Fukuyama’s Liberalism Versus State-Building

Published 03 Oct 2017

Francis Fukuyama considers war and violence as an unavoidable, inevitable and essential part in the process of state-building. Essentially, Fukuyama agrees with Thomas Carothers in contending against Western governments-sponsored sequencing of development efforts in developing countries. Fukuyama is skeptical in the way that the United States and other Western governments support liberal autocrats. First, they establish order, pursue a policy of economic development and then establish democracy. The author is right in questioning the level of influence of these Western countries over the autocrats in the developing countries. He even looked at several examples in history where authoritarian regimes gradually transitioned to a more democratic system without following the sequence of events described by Huntington and by Zakaria.

One of the more interesting aspects of Fukuyama’s article, however, is his view of war and violence as they relate to state building. He also looked at several examples in history to illustrate his contention. The history of the Civil War of the United States where violence became the inevitable means of solving the conflict of the North and South over the issue of slavery. He contends that without violence and war, the outcome of the Civil War would have been different, accommodations and compromises could have been instituted and thus, the United States would have been a weaker state and would not have been able to save Europe from devastation in World War II.

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In his conclusion, Fukuyama describes the present situation of international politics where war and violence are usually nipped at the bud, instead of allowing them to go through their full course. Such policy, he says, is good. But such policy does not always yield the best results.

Fukuyama appears to support another kind of sequence in the development of state in developing countries. In this sequence, Fukuyama argues that war and violence are important components of the process. If such violence is prevented, they will resurface again and again. Such approach, however, violates humanitarian concerns. Why should innocent civilians and minorities in a given country be subjected to the brutal process of ethnic cleansing in the name of state-building? The process that Fukuyama supports is very Machiavellian. Furthermore, the author does not seem to believe that it is possible for various ethnicities and ideological leanings to co-exist under one flag.

Conflicts must be resolved within the developing states. Certainly, there are various political processes that different sectors in such societies use to resolve conflicts and differences. Violence is always a last resort-something, which the civilized peoples of the world would rather not go through given a choice. Besides, who can guarantee that war and violence would accomplish the establishment of strong states? Fukuyama’s assertions, however, are backed with lessons from history. We have yet to find a good example of strong state that did not develop from a bloody past. Still, going through war and violence is not something that people, in any state, would willingly go through. Just ask the victims of ethnic cleansing in Cambodia and Bosnia among other parts of the world.


  • Francis Fukuyama ‘The end of history and the last man. Francis Fukuyama.’ New York : Perennial, 1992.
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