The End of History and the Last Man, published in 1992, earned Francis Fukuyama a popular reputation as an imaginative, prophetic thinker. Writing for an Anglophone intelligentsia fascinated by globalization, he seemed to easily transcend old phobias and cultural stereotypes about East and West; he could write with equal authority about Japan and China, the United States and Europe. If we were to trust anyone to peer into the future and report back, Fukuyama was a very plausible candidate: a global intellectual for a global world.
This image endures despite the lack of originality in the core idea of The End of History: that grand political contention would fade away as the nations of the world converged toward liberal democracy. Moreover, that idea itself soon proved to be mistaken. History, as Fukuyama defined it, came back with some big bangs at the beginning of the 21st century. Neither in The End of History nor in his later books has Fukuyama demonstrated any special insight into the global forces shaping today’s world. His genius lies rather in a capacity for lucid synthesis: the ability to foray into specialized areas and sketch the big picture with great clarity. His second success, Trust(1995), seems to command the greatest respect among academics. Although he said nothing that would have been new to experts in the field, Fukuyama drew creatively on his Eastern and Western cultural knowledge to illustrate the major contributions of relationships of trust to the effectiveness of market economies.