The End of History?
Niall Ferguson, MA, D.Phil., is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a senior fellow of the Center for European Studies, Harvard, where he served for 12 years as the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History. He is also a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation Distinguished Scholar at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC.
He is the author of 14 books. His first, Paper and Iron: Hamburg Business and German Politics in the Era of Inflation 1897-1927, was short-listed for the History Today Book of the Year award, while the collection of essays he edited, Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals, was a UK bestseller. In 1998 he published to international critical acclaim The Pity of War: Explaining World War One and The World’s Banker: The History of the House of Rothschild. The latter won the Wadsworth Prize for Business History and was also short-listed for the Jewish Quarterly/Wingate Literary Award and the American National Jewish Book Award.
His latest book is The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook (2017).
Question: Have we reached the end of history?
Niall Ferguson: Well there is an end of civilization that isn’t difficult to imagine because civilization hasn’t lasted that long in the great scheme of this planet’s history. And it is a fragile thing which is constantly pushing the earth’s resources to their limits as the population rises toward the 9 billion mark; as the challenges of energy utilization become ever more daunting; as the risks of climate change grow; and more importantly as the risks of war grow larger, larger in the sense that weaponry has never been more destructive than it is today. Then we certainly now have the capability to destroy human civilization. And if we destroy human civilization, we certainly destroy history.
So the end of history is conceivable, but it didn’t happen in 1989 as Francis Fukuyama famously suggested. Because what he meant by the end of history was the triumph of one model of social organization – namely the model of western, liberal, capitalist democracy.
Well I think even then it was a pretty heroic assumption that that model was going to prevail and become the only model in town. It’s become an even less credible hypothesis since 1989. Clashing civilizations have come along and spot the story. But it seems to me that this is a use of language. Though it made for a great article title, the end of history can only really happen when civilization ends, and men and women cease to be able to record their deeds because that really is the sine qua non for history.
Recorded on: Oct 31 2007
Niall Ferguson believes that if we destroy human civilization, we certainly destroy history.
It's a development that could one day lead to much better treatments for osteoporosis, joint damage, and bone fractures.
- Scientists have isolated skeletal stem cells in adult and fetal bones for the first time.
- These cells could one day help treat damaged bone and cartilage.
- The team was able to grow skeletal stem cells from cells found within liposuctioned fat.
Gut bacteria play an important role in how you feel and think and how well your body fights off disease. New research shows that exercise can give your gut bacteria a boost.
- Two studies from the University of Illinois show that gut bacteria can be changed by exercise alone.
- Our understanding of how gut bacteria impacts our overall health is an emerging field, and this research sheds light on the many different ways exercise affects your body.
- Exercising to improve your gut bacteria will prevent diseases and encourage brain health.
A groundbreaking new study shows that octopuses seemed to exhibit uncharacteristically social behavior when given MDMA, the psychedelic drug commonly known as ecstasy.
- Octopuses, like humans, have genes that seem to code for serotonin transporters.
- Scientists gave MDMA to octopuses to see whether those genes translated into a binding site for serotonin, which regulates emotions and behavior in humans
- Octopuses, which are typically asocial creatures, seem to get friendlier while on MDMA, suggesting humans have more in common with the strange invertebrates than previously thought
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.