Francis Fukuyama was born in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. His father, Yoshio Fukuyama, a second-generation U.S. Japanese man, was trained as a minister in the Congregational Church and received a doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago. His mother, Toshiko Kawata Fukuyama, was born in Kyoto, Japan, and was the daughter of Shiro Kawata, founder of the Economics Department of Kyoto University and first president of Osaka City University in Osaka. Fukuyama's childhood was spent in New York City. In 1967 his family moved to State College, Pennsylvania, where he attended high school.
Fukuyama received his Bachelor of Arts degree in classics from Cornell University, where he studied political philosophy under Allan Bloom. He earned his Ph.D. in government from Harvard University, studying with Samuel P. Huntington and Harvey C. Mansfield, among others. Fukuyama has been affiliated with the Telluride Association since his undergraduate years at Cornell, an informative enterprise that was home to other significant leaders and intellectuals, including Steven Weinberg, Paul Wolfowitz and Kathleen Sullivan.
Fukuyama is currently the Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the International Development Program at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, located in Washington, D.C.
Fukuyama is best known as the author of The End of History and the Last Man, in which he argued that the progression of human history as a struggle between ideologies is largely at an end, with the world settling on liberal democracy after the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Fukuyama predicted the eventual global triumph of political and economic liberalism:
What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such... That is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.
He has written a number of other books, among them Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity and Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. In the latter, he qualified his original 'end of history' thesis, arguing that since biotechnology increasingly allows humans to control their own evolution, it may allow humans to alter human nature, thereby putting liberal democracy at risk. One possible outcome could be that an altered human nature could end in radical inequality. He is a fierce enemy of transhumanism, an intellectual movement asserting that posthumanity is a desirable goal.
In another work The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstruction of Social Order, he explores the origins of social norms, and analyses the current disruptions in the fabric of our moral traditions, which he considers as arising from a shift from the manufacturing to the information age. This shift is, he thinks, normal and will prove self-correcting, given the intrinsic human need for social norms and rules.
In 2008 he published the book Falling Behind: Explaining the Development Gap Between Latin America and the United States, which resulted from research and a conference funded by Grupo Mayan to gain understanding on why Latin America, once far wealthier than North America, fell behind in terms of development in only a matter of centuries. Discussing this book at a 2009 conference, Fukuyama outlined his belief that inequality within Latin American nations is a key impediment to growth. An unequal distribution of wealth, he stated, leads to social upheaval which in turn results in stunted growth.
As a key Reagan Administration contributor to the formulation of the Reagan Doctrine, Fukuyama is an important figure in the rise of neoconservatism. He was active in the Project for the New American Century think tank starting in 1997, and as a member co-signed the organization's letter recommending that President Bill Clinton support Iraqi insurgencies in the overthrow of then-President of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. He was also among forty co-signers of William Kristol's September 20, 2001 letter to President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 attacks that suggested the U.S. not only "capture or kill Osama bin Laden", but also embark upon "a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq".
In a New York Times article of February 2006, Fukuyama, in considering the ongoing Iraq War, stated: "What American foreign policy needs is not a return to a narrow and cynical realism, but rather the formulation of a 'realistic Wilsonianism' that better matches means to ends." In regard to neoconservatism he went on to say: "What is needed now are new ideas, neither neoconservative nor realist, for how America is to relate to the rest of the world ... ideas that retain the neoconservative belief in the universality of human rights, but without its illusions about the efficacy of American power and hegemony to bring these ends about."
Fukuyama's current views
Beginning in 2002 however, he began to distance himself from the neoconservative agenda of the Bush Administration, citing its overly militaristic basis and embrace of unilateral armed intervention, particularly in the Middle East. By late 2003, Fukuyama had voiced his growing opposition to the Iraq War and called for Donald Rumsfeld's resignation as Secretary of Defense. He said that he would vote against Bush in the 2004 election, and that the Bush administration had made three major mistakes:
They had overestimated the threat of radical Islam to the US.
They hadn't foreseen the fierce negative reaction to its benevolent hegemony. From the very beginning they had shown a negative attitude toward the United Nations and other international organizations and hadn't seen that this would increase anti-Americanism in other countries.
They had misjudged what was needed to bring peace in Iraq and had been overly optimistic about the success with which social engineering of western values could be applied to Iraq and the Middle East in general.
Fukuyama believes the US has a right to promote its own values in the world, but more along the lines of what he calls "realistic Wilsonianism", with military intervention only as a last resort and only in addition to other measures. A latent military force is more likely to have an effect than actual deployment. The US spends more on its military than the rest of the world put together, but Iraq shows there are limits to its effectiveness. The US should instead stimulate political and economic development and gain a better understanding of what happens in other countries. The best instruments are setting a good example and providing education and, in many cases, money. The secret of development, be it political or economic, is that it never comes from outsiders, but always from people in the country itself. One thing the US proved to have excelled in during the aftermath of World War II was the formation of international institutions. A return to support for these structures would combine American power with international legitimacy. But such measures require a lot of patience. This is the central thesis of his most recent work Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy (2006).
In an essay in the New York Times Magazine in 2006 that was strongly critical of the invasion, he identified neoconservatism with Leninism. He wrote that neoconservatives:
believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.
Fukuyama has announced the end of the neoconservative moment and argued for the demilitarization of the War on Terrorism:
[W]ar is the wrong metaphor for the broader struggle, since wars are fought at full intensity and have clear beginnings and endings. Meeting the jihadist challenge is more of a "long, twilight struggle" whose core is not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world.
Fukuyama endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 US presidential election. He states:
"I’m voting for Barack Obama this November for a very simple reason. It is hard to imagine a more disastrous presidency than that of George W. Bush. It was bad enough that he launched an unnecessary war and undermined the standing of the United States throughout the world in his first term. But in the waning days of his administration, he is presiding over a collapse of the American financial system and broader economy that will have consequences for years to come. As a general rule, democracies don’t work well if voters do not hold political parties accountable for failure. While John McCain is trying desperately to pretend that he never had anything to do with the Republican Party, I think it would be a travesty to reward the Republicans for failure on such a grand scale."
In August 2005, Fukuyama — together with a number of other prominent political thinkers — co-founded The American Interest, a quarterly magazine devoted to the broad theme of "America in the World". The editorial tone of the publication is largely bi-partisan and is an attempt to transcend the polemical discourse that dominates discussions of contemporary American foreign policy.
Fukuyama was a member of the President's Council on Bioethics from 2001-2005.
Fukuyama is a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science (WAAS).
Fukuyama is on the steering committee for the Scooter Libby Legal Defense Trust. Fukuyama is a long-time friend of Libby. They served together in the State Department in the 1980s.
During the 2008 Presidential Election, Fukuyama endorsed Democratic candidate Barack Obama who went on to win the Presidential Election.
Fukuyama is a member of the Board of Counselors for the Pyle Center of Northeast Asian Studies at the National Bureau of Asian Research.
Fukuyama is on the board of Global Financial Integrity.
Fukuyama is on the executive board of the Inter-American Dialogue.
Fukuyama is also a part-time photographer and has a keen interest in early-American furniture, which he makes by hand.
Fukuyama is married to Laura Holmgren. He dedicated his book Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity to her. They live in suburban Washington, D.C., with their three children, Julia, David, and John.