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Francis Fukuyama: “Euromaidan is a grand battle for the spread of democratic rule”

Francis Fukuyama during his visit to Kyiv
Francis Fukuyama: “Euromaidan is a grand battle for the spread of democratic rule”
Article by: Serhiy Kurbatov
Translated by: Timothy Wang-Holborn
Edited by: Alya Shandra
The Johan Skytte Award is the most prestigious annual in the field of political science. Awarded since 1995, with a prize pot of 500 thousand Swedish kronor (nearly $60 thousand), classic modern political and social theorists like Robert Dahl, Sidney Verba, Theda Skocpol and Ronald Inglehart are among its laureates.

This year, the recipient of the Johan Skytte Award was well-known social thinker and analyst of Stanford University, Francis Fukuyama. He received the award for his books “The Origins of Political Order” (2011) and “Political Order and Political Decay” (2014). According to a member of the award’s committee, professor at Uppsala University, Li Bennich-Björkman, “these two works are a fascinating attempt to comprehend the aspirations of humanity to create an effective political system that could contribute to human society, protecting each individual of society.” The awards ceremony took place on October 3, 2015 at Uppsala University. Being among the invited international guests, we took the opportunity to meet Mr. Fukuyama and conduct this short interview the next day.

Oswald Spengler was called the “the decline of the West.” You, by analogy, could be called “the end of history.” Now, 25 years after the release of this world-renowned piece of work, what can you say about its approach and idea?

fuku3“The end of history” means the end of the period of modernization, of its main processes. Which means that at the end of history we must clearly identify the optimal and most attractive model of political and governmental organization. That is a democratic government with a market economy. It’s unlikely that anyone of the serious analysts will argue that the models of modern Islamic states or China can take the floor. What has really changed in the past 25 years is the fact of democracy’s diminishing prestige, and at fault for this, above all, is the economic crisis in the United States and the European Union. Other than this, we are witnessing the construction of an “anti-democratic message,” a kind of challenge to democracy from the side of, say, Russia and China. I don’t think that this message will become the dominating one, but democracy, unfortunately, is not experiencing the best of times at the moment.

Winston Churchill said that democracy is a poor form of governance, but mankind has yet to think of a better one. Do you agree with him? If yes, why?

Over the past 25 years we have seen a decline of the prestige of democracy, and at fault for this, above all, is the economic crisis in the United States and the European Union.
I think the governing process must be supported by the state, it assumes responsibility before the entire population of the country, and democracy is the optimal mechanism for this. The only alternative might be a leader’s use of their own position for personal enrichment.  An example of a similar government is the modern Russian Federation. It’s unlikely that a majority of people would want to live in this country. Therefore democracy is now the optimal political mechanism. But here, other mechanisms can be included like nationalism, using democratic forms and procedures. I think current-day Russia is longing for its Soviet past and the great empire. It’s dangerous when similar tendencies are camouflaged by democratic rhetoric and procedures.

In your opinion, what are the main challenges to modern democracy?

A lot can be said on this. First of all, economic problems. The EU, not long ago, survived a serious economic crisis. The next group of problems is connected with migration – it’s on everyone’s lips. These are, so to say, internal-political challenges. There are external ones primarily connected with Russia and China and their growing territorial ambitions. These challenges must now receive stronger resistance from the side of the international community.

In your lecture you said that the fate of the modern world is being decided right now in Ukraine, because it is there that democratic models of governance and their alternatives are competing. Could you elaborate on your proposition in more detail?  

I consider modern government impersonal, meaning those in power champion the interests of society, and not those of their own. The spokespeople for such approaches are the elites. And now we are observing an open opposition between the West and Russia in these areas. Putin built a kleptocracy that works for the interests of those who can influence the system, and not for society as a whole. High levels of corruption are key features of this type of regime. This is the kind of regime that Viktor Yanukovych was trying to construct in Ukraine. And I think those who went out to protest on Maidan understood that the European Union represents another, more modern political regime and wanted this for themselves. Here, we see the vulnerability of democracy, as Yanukovych was a democratically elected president. The same can be seen in modern Russia where the majority of people support Putin. That is, formally, those in power are legitimate, but at the same time their rule provokes unprecedented corruption and the self-enrichment of the government.

Ukraine has experienced two powerful social movements in the 21st century – the Orange Revolution and EuroMaidan. How do you assess these events from the point of view of establishing democratic political order?

Euromaidan is a grand historical event, a grand battle for the spread of modern forms of democratic rule
These are extremely important, positive and necessary events. But the problem is in what happens after the establishment of a new political regime. Ukraine’s main problem after the Orange Revolution were the tensions in the power structure, mostly between Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko. They were so busy fighting one another that it led to the growth of corruption. That’s why they couldn’t overcome the influence of the oligarchs, who gradually regained control over the country. As I see it, there is more optimism in the aftermath of Euromaidan. Your current leaders, in my opinion, managed to somewhat lower the level of corruption and implement principles of public management in the governance process.

I know you have visited Ukraine more than once. What are your impressions of our country and what do you wish for our politics?

I am very concerned with the development prospects of Ukraine – you have serious reforms being implemented, there are a great deal of NGOs actively developing civil society. In this regard, I believe, the US and EU are providing inadequate support for a strong and healthy Ukrainian society, especially when it has run into serious problems that affect the interests of the global community.

I have a lot of good friends in your county. I consider Euromaidan a grand historical event and one of the most significant of our time. Its meaning transcends far beyond the scope of Ukraine. It’s a grand battle for the spread of modern forms of democratic rule. I hope those who have risen to power will learn to use it in the interests of the country and the whole of society.

Translated by: Timothy Wang-Holborn
Edited by: Alya Shandra
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