This isn’t newsy at the moment, but it’s interesting.
Maybe, I thought, the kid was mixing up his public intellectuals; perhaps he was confusing Mr. Fukuyama for the liberally coiffed Japanese nuclear physicist who had been so ubiquitous on the cable-news circuit in the weeks after the nuclear accident. In any case, I failed to inquire as to the origin of the withering assessment, and promptly forgot all about the exchange—until an editor asked what I was working on. Hadn’t he too heard similarly wretched things about the latest from Mr. Fukuyama? The conservative critic he’d assigned to review it had declared it “unreviewable”—whatever that meant.
I emailed a bona fide conservative pundit I know. Would three make a trend? He told me to call.
“Here’s the dirt on Fukuyama,” he said in a familiar conspiratorial tone, and dispensed with a halfhearted nugget about how Mr. Fukuyama had mentored a controversial Iranian lobbyist.
Bad word of mouth has dogged Mr. Fukuyama since “The End of History?,” the 1989 essay he expanded into an ambitious book of political theory a few years later. There he cribbed some hacked Hegelian theories on the nature of “history” from the French philosopher Alexandre Kojeve to illuminate the intellectual and cultural climate of a future free of the ideological battles that dominated the 20th century. (No one remembers details, though; he might as well go down in history as the guy who said history had ended 20 years ago.) Humans over the past few centuries had become accustomed to “history” denoting a linear trajectory, a forward-looking progression toward some more optimal condition, he observed; but whither the world that had more or less reached a consensus on the superiority of liberal democracy above all other systems?