Political scientist and award-winning author Francis Fukuyama addressed more than 100 students in Funger Hall Thursday night on his controversial theory of post-modernism. The event was the first of several lectures and discussions in this semester’s Honors Symposium.
Fukuyama, professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University and author of “End of History and the Last Man,” argued that all nations will eventually adopt market capitalism and liberal democracy.
Fukuyama said once all nations acknowledge that capitalist institutions provide the highest standards of living, they will adopt a market economy and an educated and wealthy populace will emerge to demand democracies.
Many scholars have criticized Fukuyama’s theories as short-sighted.
Fukuyama said civilization will spend time refining and expanding democracy and capitalism, as opposed to challenging them.
Samuel Huntington, author of “Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” and Fukuyama’s chief academic rival, argues that civilizations have replaced ideologies as the reason for conflict, and several civilizations, including Islam, are fundamentally incompatible with democracy and capitalism.
Fukuyama said he maintains that no culture inherently opposes either institution. While he accepts that many current Islamic institutions resist democracy and capitalism, Fukuyama stressed that no fundamental aspect of Islam reflected in the Koran prevents the adoption of democracy or capitalism.
The Honors Symposium usually features one lecturer who represents an academic theme, said Peter Rollberg, director of the Honors Program.
“We try to find somebody who’s both an academic and a public scholar, someone who moves public opinion,” Rollberg said.
Rollberg said the controversy surrounding Fukuyama’s theories also suits the symposium.
Last semester’s Honors Symposium featured geneticist and Columbia University professor Robert Pollack, who addressed the relationship between biotechnology, genetics and religion.
This semester’s Honors Symposium, a three-day series of lectures and discussions, is named “Western Society in a Changing World.”
The Honors Program currently includes 750 students, up from about 400 five years ago. Rollberg said he expects that number to reach 900 within three years. He also said he expects events like the symposium more publicized among non-honors students.
As GW’s academic prestige and quality increases, he said, “The Honors program should play the role of vanguard.”
Rollberg said the focus of next semester’s Honors Symposium will be environmental challenge.