23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2004
Francis Fukuyama's newest book, State Building, while well written and insightful as one would expect from a scholar of his caliber, feels rather like a patchwork quilt at times. It is unclear at times whether the book is written for an academic audience or for a more general audience, and while in the end I would recommend it for either, the general reader would be well advised to read carefully and ask lots of questions regarding some of the fine points of industrial organization theory and their application to Fukuyama's final goal of explaining the art of state-building in the 21st century.
While the index indicates that the book has four primary sections, in reality there are just three sections, the four is comprised of simply of a summary and conclusion. In the first section Fukuyama covers the basics of political economy. Most of his time in covering the basics of political economy is spent clarifying the difference between the scope of government power and the strength of government power, and while this is a well-known distinction to be drawn to most academics, fewer of the general readers may be familiar with it. The remainder of this section is devoted to explaining the importance of institutions, both native and imported, to all aspects of applied political economy. Fukayama covers a great deal of ground in this section, but he does an admirable job of covering the ground effectively.
The second section of the book is devoted to a much more academic analysis of the problems of institutions and institutional design. In this section in particular general readers would likely struggle. The topics approached are not easy nor intuitive, and while the first section does lay a reasonable groundwork for understanding them, an individual approaching them for the first time through this book is likely to be either confused, bored, or both. This problem is particularly acute when Fukuyama slips into the realm of corporate organization and the role of CEOs in developing the corporate culture because the connection to his primary thesis is one recognized by social scientists, but not always by the general public. That said, his eventual conclusion that institutions matter but cannot just be imposed, like the Washington Consensus, is both accurate and important to understand. His explanation, that culture and history really matter, while not as complete or rigorous as one would ideally hope for, is plausible.
The final section of State-Building deals with a more political and less economic topic, a justification for the very act of state-building. In my opinion this is the most interesting section of the book because it provides a very interesting perspective on a topic that has never really been resolved, the issue of the power and foundations of legitimate statehood. Fukuyama's analysis is as strong here as anywhere else in the book, perhaps stronger, and it is more than accessible to the average reader (or at least the average reader of non-fiction books).
My Two Cents:
As much as I would like to believe that there is a simple answer to the questions raised, that given facts of the world X, Y, and Z then sovereignty should/should not be protected, or that institutional design X/Y is the absolutely efficient one, I agree with Fukuyama that our current state of knowledge is simply insufficient to make such judgements. While Fukuyama seems to be holding out hope that one day we will know enough to make such decisions, I am more skeptical. The world is not a static place, it is constantly changing, what is true now will not be true in a month, let alone a year or more. With such a rapid change in the facts of the world, I do not believe that answers on statehood and institutional design will ever be truly answered, all we can do is to discuss what we think we know, debate the options that we believe we have, and to try to not be too surprised when we're wrong. We can only hope that people like Francis Fukuyama will continue to be involved in the process and to make such contributions as they can.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2005
Neocon apostate Francis Fukuyama has always been more of a social scientist than an ideologue. In his recent well-publicized falling-out with the movement on the wisdom of the invasion of Iraq, he has dealt neoconservatism a heavy blow. In this book, he cautions those who believe that democracy or good governance can be transplanted to weak or failing states.
Since 9/11 there has been much discussion about weak or failing states and the threat they pose to international security. It is true that the instablity that is created can no longer be ignored by the international community. Fukuyama addresses many of the problems that we face in attempting to strengthen weak states or building them from the ground up.
Fukuyama makes an important distinction between state-building and nation-building. Outsiders cannot build nations in the sense of creating all the social, cultural, and historical bonds that hold a nation together. State-building, however, is more limited in scope: it seeks only to strengthen government institutions such as the army, the police force, the judiciary, and the central bank, the bare minimum to make a state self-sustaining.
Fukuyama distinguishes between the strength and scope of government power. It is important that the state be strong in order to provide security and stability so that institutional capacity can be built. It is also important that government be limited in scope in order for private markets to flourish. Outsiders should not replace local institutions - this has always been the sin of aid organizations. This is why, for example, in Africa one finds aid organizations still in place 20 or 30 years after they arrive, they have destroyed all the local institutional capacity.
The first phase of state-building is relatively easy: it consists of creating stability, offering humanitarian assisstance, and jump-starting the economy. The second phase is more difficult: it consists of creating self-sustaining political and economic institutions that will be conducive to good governance and economic growth. Self-sustaining is the key word. Outsiders who intervene cannot exit unless there are viable institutions left behind.
Fukuyama is very critical of the Bush administration's post-war efforts in Iraq. When the regime of Saddam Hussein was destroyed the state collapsed completely, there was a complete breakdown of public order. As with all totalitarian systems there was no civil society to take up the slack. What was initially a liberation devolved quickly into chaos and looting. And to make matters worse, the Department of Defence was put in charge of reconstruction. The State Department with its expertise in civil affairs was kept out of the picture. Neocons - Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz - were always distrustful of the State Department, they considered it compromised, almost as bad as the UN. The only problem was the Department of Defence had no knowledge or capacity for state-building.
Observers always point to Japan and Germany as two successful efforts by the US at state-building; however, a comparison to Iraq is not accurate. Japan and Germany not only had more or less ethnically homogeneous populations, they already had highly developed institutional capacity. Occupation only changed the basis of legitimacy for the governments. State-building in Iraq will be much more costly in lives and resources.
After reading this book, one is left with the impression that successful state-buliding is next to impossible. Yet, given the problems of the day: poverty, virulent disease, illicit drugs, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, etc., it is still necessary to grapple with the problem of weak states. Fukuyama has written a very thoughtful analysis of how to approach one of the most pressing problems of the 21st century.
19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2004
Less government is to be preferred as a rule, however when no societal or cultural constructs or traditions exist to provide a framework for organized positive behavior, governmental organizations are to be preferred to chaos. In many areas of the world the infrastructure is not able to cope with either the problems facing the population or the volume of help offered by the relief agencies. The situation is further complicated by the imposition of aid structures by the relief agencies that compete with the existing frameworks for available resources. According to Fukuyama , keeping civil society from degenerating into simple rent-seeking interest groups is dependent more on the nature of that civil society than the design of its institutions. The Westphalian model of the nation-state implying state sovereignty has been challenged many times in the pursuit of humanitarian objectives. It is unreasonable to accept the breach of sovereignty for humanitarian reasons, but not to prevent security threats, implying that defense of others is more legitimate than self-defense. Fixing this problem leads to the physical intervention in other states and the reform of their governments in order to eliminate them as a threat and prevent new threats from emerging. This is nation-building. Nation-building , to be effective , must create state services that can be effective after foreign support is withdrawn. Successful examples have been Germany and Japan after WWII due to strong bureaucratic populations that survived the disruption of war and occupation. Other examples are India, Singapore and Hong Kong, for the British, Taiwan and Korea for the Japanese. Fukuyama stresses the need for international aid organizations to make structural capacity building their primary concern rather than simple short-term crisis solving
He is not optimistic since aid organizations or any other interested constituencies want to show quantifiable results to justify their efforts. Due to their competitive advantages, aid organizations marginalize locals and reduce the effectiveness of existing societal chiefs. The result is non-sustainability of their structures. Sustainability is still the goal and should be attempted. That being said, empowering local organizations at the lowest level possible to implement the policies is recommended as is the clear statement of organizational policies and objectives throughout the organization. Fukuyama further favors the use of small NGOs who can be more efficient than governments to implement policy and can make more effective use of local knowledge. The overall goals of state-building should be to create self-sustaining structures that can maintain order, security, accountability, education, and the rule of law. Finally Fukuyama contrasts the European universalist world view with that of Americans. He says that Europeans see the state as a guardian of public interest separate from and superior to the views of the citizenry. They see international or collective bodies (like the EU) as having legitimacy superior to their individual components. They also justify laws embodying social policy as expressions of social objectives. Americans do not. The American view is that unachievable social aspirations made into law weaken the rule of law itself. They also see no legitimacy of governments beyond the constitutional democratic nation-state. In this view international organizations have legitimacy only if and as long as duly elected majorities grant it. Only states can aggregate and deploy legitimate power. Fukuyama concludes: the withering away of the state is not Utopia, but disaster. Once again, as in his "The End Of History And The Last Man" Fukuyama has produced an erudite, compelling, and controversal book that no student of modern history should miss.
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2004
For many Americans, including almost all libertarians, state power is something to be diminished. While there is usually some acknowledgement that the state is necessary for the national defense and for administering the rule of law, many Americans do not willingly concede that the regulation of certain aspects of the economy -- to give one example -- is a legitimate use of state power. In the early 1990s, this American ideology naturally became a part of the ideology of the international institutions in which the U.S. played a major role. Developing countries which came to these international institutions for help were usually told, and sometimes even required, to reduce the scope and power of their states.
In this short volume, Fukuyama shows how inappropriate - and even disastrous -- this American ideology is when applied indiscriminately in developing countries around the world. Claiming it is no longer supported by most academic empirical research, he provides a rough and tentative alternative to the idea of the shrinking state by demonstrating where states must be strong and where it is okay for them to scale down. Finally, he shows how such various global problems such as fighting terrorism and AIDS, the nonproliferation of WMD, and encouraging the spread of democracy, depend upon strong, not weak states, and that the U.S. and Europe must both come to terms (in their own ways) with this new international approach.
Fukuyama claims that what is needed is a paradigm shift. For much of the last half-century, the trend has been to weaken the state. Now, the evidence suggests that a new approach is needed, one that goes beyond simply shrinking or enlarging the state, and begins to deal with making the state more effective based on local conditions. While some basic outcomes (a democratic, capitalist state, for example) are to be expected, the way each nation gets there will be different.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2004
Fukuyama will probably always be identified by the title of his first book---The End of History and the Last Man---but as this book demonstrates, he has moved on to tackle some of the most difficult problems facing our country today. This book, which is really a long essay , analyzes the problems and opportunities of state building, and reaches some conclusions which are not particlarly optimistic, but nevertheless seem to be realistic. Fukuyama revisits some of our past experiences in similar endeavors, and notes our failures as well as the limited successes we have had. This book should be required reading by all decision makers as our nation struggles to overcome our mistakes and failures in the aftermath of the Iraqi War. It is an excellent, even great book, written by a brilliant scholar in language which is easily grasped and appreciated.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Weak or failed states like Somalia and Afghanistan are quietly causing some of the world's most pressing problems and will continue to do so, according to political analyst Francis Fukuyama. In this elegant, sobering critique based on his 2003 Messenger Lectures at Cornell University, Fukuyama uses a simple, two-dimensional model of "stateness" to analyze why states fail. He focuses on what countries can do, rather than using some theoretical model of what they ought to do. Fukuyama describes the supply of and demand for government institutions, why states often don't deliver what their "customers" want and the organizational pathologies that prevent developing nations from "getting to Denmark," development theory parlance for achieving an efficient, transparent and legitimate government. Overall, the book is a mixed bag, mostly filled with solid diagnoses, but sometimes merely providing gooey think tank truisms. Nevertheless, we recommend this brief, skeptical examination to anyone who wants to understand one of the huge challenges of twenty-first century statecraft: how to prevent weak states from exacerbating such problems as AIDS, famine, poverty, nuclear proliferation and terrorism.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2005
One of the main contributions of this book is the underappreciated distinction between state-building and nation-building. Anyone interested in democractic nation-building ought to consider reading this volume. A clear analysis with obvious implications for American policy in places like Iraq. This is part of an increasing body of work on nation building that, collectively taken together, provides a good handle on the difficulties in creating democracy where previously there was none (and see the work of Paris, Dobbins, Somit, etc.)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Francis Fukuyama is one of the most original and interesting political thinkers the world has today. In his first pioneering work 'The End of History and the Last Man" he argued that the world as a whole was moving in the direction of Liberal Democracy , and that when this ideal state came into being there would be in a sense the end of history as we know it. Now he has written a work in which he somewhat retreats from his earlier optimism, and focuses on the nuts- and- bolts of our present real- world situation.
And here he sees that the movement toward diminishing the role of the state which had its great impetus with the fall of the Soviet Union has not always brought about the desired results. Instead of there emerging stronger more liberal economies there have often emerged ' weak states' without the power to perform the basic state functions of law enforcement, defense, protection of property.
Thus Fukuyama believes that there is an urgent need to engage in ' state- building' that will bring about proper governance. Here however he acknowledges that the theoretical and practical knowledge of state- building is not really sufficient. And that there should be a concentrated effort to provide the knowledge required.
Fukuyama may remain optimistic about the ultimate end and direction of history but he sees great problems in the present and near future. He points to the state- breakdown in Africa, and the failure of state- building in other areas of the world. And he questions how successful the United States can be in building state- institutions for other societies. He points out that the British Empire succeeded in laying the foundation for only one state, India.
He also wonders aloud about precisely how strong the state should be . Clearly the former Soviet Union and totalitarian states which aimed to take over every area of life are one negative extreme. He contrasts the United States model with the far more state- centered European one.
While Fukuyama centers on this particular major problem other political thinkers are focusing on other major problems , from globaliztion to nuclear proliferation, from the growing American hegemony to the shifting of world- power to China and India.
Fukuyama in a previous work also considered the implications of the biotechnological revolution which may be altering the character and definition of the 'human'.
This is said not to undermine the importance of the problem that Fukuyama points to in this book, but only to indicate that it is not ' the beginning and the end ' of human problems, the one 'key to it all' or the problem which even must be most focused on at the moment.
There is after all an 'energy crisis' ( Remember that one ) and a Demographic Dearth ( The developed ) and the Social Security and Greying of Mankind Crisis and tens of others.
Moreover it is by no means certain that the ' nation- state' will be the fundamental political unit of the future. I would not bet on anything else, but the new Europe seems to be trying to say something about new organizational frameworks for Mankind.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Francis Fukuyama, in an important slender volume, sees nation building as the process of helping to ". . .create self-sustaining democratic political institutions and robust market-oriented economies. . . ." He draws a critical distinction between "nation building" and "state building." The former refers to ". . .creating or repairing all the cultural, social, and historical ties that bind people together as a nation." The latter, in contrast, aims at ". . .creating or strengthening such government institutions as armies, police forces, judiciaries, central banks, tax-collection agencies, health and education systems, and the like." The two are not the same--but are interdependent one upon the other.
Fukuyama argues that the process must proceed in two stages: first, the country must be stabilized, with the provision of humanitarian assistance, rebuilding of infrastructure, disaster relief, and economic development. Only then, second, comes the building of self-sustaining political and economic institutions that can support competent democratic governance and economic growth. Thus, nation building involves stabilization of ties that bind a people together as well as supporting the construction of government institutions.
This is a real challenge and not one that can be done easily, without much effort and care. In short, eny effort at democratic nation building must be done with patience and making sure that prerequisites are in place before trying to introduce the full regalia of democracy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2005
This is an excellent book which is not afraid to tackle the difficult and controversial issue of nation building head on. Fukuyama has done a remarkable and original job of applying his skills and experience as an economist to define what he refers to as "stateness" by which he really is referring to the institutions of a state (including Rule of Law) and their scope or effect on the essence of the state, including its population and economy. He also presents a fascinating analysis of public administration and institutions which does much to explain the difficulties of the U.S. engaging in `nation building' without reference to history or culture. His final substantive contribution to the realm of international studies is his view of state international legitimacy. He provides precise definitions for such often ambiguous terms as "failed states' and "weak states", primarily in terms of their institutions and culture. This alone is worth the price of the book. Yet as a sort of bonus Fukuyama provides unique insights into organizational theory and human behavior as well as showing the adoptability of such a maligned discipline as economics.