Toward a More Communitarian Future? Fukuyama as the Fundamentalist Secular Humanist
2 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2004
With The End of History and the Last Man, Fukuyama established himself as the prophet of liberal democracy and free markets, heralding their final triumph as the only form of governance capable of commanding legitimacy. Asked to reflect on his predictions a decade later, Fukuyama concluded that the greatest threat to liberalism comes from biotechnology because it alone has the potential to remake the human nature liberal democracy was designed to serve. Fukuyama makes a compelling case that biotechnology may produce developments that should concern us; he is ironically less persuasive in articulating a liberal democratic framework for governing the developments he fears.
This review will consider the implications of Fukuyama's work for the future regulation of biotechnology. First, the review will maintain that Fukuyama is almost certainly right that biological innovations span a continuum of developments that range from vitamins enhancing infant cognition to research unlocking the secrets of cellular aging. Second, the review will argue that the value of Fukuyama's analysis cannot lie in the precision of his prescriptions, which are in any event vague.
Finally, the review will consider the prospects for a different approach to biotechnology's governance. Many of the most controversial of the developments Fukuyama describes - use of the nuclear cell transfer technology associated with cloning, selection of embryos with desirable traits - have already been done in readily moveable fertility clinics with a small amount of private funding from a determined clientele. The potential applications with the greatest promise, however - such as genetically modified plants that address the nutritional needs of the developing world, or breakthroughs in the use of stem cells to treat paralysis, cancer, or diabetes - require public funding and/or a large measure of international acceptance. Fukuyama correctly observes that we do not have the infrastructure necessary to either promote or control these developments. Whatever our conclusions about the wisdom of the new technology, we are far behind in developing political oversight capable of even keeping track of the new developments' scientific, ethical and social implications. Reconnecting political participation with scientific innovation will be biotechnology's greatest challenge.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation