End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama

End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama

Author:Francis Fukuyama [Fukuyama, Francis]
Language: eng
Format: epub, azw3
Publisher: Free Press
Published: 2006-05-13T23:00:00+00:00


21 The Thymotic Origins of Work

—Karl Marx1

Hegel … believed that Work was the essence, the true essence of Man.

Given the strong correlation between advanced industrialization and democracy, the ability of countries to grow economically over prolonged periods of time would seem to be very important to their ability to create and sustain free societies. And yet, while the most successful modern economies may be capitalist, not all capitalist economies are successful—or, at any rate, as successful as others. Just as there are sharp distinctions between the ability of formally democratic countries to sustain democracy, so there are equally sharp differences between the ability of formally capitalist economies to grow.

It was the view of Adam Smith that the chief source of the differences in the wealth of nations was the wisdom or foolishness of government policies, and that human economic behavior, once free from the constraints of bad policy, was more or less universal. Many of the differences in performance between capitalist economies can in fact be traced to differences in government policy. As noted earlier,2 many ostensibly capitalist economies in Latin America are actually mercantilist monstrosities in which years of state intervention have reduced efficiency and deadened entrepreneurship. Conversely, a good deal of postwar East Asian economic success can be traced to that region’s adoption of sensible economic policies, such as the maintenance of competitive internal markets. The importance of government policy is most evident when a Spain, South Korea, or Mexico opens up its economy and booms, or when an Argentina nationalizes industries and crashes.

And yet, one gets the sense that policy differences are only part of the story, and that culture affects economic behavior in certain critical ways just as it affects the ability of a people to sustain stable democracy. This is nowhere more evident than in attitudes toward work. Work, according to Hegel, is the essence of man: it is the working slave who creates human history by transforming the natural world into a world habitable by man. Apart from a few idle masters, all human beings work: and yet, there are tremendous differences in the manner and degree to which they work. These differences have traditionally been discussed under the rubric of the “work ethic.”

In the contemporary world, it is not considered acceptable to talk about “national character”: such generalizations about a people’s ethical habits are said not to be measurable “scientifically,” and are therefore prone to crude stereotyping and abuse when based, as they usually are, on anecdotal evidence. Generalizations about national character also run counter to the relativistic and egalitarian temper of our times, because they almost always contain implicit value judgments concerning the relative worth of the cultures in question. No one likes to be told that his culture promotes laziness and dishonesty; and indeed, such judgments are liable to considerable abuse.

Nonetheless, anyone who has spent time traveling or living abroad cannot help but notice that attitudes toward work are decisively influenced by national cultures. To some extent, these differences are measurable



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