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Nicolas Guilhot but these criticisms largely miss his point. The end of history does not mean that “there will no longer be events to fill the pages of Foreign Affairs,” as he pointed out, only that such events, no matter how dramatic they may turn out to be, would not fundamentally alter the foundations of social life, since it had reached its most accomplished form with the ideological dominance of liberal democracy.

There was nothing catastrophic about this conclusion, but Fukuyama’s tone was not quite triumphant either. Something was lost in the consummation of history—a sense of possibility, the expectation of future fulfillment, a fundamental striving. Art and philosophy would disappear because there was nothing left to contemplate beyond the here and now and no aspiration to transcend the present. Humanity would have little else to do besides ministering to its material needs. Fukuyama admitted to “the most ambivalent feelings” about such prospects. The end of history would be a long lull in which nothing would happen.

The end of history was not an idea that was original to Fukuyama; rather, as befits an age of ideological exhaustion, it was a vintage reissue harking back to an earlier era. The idea was hatched in the rubble of the Second World War and set the tone of intellectual life in the 1950s. Jacques Derrida once reminisced that it was the “daily bread” on which aspiring philosophers were raised back then. Its charismatic impresario was the Russian-born French philosopher Alexandre Kojève. Many others, however, came to terms with the idea the way one does with an ominous prognosis. For the German philosopher Karl Löwith, the end of history was primarily a crisis of meaning and purpose regarding the direction of human existence; for Talmudic scholar and charismatic intellectual Jacob Taubes, it was the exhaustion of eschatological hopes, the last of which were vested in Marxism; for the French philosopher Emmanuel Mounier, the collapse of secular and religious faith; for the theologian Rudolf Bultmann, it meant that the task of finding meaning in human existence had become a purely individual burden; and for the political theorist Judith Shklar, it morphed into an “eschatological consciousness” that “extended from the merely cultural level” to the point where “all mankind is faced with its final hour.” Kojève, however, was upbeat. Building on his idiosyncratic reading of Hegel, he suggested that


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