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The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order Hardcover – June 14, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0684845302 ISBN-10: 068484530X Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Francis Fukuyama cements his reputation as a wide-ranging public intellectual with this big-think book on social order and human nature. Following his earlier successes (The End of History and the Last Man and Trust), Fukuyama argues that civilization is in the midst of a revolution on a par with hunter-gatherers learning how to farm or agricultural societies turning industrial. He finds much to celebrate in this cultural, economic, and technological transformation, but "with all the blessings that flow from a more complex, information-based economy, certain bad things also happened to our social and moral life." Individualism, for example, fuels innovation and prosperity, but has also "corroded virtually all forms of authority and weakened the bonds holding families, neighborhoods, and nations together." Yet this is not a pessimistic book: "Social order, once disrupted, tends to get remade again" because humans are built for life in a civil society governed by moral rules.

We're on the tail end of the "great disruption," says Fukuyama, and signs suggest a coming era of much-needed social reordering. He handles complex ideas from diverse fields with ease (this is certainly the first book whose acknowledgments thank both science fiction novelist Neal Stephenson and social critic James Q. Wilson), and he writes with laser-sharp clarity. Fans of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and David Landes's The Wealth and Poverty of Nations will appreciate The Great Disruption, as will just about any reader curious about what the new millennium may bring. This is simply one of the best nonfiction books of 1999. --John J. Miller

From Publishers Weekly

Fukuyama attempts to reconcile the extent of social disruption experienced in many Western countries during the past 30 years with his neo-Hegelian belief that the triumph of Western liberal democracy represents an end of history (articulated in The End of History and the Last Man). He successfully contends that the "Great Disruption" Western nations are experiencing as society moves from an industrial to an information economy is much like the social upheaval that accompanied the industrial revolution. After defining the Great Disruption (the usual litany of increased crime, family breakdown and lack of confidence in public institutions), Fukuyama turns to an exploration of the nature of human beings and morality. In doing so, he makes much of the idea of "social capital," which he defines as "a set of informal values or norms shared among members of a group that permits cooperation among them." Social capital is lacking in periods of disruption and is present when periods of disruption come to an end. Simply put, it's what makes civil society possible. He concludes that Western societies are now reconstructing their social ordersAmuch as they have over the course of historyAthrough revitalized morality, renewed civic pride and strengthened family life. As in previous books, Fukuyama's conclusions are less interesting than the way he arrives at them through a willingness to ask the big questions and an ability to look at contemporary society through the lens of his own vast reading and scholarship.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (June 14, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068484530X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684845302
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #952,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Francis Fukuyama is Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), resident in FSI's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.

Dr. Fukuyama has written widely on issues relating to questions concerning democratization and international political economy. His book, The End of History and the Last Man, was published by Free Press in 1992 and has appeared in over twenty foreign editions. His most recent books are America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy, and Falling Behind: Explaining the Development Gap between Latin America and the United States. His latest book, The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution will be published in April 2011.

Francis Fukuyama received his B.A. from Cornell University in classics, and his Ph.D. from Harvard in Political Science. He was a member of the Political Science Department of the RAND Corporation from 1979-1980, then again from 1983-89, and from 1995-96. In 1981-82 and in 1989 he was a member of the Policy Planning Staff of the US Department of State, the first time as a regular member specializing in Middle East affairs, and then as Deputy Director for European political-military affairs. In 1981-82 he was also a member of the US delegation to the Egyptian-Israeli talks on Palestinian autonomy. From 1996-2000 he was Omer L. and Nancy Hirst Professor of Public Policy at the School of Public Policy at George Mason University, and from 2001-2010 he was Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. He served as a member of the President's Council on Bioethics from 2001-2004.

Dr. Fukuyama is chairman of the editorial board of The American Interest, which he helped to found in 2005. He holds honorary doctorates from Connecticut College, Doane College, Doshisha University (Japan), and Kansai University (Japan). He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Rand Corporation, the Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy, and member of the advisory boards for the Journal of Democracy, the Inter-American Dialogue, and The New America Foundation. He is a member of the American Political Science Association, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Pacific Council for International Affairs. He is married to Laura Holmgren and has three children.

March 2011

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#84 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

If he had studied Pitirim Sorokin for a really big picture of history, he would know better.
John B. Carpenter
Fukiyama's End of History was a bit overwritten, but it contained some original and provocative ideas which he convincingly defended.
Christopher A. Smith
I think it was Michael Oakshott who said that polite and genuine conversation is our best hope.
David Thomson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Marty Spiller (spiller@bicnet.net) on July 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The Great Disruption is a wonderfully apolitical look at the rather disconcerting changes that have taken place in the social structure of western civilization during the last third of the twentieth century. Francis Fukuyama does this by examining the recent changes in social norms and values in western civilization as a whole, including the course they have taken in other countries, as well as in the United States. He lucidly examines the underlying causes for these changes, and compares them with those observed in other cultures as well as those that have taken place due to earlier social disruptions throughout the history of Western civilization. It is of special interest to those of us who grew up in the times prior to the disruption, when social norms tended to support individual happiness by stressing the more communitarian aspects of culture such as family, religion, and reciprocal employer/employee relations. For many of us, the world has become a cold, lonley place.
Fukuyama does NOT take sides in the culture war except insofar as to acknowledge changes that have come about, or are in the process of taking place. He does make judgments about the adaptability of some of the changes and their likelihood of remaining in their present form over the long haul. It is of particular interest to note that he does not attribute the various disruptions in social norms to politics per se, but rather to natural reactions of individuals to the changes in their environment wrought by the new technologies that have come to dominate western culture. These include the wide dissemination of information, increases in longevity and the shift from a society based on manual labor to one based on intellect.
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65 of 73 people found the following review helpful By John B. Carpenter on September 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was intrigued by his "The End of History." I thought his "Trust" was a brilliant book and used it extensively in my masters thesis and doctoral dissertation. I only hope this latest book is a disruption in an ongoing chain of good books. In the end, "The Great Disruption" is a down right silly book. It has a lot of usefull data but Fukuyama's humanistic ideology clouds it all. All his empirical data and any real understanding of history undermine his polly-anna conclusion: that things just have to get better because people are ultimately good. Fukuyama proves that the moral consensus -- the social capital -- of the earlier era has been wiped away. That crime has sky-rocketed and that the apparent drops in recent crime rates are only the result of high incarceration rates and lower percentages of younger men. Then he turns around and wants us to believe that disfunctional behaviour has dropped because people are naturally gregarious and have a natural inclination to rebuild social capital. He doesn't bother to deal with societies -- like Ethiopia -- that have never been able to build up enough social capital. He doesn't really look any further back in history past about 1950. His generalizations about the 19th century merely show how little he has taken into account the big picture of history. He thinks (based on his ideology of human goodness) that things just have to get better. If he had studied Pitirim Sorokin for a really big picture of history, he would know better. People can come to a similar optimistic conclusion as does Fukuyama but they will need to be much better grounded in history if they are going to make generalizations about long-term historical cycles. For that, I would recommend Robert W. Fogel's "The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism." Fogel, a Nobel prize winner, has all the optimism of Fukuyama but with the history to back it up.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Todd Winer on February 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is an important book for readers who are interested in how our cultural landscape has shifted in the last three decades and what the future holds for us. Mr. Fukuyama is the premiere writer in American today when it comes to articulating the big picture and offering unique and provocative viewpoints. "The Great Disruption" is further evidence of that fact. Many Americans fail to appreicate the incredible social changes that have taken place since 1960 and Fukuyama pinpoints the prime culprit - a radical change in gender relations. Changes in the economy and the government are big enough but when you're talking about the way that families are raised and how men and women relate to each other - social mores that have lasted for thousands of years - you're talking about a seismic social shift. This revolution, which Fukuyama traces to the birth control pill, has led to serious social issues - teen pregancy, single-parent families, crime, low trust in government, and more. This is not a completely unique thesis but Fukuyama explains it in far more depth than any other recent author. Furthermore, Fukuyama reports that this "Great Dispruption" is mellowing and he uses the encouraging statistical data of the last five years as evidence. The author sites mankind's fundamental need for order as the catalyst for this social pause. What he leaves out, however, is a vision of what our country will look like ten or twenty years from now because of this development. Will these statistic trends level off? Will they reverse themselves? And if so, completely? Or is this just the eye of a storm waiting to churn again? This, I suppose, is left to the intellect of the reader. Nevertheless, this book is a must-read.
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