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The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order Paperback – June 15, 2000
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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In the end his conclusions were very anti-climactic. There have been many of these "disruptions" in the past and this current one is just another like the ones before (not so "Great" after all?) and it is currently on the decline, taking care of itself, so apparently all you and I need to do is sit back in our LazyBoys and have another beer! NOT a feel-good book, they say? I think it IS. I would recommend it only for the first half of the book.
For folks who are not good lateral thinkers, this book may seem a little disjointed and fragmented. For folks who are experts in a particular field like anthropology, sociology, or biology, Fukuyama may not get all of the details exactly right. He also has a tendency to make some generalizations and brush off whole categories of thought in a sentence or two (hence some of the negative reviews you will see on this book).
But the point is that Fukuyama is trying to grapple with the facts as they are. He is trying to pick out the "signal" of what's important amid all of the noise around us, and he does his legwork. The sheer range of his reading and his inquiry is really impressive. I like the fact that he is not content just to "swim in his lane" but looks to other disciplines for potential insights. Likewise, I think he is asking important questions, and he has organized his argument very carefully. While the multi-disciplinary approach and the application of abstract theory may seem confusing and disjointed on the surface, there is a deeper coherence that needs to be appreciated.
The reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is because I have been traveling down the same intellectual path, and come to many of the same conclusions except that I don't think that Fukuyama fully takes into account the emergent complications, actions, and reactions that complexity is going to introduce into the equation. He treats capitalism like a unitary thing, but it seems increasingly evident that there are types of capitalism with very different socio-economic implications, and they co-exist with each other. Likewise, government is not a unitary actor, bureaucracies divide within and against each other. The result is that social dynamics are like fluid dynamics in which there are cross-currents, eddies, ripples, rapids, and other counter trends which could take society towards a variety of order and dis-order outcomes.
But this book is a key building block if you want to free your mind from either Left or Right political correctness and start grappling with the real questions of the 21st century. His book on Trust is another seminal work in this space. If you are interested in more, you should look up Kevin Kelley's book "What Technology Wants" Don Tapscott's work on "The Naked Corporation", and Joel Garreau's book on "Radical Evolution." These guys are much further down the right track than Tom Friedman or Dick Florida in my humble opinion.
I just suspect that this may be unsatisfying to some folks because we are still in the early days of this big wave, and they may still think that their older paradigms are still valid, or that the new paradigm should be organized around a different fact set. All I would ask is that if you read this book to keep an open mind, because I think that's part of what Fukuyama is trying to do.
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Fukuyama has collected research from dozens of different sciences to expose western social problems.Read more