Societies don't have to be secular to be modern
An interview with Francis Fukuyama, author of 'The End of History and the Last Man.'
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Huntington would have said that rule of law and accountability are Western values. I think they are values toward which non-Western societies are converging because of their own experience. You can't have true modernization without them. They are in fact necessary complements to each other. If you have just political modernization defined as a competent state, you may only have a more effective form of tyranny.Skip to next paragraph
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What you can certainly have is effective state building and a certain amount of prosperity under authoritarian conditions for a time. That is what the Chinese are doing right now. But I am convinced that their prosperity cannot in the end endure, nor can Chinese citizens ever be secure in their personal progress, without the rule of law and accountability. They can't go to the next stage without all three components that comprise modernization. Corruption and questionable legitimacy will ultimately weigh them down, if not open unrest.
Gardels: Modernization has usually also meant the growing secularization of society and the primacy of science and reason. Yet, in a place like Turkey today, as I mentioned, we see modernization and growing religiosity side by side. That certainly departs from the Western-oriented trajectory charted by Ataturk.
Fukuyama: I agree. The old version of the idea of modernization was Euro-centric, reflecting Europe's own development. That did contain attributes which sought to define modernization in a quite narrow way. Most importantly, as you point out, religion and modernization certainly can coexist. Secularism is not a condition of modernity. You don't have to travel to Turkey to see that. It is true in the United States, which is a very religious society but in which advanced science and technological innovation thrive.
The old assumption that religion would disappear and be replaced solely by secular, scientific rationalism is not going to happen.
At the same time, I don't believe the existence, or even prevalence of cultural attributes, including religion, are so overwhelming anywhere that you will not see a universal convergence toward rule of law and accountability.
Gardels: Still, must accountability entail the same democratic, electoral norms of Europe or the United States?
Fukuyama: You can have nonelectoral accountability through moral education, which forges a sense of moral obligation by the ruler. Traditional Confucianism, after all, taught the emperor that he had a duty to his subjects as well as himself. It is not an accident that the most successful authoritarian modernization experiments have all been in East Asian societies touched by Confucianism.
In the end, though, that is not enough. You cannot solve the problem of the "bad emperor" through moral suasion. And China has had some pretty bad emperors over the centuries. Without procedural accountability, you can never establish real accountability.
Gardels: Some top Chinese intellectuals today argue that when China arises again as the superior civilization in a post-American world, the "tired" global debate over autocracy versus democracy will yield to a more pragmatic debate over good governance versus bad governance. I doubt you would agree.
Fukuyama: You are right, I don't believe that. You simply can't get good governance without democratic accountability. It is a risky illusion to believe otherwise.
Francis Fukuyama is the director of the International Development Program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. He is the author of "The End of History and the Last Man."