Friday, March 19, 2004

Mandatory Reading in Israel

No, my title doesn't refer to the Bible. Peter Berkowitz recounts a night in Tel Aviv when Francis Fukuyama and former Prime Ministers, Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu, debated the "end of history" thesis.

It's interesting that Fukuyama's writings remain "mandatory reading" in political science classes in Israel and that a debate among him and former prime ministers would generate a rock-concert like atmosphere. Any faculty member in a U.S. university who wanted to make Fukuyama or Kojeve or Hegel mandatory reading would almost certainly face the ostracism of his colleagues.

Unlike so many inferior pieces about Fukuyama's original thesis, Berkowitz's reminds us that Fukuyama related his understanding of events to his understanding of human nature and argued that liberal democracy satisfies, more than other political arrangements, the erotic and thymotic aspects of human being. This leads to the question of whether Islam is to blame for the current condition of the Muslim Arab countries. Fukuyama thinks that, although Islam "awaits its Luther," the problems result from bad government and dismal economic prospects.


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