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The phrase the “end of history” was first used by French philosopher and mathematician Antoine Augustin Cournot in 1861. Hannah Arendt rightly said that every end in history necessarily contains a new beginning. History is not static in nature. It repeats itself after particular intervals. For Hegel, a German philosopher end of history lies in the establishment of the German state. For Francis Fukuyama, the collapse of the USSR was the ‘end of history with the triumph of liberalism in world affairs. But “the end” is the bird that doesn’t exist in reality.
French Vs British: Colonial Confrontations
During colonial days, there were confrontations between the two major colonial powers i.e. French and British. France and Great Britain struggled to expand their empires. They fought a famous “Seven Years War.” In the early 1750s, the expansion of the French into the Ohio River valley (in the US) brought France into armed conflict with the British colonies. The Seven Years’ War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1763.
French power was defeated in the hand of Great Britain due to various mistakes – First, French companies were state undertaking but the British company was a private entity was very quick in decision making. Second, There was a strategic defect in French leadership. French opened multiple fronts simultaneously (India, Europe, and North America) with very limited resources. Third, Technologically French power was not stronger than Great Britain.
Mahanian (Alfred Mahan) conception says that those who can rule the world have a good understanding of the ocean and naval power. Thus, a better navy and large resources helped the British to topple the French and become ‘Leviathan’ in the world. A kind of unipolar world was created where it was said that for the British, the sun never sets.
British Vs America: Pax Britannica to Pax-Americana
Due to the growth of enlightenment in America, people became conscious of their ideals like natural laws and rights, liberalism, property right, and republicanism. Later, in 1762, Rousseau developed the social contract theory. He claims that in case of failure, the state can be thrown. New thinkers like John Locke, started printing their ideas in society. Thus, enlightenment, discriminatory economic policies of the colonial master, and drain of wealth due to long “seven years’ war” in political rivalry with French had put a powerful thrust against the status quoist power, Great Britain.
These things shaped, the American Revolution, an ideological and political revolution that occurred in colonial North America between 1765 and 1783. The war ended officially with the signing of the treaty of Paris in 1783. American independence was recognized by Great Britain. The US wrote its constitution in 1789, the first written constitution of the world. Liberal ideas like liberty, and rule of law, got shaped in the new constitution. The natural rights of men traced their origin in the Bill of rights. It mandated separation of power and a system of checks, and balances.
Such developments were weaving the liberal order for the coming future. It started the decline of British history and the surge of US history. In 1823, the US adopted the Monroe doctrine in which it isolated from world politics but maintained the trade with the world for the capacity building of the US. After the end of the first world war, the US president, Woodrow Wilson gave 14 points speech to give rules to the Pax-Americana. It didn’t contain wars and the second world war was witnessed.
Fascism Vs Liberals: First thrust to the liberal world order
During the transition period between Pax Britannica and Pax Americana, the first thrust was posed by the fascist forces. Fascist forces like Nazism in Germany under Adolf Hitler and in Italy under Mussolini posed challenges to the liberal world order. Adolf Hitler posed his own idea of world order – NEUROPA. Actions for the fascist order had already begun long before the start of World War II, but were publicly proclaimed by Adolf Hitler in 1941: “The year 1941 will be, I am convinced, the historical year of a great European New Order!”
Allies power (France, Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union) fought and defeated the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan). Since then the US had wither way Monroe doctrine (Isolationist policy) and adopted Truman doctrine (Involvement in world affairs). Post-World War II, scholars like Danial Bell in his book “The end of ideology” coined the same rhetoric “end” for claiming no ideological confrontations after defeating fascist forces.
The US recalibrated and revamp the liberal world order. Liberal idealism was replaced by liberal institutionalism. League of Nations was replaced by the united nations. Defects in the world order experienced during the inter-war period were corrected. However, the Suez crisis in 1956, was marked as the last nail in the coffin in Pax Britannica. The US emerged as a new superpower in world affairs.
Liberals Vs Communism: Era of the cold war
The end of ideology thesis proposed by some of the western scholars failed. A new ideological confrontation started for becoming hegemon power. Confrontations started with the soft power through rebuilding program in Europe. The USSR started the Molotov plan in 1947 in order to provide aid to rebuild the countries in Eastern Europe that were politically and economically aligned to the Soviet Union. It was originally called the “Brother Plan” in the Soviet Union. Subsequently, the USA started the Marshal plan in 1948 for the same objective in Western Europe.
Confrontations move to hard power in a subtle way. The USA formed NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in 1949 in Washington to provide collective security against the Soviet Union. Followed by this event, USSR formed the Warsaw pact in 1955 in Poland on the same logic of collective defense for the Soviet allies. Repercussions of ideological confrontations were witnessed around the globe – Vietnam, Korea, Cuba, etc.
This confrontation was ended with the disintegration of the USSR followed by the end of the cold war. Francis Fukuyama in his book “The end of history and the last man, 1992” claims this event as the ‘end of history.’ This is the same rhetoric “end.” However, this rhetoric didn’t last long.
Liberals Vs Islamists and Confucianism: Clash of Civilization
Post-cold war, the US became a single hegemon and the world became unipolar. In 2001, the 9/11 attack was witnessed. Samuel P Huntington in his book “The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order, 1996” claims the event of the 9/11 attack as a challenge by the Islamic world to the Liberal world. The US under the leadership of Bush went for a “War on terror” in Afghanistan to eliminate the source of the 9/11 attack and counter the narrative of a new challenge to the liberal world.
Bush coined the popular slogan “those who are not with us are against us.” The US killed Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11 in 2013 at Abbottabad, Pakistan. Kishore Mahbubani his book “Has the west lost?: A provocation, 2018” claims that US engagement in west Asia for war on terror gave a free ride to China. Till the US was engaged with the Islamic world, China was passive. But after the elimination of Osama Bin Laden in 2013, China became more assertive. Now China is deemed as a new Challenge to the liberal world order.
In economic terms, China surpassed the US economy in 2013 in PPP terms. Chinese president, Xi Jinping coined the word “China Dream” and started propagating the narrative of the ‘middle kingdom complex” (Chinese sense of world order). China has constantly increased its military capability and focused on military modernization. China has increased its footprints across the globe including the backyard of the US through its signature campaign of the “Belt and Road initiative.”
Unlike the USSR, the rise of China is not based on ideology but its rise is a cultural rise based on Confucianism. China has been trying its best to surpass and topple the liberal world order. However, time would tell whether China would be able to successfully topple the US or not. But it would be fair to conclude that nothing in the world is permanent. Thus, rhetoric like “end” is the bird that doesn’t exist in reality.
- JSTOR | Neuropa: Hitler’s New World Order, 1941
- Jewish Library | Adolf Hitler: Speech at the Berlin Sports Palace, 1941
- Book | The End of Ideology by Danial Bell, 2000
- Book | The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama, 1992
- Book | The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P Huntington, 1996
- Book | Has the West Lost It?: A Provocation by Kishore Mahbubani, 2018
- Euromonitor International | China Overtakes the US as the World’s Largest Economy
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