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
), 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.