The tradition of awarding honorary degrees is one of the best opportunities for a university to make a statement. By awarding these degrees, universities can embody their principles and missions through an individual who reflects all the ideal qualities that the university upholds. These individuals are chosen for various reason, among them being contributions to their field of study, profession, community, or the awarding university itself. When considering a candidate for an honorary degree, a host of different guidelines exists, dependent on where one is and who is awarding the degree. In the field of international relations, one individual immediately comes to mind as I browse through my list of my most influential scholars: Francis Fukuyama
. Dr. Fukuyama represents all of the qualities set forth in these guidelines and is worthy of praise for actions not specified. He has shown steadfast dedication in all of his endeavors, whether it be service to his government, students, or fellow theorists in international politics. But more importantly, Dr. Fukuyama has provided political scholars with various means by which the field of international politics might develop or alter. For this, I believe we must evaluate Dr. Fukuyama, seriously consider him as a candidate for an Honorary degree in literature from the University of Southern California, and perhaps shed the fact that he is long overdue for some serious recognition.
Universities will often grant honorary degrees to individuals for a variety of reasons. James Freedman, in Liberal Education and the Public Interest
, notes that given the primary purpose of the ceremony, “the reason had to be to celebrate distinguished and sublime achievement” (118). And Freedman certainly does not stand alone in agreeing on the basic nature of the conferral of honorary degrees. Looking, for example, at the guidelines for conferring honorary degrees on the USC Honorary Degrees
website, “the honorary degree is given: to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities, to honor alumni and other individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of USC or the communities of which they are a part, to recognize exceptional acts of philanthropy." Honorary degrees, in essence, are a way in which an academic institution can recognize and reward outstanding and unique achievements, beyond standard expectations, that aid the institution in educating future students, add to the richness and evolution of a field of study, or demonstrate outright charity and goodwill. These conditions emphasize the most important reasons why scholars should recognize those that have contributed to the advancement of their field or community.
Beyond these guidelines, others have developed different criteria as means by which ones worth can be measured. The question arises as to whether or not, given the guidelines, these nominees are truly worthy of such an honor. Have they really done something extraordinary out of unmotivated passion and interest, or is there a deeper intent? Mike Martin is one who has addressed such questions by examining professionals in order to provide institutions with better means by which to evaluate nominees. In his work, Meaningful Work: Rethinking Professional Ethics
, Martin brings to light the fact that, “personal ideals motivate professionals” (18). Given this, Martin divides professional achievement into three categories: craft, compensation, and morals(21). A noteworthy professional, according to Martin, is one who exhibits expertise and creativity, authority and power, and integrity within his/her field. It is in these ways that a nominees worth and achievements might be fully understood and assessed in order to avoid honoring those who might not be so praiseworthy.
Martin makes a good case for evaluating nominees, but I feel there is one aspect of a nominee that is often overlooked, as a minute guideline under which a degree may be given. Too often, individuals are recognized for unanimously applauded actions rather than being honored for something perhaps even more praiseworthy: stimulating academic thought. Giving out degrees to those who have not done anything unique or original, but rather simply perform exceptional actions others have previously executed, detracts from the meaning of the degree. Simply put, in the words of Freedman, the tradition of conferring honorary degrees, “it is a practice rich in opportunity as well as ripe for abuse”(117). Though there are many ways in which this practice might be abused, to me, Freedman suggests that part of this abuse is giving degrees to those who have not done anything truly original, or even handing out honorary degrees too often. But when it comes to engaging one's peers and audience in rigorous academic debate, I believe this is where nominees such as Fukuyama reside: he may be a scholar with controversial worldviews and political opinions, but nobody can deny the fact that his work and contribution to international relations, as a professional and academic, has sparked some serious thinking among young scholars today.
For a man who is not widely talked about among scholars and professionals, and whose career has produced very little biographical information, Francis Fukuyama is one of the more contributing professionals in international relations. His professional career has consisted of various different activities and positions in the realm of international politics, making him one of the more versatile scholars in his field. Dr. Fukuyama originally received his B.A. in Classics from Cornell and completed his Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard. Shortly after, Fukuyama was a member of the Political Science Department of the RAND Corporation
from 1979-1980, then again from 1983-89, and from 1995-96. Dr. Fukuyama later went on to work for the US Department of State and later became the Deputy Director of European political – military affairs, which, at the time, was crucial role in the State Department. Perhaps one of his most notable positions was when he served from 1981-82 as a member of the US delegation to the Egyptian-Israeli talks on Palestinian autonomy, in which he contributed tremendously towards providing agreeable solutions to, what was then, a very serious international issue.
Dr. Fukuyama’s work has also veered into other categories of interest concerning politics. Most notably, under President George W. Bush, Fukuyama was a member of the President's Council on Bioethics
from 2001-2005. During this time, Fukuyama worked on addressing issues in regards to medical research (such as developments in medical technology and controversial research proposals), legislation concerning those in medical professions, and various debates over the production and mass manufacturing of biological and chemical weaponry. Fukuyama has also always been consistent in furthering his contributions and considerations in the realm of academics and debate. 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". Much of Fukuyama’s recent work resides within this publication, but it’s significant in that it is one of the few truly bi – partisan publications that deals with international affairs and domestic politics. His contributions during his professional career were diverse and astute, and Fukuyama proved to be an undeniably valuable asset to the various groups for which he worked – providing shrewd insight and perspectives on events and concerns of critical importance.
There is one feature about Fukuyama of which critics like Mike Martin might take close note. Within his piece, Martin discusses the personal ideal aspect behind one’s profession. He illustrates the fact that certain individuals go beyond the tangible rewards of a profession to seek deeper rewards. Using physician Albert Schweitzer as his example, Martin notes this phenomenon, “Schweitzer regarded his work as worthwhile beyond the paycheck it provided, as meaningful in terms of his ideals of caring for clients, colleagues, and the wider community (16). I believe Martin would agree that Fukuyama fits right in with the Schweitzers of academia. As a theorist, Dr. Fukuyama is known for being a neoconservative
, and throughout his career, has taken numerous criticisms for his stances on critical issues. But unlike some, he is respected for his ability to observe and seriously consider beliefs and methods counter to the neoconservative doctrine. Fukuyama has even gone so far as to rescind on earlier statements or views he formerly held either because more recent data disproved his original basis or a more convincing argument swayed him. This is one of Fukuyama’s best attributes as a political scholar, and fits perfectly with one aspect of the mission statement set forth by USC's Code and Ethics
, “We nurture an environment of mutual respect and tolerance. As members of the USC community, we treat everyone with respect and dignity, even when the values, beliefs, behavior, or background of a person or group is repugnant to us.” Fukuyama is the epitome of a scholar who retains a solid set of core beliefs, but does not let his entire worldview become dominated one rigid set of values. Though some of his neoconservative stances may find disfavor with more widely recognized (and published) scholars within his field, Fukuyama is able to transform topics with shared perspectives into forums for intense, analytical and critical examination.
Perhaps the single greatest argument in favor of Fukuyama’s nomination for an honorary degree, and a prime example of his flexibility as a critical thinker, is his most controversial argument to date. In 1992, Fukuyama published his most recognized work, The End of History and the Last Man
: an expanded version of his 1989 thesis entitled “The End of History?
” which was published in the international affairs journal The National Interest
. In his thesis (and book), Fukuyama argues that the end of the Cold War
signaled the end of the progression of human history, “What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war 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”(2). This thesis was not only a bold statement at the time, it flew in the face of decades of theory and practice upon which modern international relations was based. Fukuyama was essentially arguing that with the dismantling of the Soviet Union, the ideological forces that instigated conflict over the course of history were now gone – replaced by the triumph of the “Western ideal”(1). Democracy had triumphed over communism, and the result was the victory of the West and the eventual spread of democracy, resulting in a surge in democratic states. With no opposing form of governance or ideology in place, Fukuyama asserted that universal democracy would eliminate any possibility of acute international conflicts.
What made Fukuyama’s thesis so important was that it stirred up one of the largest debates still surrounding international relations today. Scholars simply could not reconcile the fact that human history, as we knew it, was over. The outcome resulted in arguments in favor and against Fukuyama’s assertion – a debate that continues today. Arguments in favor of Fukuyama note a variety of patterns that clearly support his thesis. First, Freedom House
, an organization that tracks and monitors democratic states around the world, noted that since 1900, 65% of the worlds countries now practice some form of democracy. Second, democratic peace theory
clearly holds weight: the number of (democratic) states entrenched in domestic violence or political strife has decreased significantly since the end of the Cold War. Last, wars that have emerged post – Cold War have been fought primarily between states that were non – democratic. Not only does this provide more weight to democratic peace theory, it also suggests the course of history as a result of the triumph of Western liberal democracy.
However, though many in academia side with Fukuyama, other scholars and intellectuals strongly disagree with Fukuyama’s thesis and ideology. Arguments against Fukuyama’s thesis have mainly developed out of utter shock at such a claim, but they present a list of plausible counters. Political scientist Samuel P. Huntington
, in his essay and book, "The Clash of Civilizations
," argues that the temporary conflict between ideologies is being replaced by the
ancient conflict between civilizations. The dominant civilization decides the form of human government, and these will not be constant. Marxists, such as Perry Anderson
, are also among some of Fukuyama’s fiercest critics, stating that the triumph of democracy has not essentially ended history because a pure form of social democracy does not exist. What is meant is that even within democracies, issues of poverty, corruption, sexism, racism, and ethnic tensions exist and could trigger a host of crises, thus, democracy has not solved the world's problems and is not a completely, universally accepted form of government. Other critics, such as Jacques Derrida
have been especially outspoken against Fukuyama's claims, stating Fukuyama is simply a symptom of "Specters of Marx", further claiming, "... instead of celebrating the ‘end of ideologies’ and the end of the great emancipatory discourses, let us never neglect this obvious macroscopic fact, made up of innumerable singular sites of suffering: no degree of progress allows one to ignore that never before, in absolute figures, have so many men, women and children been subjugated, starved or exterminated on the earth"(4). The most recent and relevant counter, however, notes the emergence of Islamic Fundamentalism, stating that it is similar in nature to the rise of communism and fascism in the 20th century. Though it may not be as imperialistic in nature as communism was, Islamic Fundamentalism represents a counterforce to democracy and "Western ideals." The main principle is that The End of History and the Last Man
has bred an arena for intense debate over the future of history itself. It is also the first thesis to propose such a drastic claim as to the end of history. Regardless of whether or not Fukuyama is right, his thesis and contributing essays have stirred numerous discussions on bioethics, the fate of history, US foreign policy, and crisis management, all of which are indisputable reasons for recognition.
Institutions such as USC might wonder why an individual such as Fukuyama should be recognized. As Freedman notes, “honorary degrees are, of course, one of the ways in which universities advertise themselves”(125). Conferring and honorary degree alerts the general public as to the qualities and characteristics upheld by the institution and also serves to connect the university to a notable or popular figure, sometimes in order to increase the prestige of the university. USC’s Honorary Degree guidelines stipulates this in its fourth criteria, conferring degrees, “to elevate the university in the eyes of the world by honoring individuals who are widely known and highly regarded for achievements in their respective fields of endeavor.” It would be quite a shame for USC to pass up the opportunity to recognize Francis Fukuyama, quite simply because of what has already been stated. Fukuyama may not be extremely popular, and his political ideology is not agreeable with many, but Fukuyama is recognized as a figure in international politics who has reinvigorated intense discussion over relatively overlooked subjects. Though his critics claim he is uncertain of his political doctrine, citing his recantation of modern neoconservativism, and that his major contributing works are poorly argued and highly debatable, any institution, especially USC, should keep in mind that one simple fact: Francis Fukuyama has required of his audience to step back and re-evaluate how we approach international politics. His claims may be slightly extreme, but to ignore their ultimate consequences and how they have shaped the way we perceive international relations today would be nothing short of a total disgrace.
Upon receiving an honorary degree, the recipient's commencement speech is crucial, not only because it demonstrates to students and the community the character of the recipient, but also because it exemplifies why the university selected the recipient in the first place. If Fukuyama were to receive an honorary degree in literature from USC, I believe his commencement speech would be nothing short of a reflection of his character and persona as a scholar: one that would force his audience to carefully co
nsider his words and re-evaluate their own opinions on a critical issue at hand. To this, I believe that Fukuyama's speech would address the fate of US relations and the state of the international system. Though an ex-neoconservative, Fukuyama still follows a more Wilsonian
agenda, believing that the US should use its capabilities to promote democracy throughout the world, especially in areas where it could be extremely effective and efficient, but only using military force as a last resort to accomplish this. Fukuyama believes the US should promote its ideals through economic and political development and stimulation, thereby coming to understand the inherent nature of a country and its structure and culture. By doing this, Fukuyama believes the US can ultimately become a better participant in the international system and appropriately play the role of the last remaining hegemon: working to develop states and relationships rather than maintain overbearing dominance. Fukuyama would most likely point to the war in Iraq and the fate of US-China relations as cases in point for his speech, arguing that if the aforementioned measures are not taken, the fate of relations for the US in the Middle East and with the next up and coming superpower (China) could deteriorate and the US could once again find itself in a power struggle for ultimate supremacy, resulting escalated tensions and open conflict. Thus, I believe Fukuyama's commencement speech would be one of serious advisement to his student audience. He would remind graduates that the fate of the world will eventually be in their hands, and that as scholars, they must keep an open eye and mind to what occurs around them in order to avoid indoctrinating their beliefs to a rigid, provincial belief system. Fukuyama reminds us that the course of human history is uncertain, but that by carefully analyzing current events and seeing situations from multiple sides, we can better understand our neighbors and fellow man, and I believe this is the perfect way to send graduates out into the world: open-minded and full of confidence.
Fukuyama embodies all the qualities that an institution such as USC should look for in a nominee. His accomplishments as a professional, theorist, and professor have been tremendous in the development and content of his field. As the USC Mission Statement states, “The central mission of the University of Southern California is the development of human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit.” There is no doubt in my mind that Fukuyama has done exactly this, by providing a career marked with valuable service to his country, government, students and colleagues. He has made his colleagues and students think about pressing issues affecting contemporary politics and has served as a model scholar who, to follow the old saying, considers all sides of the argument. Finally, Mike Martin notes, “... though personal ideals are focused outwardly on public good, they allude to ideals of character”(21). If this is true, what better way for an institution to advertise its ideals than by honoring a person like Francis Fukuyama as the embodiment of everything for which that university stands. After all, academic institutions (at least in my opinion) should strive to honor those who stimulate academic maturation and enlightenment, and Francis Fukuyama is one such scholar who has done nothing but that.