My Photo


Roll Call

Become a Fan

« The Average Above-Average Philosopher | Main | A History of the Great American Novel, Part I: In Which It Has Not Yet Been Written. »

Thursday, 14 July 2005


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Theory's Empire: Fact Checkin' Fukuyama, or Count Them Numbers! They's Numbers!:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Also Wlad Godzich. Culture of Literacy.


Nicely done.


I'm sure those who first put forward the idea of the "genetic fallacy" had impeccable credentials (I was thinking it was Popper, but Google doesn't seem to be backing me up on this).


There is the other possibility that it is a truly amateurish piece of work.

It is hard on the one hand to critique Literary Studies for its endless infatutation with facile intellectualism and then, on the other hand, for turning away from the intellectually facile when it recognizes it.

Scott Eric Kaufman

Pollian, it actually isn't that difficult at all. The implicit critique there is of literary studies for limiting its engagement with "facile intellectualism" to those theories that flatter its own assumptions. (I'm too general here: those theories that flatter the assumptions of the people responding to them.) My point, simple and uncomplicated, is that if we're going to engage facile theoretical edifices, we ought to engage the culturally important ones in addition to the flattering ones. Make sense?

(Of course not, but that's sort of my point.)

Scott Eric Kaufman

For what it's worth, in that comment I sound as if I'm saying all t/Theory's "facile intellectualism." I'm not. I'm only saying that if we're going to take X seriously, if Y is much like X and is culturally important, shouldn't we consider Y as well?

Yet, but.... I mean, I'm sure literary theory is wonderful and all, but wouldn't one normally go to history journals to find reviews of The End of History worth getting one's teeth into, rightly or wrongly? (Although Butler does make an appearance above.) Reminds me--although this case be less extreme--of those battles where scientists try to make a theory paper that sneaks past the journal editors or vice versa. Ultimately, the point is?

Scott Eric Kaufman

Sure, you'd expect The End of History to be reviewed in history journals. The point is that it hasn't been adopted by literary theorists in the way that, say, Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities has. Good's point, and the one that I've tried to substantiate here, is that a certain kind of literary theorist only adopts an interdisciplinary position if he or she finds a position in another discipline which validates his or her a priori assumptions.

(Also, I don't see the Sokal parallel at all.)

Luther Blissett

Scott, I don't think a JSTOR search really gets you far. But perhaps I don't use JSTOR properly for my own research!

Anyway, James Berger's *After the End* treats Fukuyama seriously, but also seriously criticizes it as Fukuyama strains to show how his theory makes sense of genocide. Michael Moon also uses Fukuyama in his poco work.

In a Hegel seminar I took as a graduate student, taught by a "theorist", Fukuyama was on the syllabus. I'm sure that wasn't the only instance either. (I'd like to see academic book order data.)

Finally, not much polilitcal science is ever included in literary theory. The only major instance, outside the marxian tradition, I can think of is someone like Zizek who draws on Laclau and Mouffe (themselves fairly marxian -- and let's remember, Zizek, like Judith Butler, themselves rarely discuss literature).

Let's also remember that Fukuyama's last work retracted *The End of History*'s thesis. The book is seriously weak, taking Kojeve's misreading of Hegel and Sartre as a starting -- and ending-- point, with nearly no engagement with Hegel or the dialectical tradition itself. The book fails to discuss historical philosophy in any major way.

Lastly, another major reason why it might have been neglected is that world systems theory and other philosphies of globalization had already reached more thoughtful conclusions on the same phenomena Fukuyama discusses. It's basically a very thin line between Fukuyama's thesis -- the major ideological battles of history are all resolved in liberal democracy -- and anti-globalization theses, in which the West and America specifically are seen as exporting a certain type of liberal democracy in the interest of privatization, lowering import tariffs, and generally making trade as free as possible.

Luther Blissett

Also: you can't limit your search to "Language and Literature" on JSTOR if you want to discern how some hazily defined group of theorists (who are often lit, psych, anth, soc, and phil folks, really) have dealt with Fukuyama. When you widen the search to include theory-heavy disciplines like African-American Studies, African Studies, American Indian Studies, Asian Studies, Feminist and Women's Studies, Latin American Studies, Middle East Studies, and Slavic Studies, you account for 263 of the 650 odd references you turned up in your general search. And it makes sense that scholars of the global south might take on Fukuyama more than professors of American and English and Western European literature.

If you search for "Benedict Anderson" in this wider way, sure, you get nearly 700 results. But Anderson's major work, *Imagined Communities*, comes out in 1983. Fukuyama's *End of History* is released in book form in '92. So Anderson's work has also been around for 9 nine years longer.

Finally, a search for "Fukuyama" will probably yield results all concerned with his end of history thesis; whereas a search for "Benedict Anderson" is probably yielding results dealing with any of his major works of scholarship on nationalism (esp. considering I'm including Asian Studies, and Anderson's work deals largely with Asian nationalism and history).

All of which is to say: numbers alone don't prove a damned thing.

Scott Eric Kaufman

LB, first, I know that numbers alone don't prove a damn thing; that's the reason I actually read a sampling of the articles to determine what the numbers meant. Your point about the limitations of the search are well-founded, however, so I expanded it. However, my search maxes out at 118 (that's including Af-Am, Af, Amer-In, Art, Asian, Feminist, Film, Lang/Lit, Latin Am, Mid. East, Phil, Psych and Slavic), which is still around 10% of the total citations in JSTOR.

Now, of course JSTOR isn't the last word, but as a database it's sufficiently deep and broad to provide a snapshot of the citational history of a given work. I could be more scientific and thorough, I admit, but I was really just testing Good's claim for outlandishness; and it turned out not to be outlandish at all.

Luther Blissett

Scott, ultimately I don't think the sheer number of conversations dealing with Fukuyama can prove the intensity of engagement (or lack thereof). Nor can we assume that Fukuyama was neglected -- if in fact he was -- because of the ideology of his work or his job with the gov't, as Good claims.

Let's take Norman Brown, for example. Here's another figure who assembled a total vision of history out of far more ideologically progressive elements than Fukuyama (that is, Brown puts Freud and Marx together, along with liberation and negative theology). But there's been almost no literary theoretical engagement with Brown's work either. And this despite the fact that the work of folks like Deleauze, Negri, and Theresa Brennan all looks strikingly *like* Brown's earlier studies, such as *Life Against Death*.

So better than some simplistic ideological explanation for Fukuyama's "neglect" is the intellectual-historical fact that some time around the New Criticism, American thinkers about literature steered away from large-scale historical narratives. Even Jameson, with his "always historicize!" injunction, studiously avoids historical narrative. In nearly every instance I can think of, Jameson focuses on transitional moments, the "elbows" of history, more than simple cause and effect patterns. This leads to, say, the New Historicism's emphasis on anecdotes and historical bits -- or Benn Michaels' version, in which all writers with similar assumptions are seen as saying the same thing, no matter the differences in sociological position.

I think all this is changing, as New Historicism gives way to the new Old Historicism that locks all texts in some cage of historical and cultural pastness.

But the bottom line is this, and it's a bottom line that, in neglecting, I'm forced to wonder about Good's own intellect: Fukuyama's book was shockingly wrong BY HIS OWN STANDARDS right at the moment of publication. Which is to say, if we accept Fukuyama's thesis that liberal democracy is a universal/international good, by Hegel/Kojeve's own dialectic, it is forced to come into contact with its particular negation: tribalism, fragmentation, nationalism, etc. Such an idea was proposed before Fukuyama even posited his thesis.

T. Scrivener

As to Judith Butlers arguement, stunning indeed.

The comments to this entry are closed.