Fukuyama on the absent left

[…] It has been several decades since anyone on the left has been
able to articulate, first, a coherent analysis of what happens to the
structure of advanced societies as they undergo economic change and,
second, a realistic agenda that has any hope of protecting a
middle-class society.

The main trends in left-wing thought in the last two generations have
been, frankly, disastrous as either conceptual frameworks or tools for
mobilization. Marxism died many years ago, and the few old believers
still around are ready for nursing homes. The academic left replaced
it with postmodernism, multiculturalism, feminism, critical theory,
and a host of other fragmented intellectual trends that are more
cultural than economic in focus. Postmodernism begins with a denial of
the possibility of any master narrative of history or society,
undercutting its own authority as a voice for the majority of citizens
who feel betrayed by their elites. Multiculturalism validates the
victimhood of virtually every out-group. It is impossible to generate
a mass progressive movement on the basis of such a motley coalition:
most of the working- and lower-middle-class citizens victimized by the
system are culturally conservative and would be embarrassed to be seen
in the presence of allies like this.

Whatever the theoretical justifications underlying the left’s agenda,
its biggest problem is a lack of credibility. Over the past two
generations, the mainstream left has followed a social democratic
program that centers on the state provision of a variety of services,
such as pensions, health care, and education. That model is now
exhausted: welfare states have become big, bureaucratic, and
inflexible; they are often captured by the very organizations that
administer them, through public-sector unions; and, most important,
they are fiscally unsustainable given the aging of populations
virtually everywhere in the developed world. Thus, when existing
social democratic parties come to power, they no longer aspire to be
more than custodians of a welfare state that was created decades ago;
none has a new, exciting agenda around which to rally the masses.


Imagine, for a moment, an obscure scribbler today in a garret
somewhere trying to outline an ideology of the future that could
provide a realistic path toward a world with healthy middle-class
societies and robust democracies. What would that ideology look like?

[…] the agenda it put forward to protect middle-class life could not
simply rely on the existing mechanisms of the welfare state. The
ideology would need to somehow redesign the public sector, freeing it
from its dependence on existing stakeholders and using new,
technology-empowered approaches to delivering services. It would have
to argue forthrightly for more redistribution and present a realistic
route to ending interest groups’ domination of politics. […]