and its fellow travelers called ‘Journalists’ and or ‘Pundits’.  About the Putin mendacity, not to speak of evil doings, to rival the murderous Joseph Stalin! Putin is the star of The New Cold War, a melodrama legitimized by Fukuyama and other ‘Journalists’ and or ‘Pundits’.

But whereas the internet has democratised access to information, it has not necessarily improved the quality of information—and it has exacerbated the effect of selective truths or even outright mis-information on politics. One has only to look at Russia to see how this works within an authoritarian state. Vladimir Putin has been perhaps the world’s largest purveyor of bad information. He has created new narratives out of whole cloth, such as the idea the Ukrainian nationalists were crucifying small children, or that the Malaysian airliner MH-17 was shot down by Ukrainian forces. Such propaganda has been startlingly effective within Russia: whereas many citizens were dismissive of official news sources back in the days of the former Soviet Union, they have responded far more positively to the nationalist line promoted by today’s Kremlin. When it comes to international relations, the ambition is not necessarily to promote a positive view of Russia, but simply to scramble the politics and upset the governance of his rivals. Hence the Russians gave support to the “Leave” forces in the Brexit referendum and the secessionists in the Scottish referendum before it, and in an even more daring assault on democracy Putin intervened in the US election campaign, where—according to the US intelligence community—Russian hackers stole information from the Democratic National Committee, hacked the email account of the Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, and dribbled what they found out through Wikileaks to try and damage Clinton. Some well-informed commentators have even been highlighting the vulnerability of electronic voting machines, raising the spectre of even more direct distortion of democracy.

 Two other consideration come to mind: the intellectual practice of Strauss, and his acolytes is to use verbosity to exhaust the reader’s patience, and draw attention away from what might be key argumentative points, that become lost in a thicket of words, sentences and paragraphs. Which then becomes points of contention when critics examine a work for argumentative consistency, not to speak of cogency, which then become points that the author can assign to misunderstanding, predicated  upon the misunderstanding/mendacity on the critic’s part: the Staussian is perpetually subject to misunderstanding, due to the ignorance or mendacity of his/her critics.



* See ‘The Machiavellian Moment:Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition’ by J.G.A. Pocock




About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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