Torbjørn L Knutsen
Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Francis Fukuyama was catapulted into fame with his 1989 forecast of the imminent end of Soviet communism and the victory of liberal democracy. He has since maintained his place as one of the most prolific and prominent public intellectuals of the post-Cold War era. Mathilde Fasting, who knows Fukuyama's considerable production well, has spent many hours in conversation with him. The result is a 200-page book of 18 in-depth interviews. She gives a comprehensive overview of Fukuyama's oeuvre and unique access to his scholarly mind. Fukuyama has consistently addressed the biggest social questions of our time. Why are some countries rich, while others are so poor? Is it possible to build peaceful nations and orderly states with military force? Is there an end to History? These are some of the questions that Fasting asks. And Fukuyama's reflections regularly invoke famous theorists – ancient (Plato), modern (Hegel, Smith, Weber and Marx), and contemporary (Huntington, Lipset). Major concerns which run through these excellent interviews are America's role in the world and the preconditions for peace, order and liberal democracy in a post-Cold War age of populist temptations and rising authoritarian governments. The book is a horn of plenty. Every page presents a novel idea, a new fact, or an unexpected perspective. On p.52, for example, Fukuyama explains how Allan Bloom introduced him to Plato and convinced him to learn classical Greek so that he could read Plato in the original. Fasting's book, which presents Fukuyama's social theories in the form of dialogues, could not have chosen a more fitting form.