Francis Fukuyama with David Runciman – Democracy: Even the best ideas can fail

Monday 22 September 2014, 7pm | VIDEO NOW ONLINE

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In 1992 American political scientist Francis Fukuyama shot to worldwide fame with the publication of The End of History and the Last Man. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and a wave of democratic transitions in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, Fukuyama argued that History, in the grand philosophical sense, was leading not to communism as the Left had asserted, but to liberal democracy and a market economy.

In September 2014 Fukuyama came to the Intelligence Squared stage where he squared up with one of Britain’s most brilliant political thinkers, David Runciman, to assess how democracy is faring in 2014. We certainly haven’t attained the rosy future that some thought Fukuyama was predicting: authoritarianism is entrenched in Russia and China, in the last decade the developed democracies have experienced severe financial crises and rising inequality, and Islamic State militants are wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria.

Runciman agrees with Fukuyama that in the realm of ideas liberal democracy doesn’t have any real competitors. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only option, he believes, and even the best ideas can fail. Take the Arab Spring where democratic hopes have largely come to nothing. While Fukuyama argues that we should consider the long view – it’s easy to forget that the European revolutions of 1848 took 70 years to consolidate – Runciman worries that we may not have enough time for the long view in a fast-changing world.

Is religion becoming the new politics? How will the technological revolution continue to impact our politics? And in the West are we in danger of becoming complacent about the challenges to democracy that we face?


Francis FukuyamaFrancis Fukuyama

Author of The End of History, Trust, The Great Disruption, Our Posthuman Future, State Building and After the Neocons. All have been international bestsellers, translated and published in many languages. His forthcoming book is Political Order and Political Decay: From the French Revolution to the Present which is part 2 following on from The Origins of Political Order. He is Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford.


David RuncimanDavid Runciman

Professor of Politics at Cambridge University. His books include The Politics of Good Intentions, Political Hypocrisy, The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis from World War I to the Present and, most recently, Politics. He writes regularly about politics for the London Review of Books and the Guardian.



Matt FreiMatt Frei

Presenter on Channel 4 News, and former Washington correspondent for Channel 4 News and BBC News