‘Post-historical bias’ is a special variant of the normalcy bias, which is to say that it’s an implicit or explicit belief that significant historical events have essentially ceased to happen, and that the process of historical change has become predictable and slow.
A survey of history over a long enough time in any region shows that events are typically unpredictable, that shocks are common, and that war is a certainty, even between groups of people that were allied a short time ago. However, because human lives tend to be short, individuals tend to treat most days as if they will be similar to their recent experience and that of their most immediate ancestors.
Although I headed this post with a photo of Francis Fukuyama in front of his most famous book, he himself is not as guilty of this error in thinking as he’s often attributed. Because his thought was so influential on the second Bush administration, the errors in the implementation tend to also be attributed to errors in his thought which were not actually present.
Conflict is what’s typical; peace and predictability are what’s rare. After World War II, and particularly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a pervasive belief that deviations from the global march of progress were just that — deviations — which would be inevitably corrected owing to the logic of broader historical forces, and that what was left of history was essentially a mopping-up operation combined with a steady advance in technological development.
This hasn’t happened and won’t happen. There’s a particular quirk in the modern democratic mindset that requires the promotion of a general sense of the inevitability of its continual advancement. The sense of inevitable destiny lends the moral pronouncements of ‘democratic activists’ seem more weighty, and the failures of those ‘activists’ — as in Egypt recently — seems to have no effect on the broader thesis that all states will eventually become well-regulated liberal democracies who participate happily in the international system put into place at the end of the last big war.
Fukuyama accurately anticipated, to some degree, the current political climate of liberal auto-cannibalism demonstrated by the absolutism of contemporary campus speech codes and the urban unrest along racial lines.
The idea that liberal democracy is inevitable also makes it more fragile, because the people charged with managing it will tend to believe that any threat to the order will be overcome, and that the proliferation of new rights without duties will continue to an infinite degree. Another curious factor is the pervasive belief that the decline in war between states is permanent due to nuclear proliferation, but also that technological innovation is pervasive in every other sphere.
In trying to stomp out war permanently, Western liberals have progressively eaten away at the common liberties, sense of dignity, and cultural distinctiveness of the countries that they have been charged with ruling. In the hope of extending rights and opportunities to as many people as possible, the dynamism, adaptability, and fitness of our cultures have declined in many respects, or have been instead channeled into relatively narrow areas.
Liberals have to portray themselves as continually winning against remnants of traditional evil, even when the struggle becomes absurd. Stopping the triumphant parade of new rights threatens to bleed off the momentum of the entire project, which is why new ones need to be invented constantly, and why more enthusiasm needs to be redirected to uplifting and importing the third world. This frenzy for liberalism has to die out when the people who promote it, themselves, die out in larger numbers, which they will, because they prefer the promotion of the political story of liberalism over their own lives.