- Paperback: 608 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (March 27, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374533229
- ISBN-13: 978-0374533229
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.6 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 206 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution Paperback – March 27, 2012
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“Ambitious and highly readable.” ―The New Yorker
“Political theorist Francis Fukuyama's new book is a major accomplishment, likely to find its place among the works of seminal thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and John Locke, and modern moral philosophers and economists such as John Rawls and Amartya Sen . . .It is a perspective and a voice that can supply a thinker's tonic for our current political maladies.” ―Earl Pike, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“An intellectual triumph--bold in scope, sound in judgment, and rich in provocations; in short, a classic.” ―Ian Morris, Slate
“A sweeping survey that tries to explain why human beings act as they do in the political sphere. Magisterial in its learning and admirably immodest in its ambition.” ―David Gress, The Wall Street Journal
“In many respects, Fukuyama is an ideal guide for this enormous undertaking. He combines a deep expertise in political institutions with an impressive familiarity of world history, philosophy and social theory. An engaging writer, his prose crackles with sharp observations and illuminating comparisons, and the book marshals a breathtaking array of stimulating facts and provocative generalizations. Who knew, for instance, that the tsetse fly retarded the spread of Islam into sub-Saharan Africa? Simply as a compendium of fascinating minutiae and social science theory, the book offers a treasure trove to the casual student of political history. More important, Fukuyama's book can help us appreciate why so many countries fail to combine the strong institutions, rule of law and accountability that are the hallmark of peaceful and prosperous nations.” ―Eric Oliver, San Francisco Chronicle
“Fukuyama's intellectual instincts hard-wire him into the most geopolitically strategic--not to mention dangerous--corners of the world….[He] is arguably the world's bestselling contemporary political scientist... His new book, The Origins of Political Order, which hits bookstores this week, seeks to understand how human beings transcended tribal affiliations and organized themselves into political societies... His books have taken on not only politics and philosophy, but also biotechnology and that tinderbox of an idea: human nature. ‘He's incredibly intellectually honest,' says Walter Russell Mead, a historian of American foreign policy. ‘He goes where his head takes him. His first duty is to the truth as he sees it.'” ―Andrew Bast, Newsweek
“The history profession is today dominated by small minds studying small topics. Specialists trade in abstractions, taking refuge in tiny foxholes of arcane knowledge. It was not always this way. In the 19th century, men like Leopold von Ranke, George Macaulay Trevelyan and Frederick Jackson Turner used the past to try to understand the present. Their ideas were big, and sometimes too were their mistakes. Francis Fukuyama is at heart a Victorian. As he admits, he wants to revive a ‘lost tradition' when historians were big thinkers. In The Origins of Political Order, his topic is the world, his starting point the chimpanzee. He charts how states evolved, in the process explaining why, despite humans' common origin in Africa perhaps 50,000 years ago, great political diversity exists today...[It is] impressive to see such a huge and complicated topic covered in such an accessible and engaging fashion....The Origins of Political Order tries to make sense of the complexity that has cluttered the last two decades. It is a bold book, probably too bold for the specialists who take refuge in tiny topics and fear big ideas. But Fukuyama deserves congratulation for thinking big and not worrying about making mistakes. This is a book that will be remembered, like those of Ranke, Trevelyan and Turner. Bring on volume II.” ―Gerard DeGrott, The Washington Post
“The Origins of Political Order "begins in prehumen times and concludes on the eve of the American and French Revolutions. Along the way, Fukuyama mines the fields of anthropology, archaeology, biology, evolutionary psychology, economics, and, of course, political science and international relations to establish a framework for understanding the evolution of political institutions. And that's just Volume One….At the center of the project is a fundamental question: Why do some states succeed while others collapse?” ―Evan Goldstein, The Chronicle of Higher Education
“The evolving tension between private and public animates this magisterial history of the state....Fukuyama writes a crystalline prose that balances engaging erudition with incisive analysis. As germane to the turmoil in Afghanistan as it is to today's congressional battles, this is that rare work of history with up-to-the-minute relevance.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred, and a Top 10 Politics Pick for the Spring Preview)
“Ambitious, erudite and eloquent, this book is undeniably a major achievement by one of the leading public intellectuals of our time.” ―Michael Lind, The New York Times Book Review
“Stimulating. . . With impressive erudition, the author travels across China, India, the Islamic world and different regions of Europe looking for the main components of good political order and at how and why these emerged (or failed to) in each place. . . Mr. Fukuyama is still the big-picture man who gave us The End of History, but he has an unerring eye for illuminating detail. Books on political theory are not often page-turners; this one is.” ―The Economist
“This exceptional book should be in every library.” ―David Keymer, Library Journal
“Human social behavior has an evolutionary basis. This was the thesis in Edward O. Wilson's book Sociobiology that has caused such a stir . . . In The Origins of Political Order, Francis Fukuyama of Stanford University presents a sweeping new overview of human social structures throughout history, taking over from where Dr. Wilson's ambitious synthesis left off. . . Previous attempts to write grand analyses of human development have tended to focus on a single causal explanation, like economics or warfare, or, as with Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, on geography. Dr. Fukuyama's is unusual in that he considers several factors, including warfare, religion, and in particular human social behaviors like favoring kin. . . 'You have to be bowled over by the extraordinary breath of approach,' said Arthur Melzer, a political scientist at Michigan State University who invited Dr. Fukuyama to give lectures on the book. 'It's definitely a magnum opus.'” ―Nicholas Wade, The New York Times
“Sweeping, provocative big picture-study of humankind's political impulses. . . Endlessly interesting -- reminiscent in turns of Oswald Spengler, Stanislaw Andreski and Samuel Huntington, though less pessimistic and much better written.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Political theorist Fukuyama presents nothing less than a unified theory of state formation, a comparative study of how tribally organized societies in various parts of the world and various moments of history have transformed into societies with political systems and institutions and, in some cases, political accountability. . . This wide-ranging and frequently provocative work also carries the mantel of the great nineteenth-century socioloists.” ―Brendan Driscoll, Booklist
About the Author
Francis Fukuyama is the Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. He has previously taught at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University and at the George Mason University School of Public Policy. He was a researcher at the RAND Corporation and served as the deputy director in the State Department's policy planning staff. He is the author of The End of History and the Last Man, Trust, and America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy. He lives with his wife in California.
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I am convinced by Dr. Fukuyama's arguments that good modern governments need the rule of law, accountability to its citizens and a strong state to be successful.
If a citizen is serious about their country, they should know why it is the way it is, why it it is legitimate (or illegitimate,) and the possible modes of decay. Dr. Fukuyama has presented several models based on history and philosophy. His arguments are convincing.
The future is not necessarily hopeful. As he adequately expresses, "The United States seems increasingly caught in a dysfunctional political equilibrium, wherein everyone agrees on the necessity of addressing long-term fiscal issues, but powerful interest groups can block the spending cuts or tax increases necessary to close the gap."
As a Conservative, I see that this is a correct analysis of the situation we find ourselves in today. Dr. Fukuyama shows that extreme conservatism (extreme by my standards of conservatism) results in institutions that can no longer adequately function. He credits this more than any other factor as the reason why states fail. And I think he is right: people receiving the benefits of an institution prevent it from being changed.
Furthermore, these institutions grow and require more and more resources (read TAXES,) eventually these institutions grow so big and are so dysfunctional, they kill the state that created them. Furthermore, the interests of the particular institutions grow so dependent on the institutions that they will protect these institutions even if it it means neglecting the protection of the overall state. This has happened in both Hungary and France.
This is not the Conservatism espoused Buckley and Hayek, but is a form of conservatism that is known by other names. Dr. Fukuyama has been referred to as a neoconservative by others in his outlook but, he, himself disputes this. The reader of this book needs to understand this. When conservatism is a maintenance of institutions that have lost their ability to efficiently serve the purposes that they were created for, then it is necessarily wrong and does not in general represent modern Conservatism. I regret that Dr. Fukuyama used this term as it will confuse those who can not distinguish the difference. Unfortunately, many will read this book and improperly infer the wrong conclusion.
However, Dr. Fukuyama's analysis of history and the formation of of the political states rings with truth. His thesis is largely that an effective modern government needs a balance between the rule of law, accountability, external family/tribal social mobilization and a strong state.
He dismisses Marx and Hobbes for assuming facts not in in evidence. Dr. Fukuyama fundamentally believes that man is a social animal and has never lived without a social structure of man's own making. First that social structure was family and then it developed into a tribe as being more efficient to meet man's needs. As the need for defense from other tribes grew, it required state-like organizations to survive. As man became increasingly agrarian, the efficiency of food supply offered by farming required property rights that needed protection. The development of religion influenced what people thought about laws, morals and legitimacy. Ultimately, it affected how states formed.
This was not a linear process as Marx professed but a process where cultures differed and where reversion to earlier conditions often occurred. In many cases the conditions for a modern state did not exist until late. In some cases, it is still developing. The natural state of man favored family so often early development of states reverted back to patrimonialism. And where modern states did develop, the paths were variable depending on the geography including religion and history of the region.
But states that succeeded overcame this through various supporting mechanisms including religious supports, legal supports and the involvement of nonruling classes in government have come to some successful institutions that have endured. There were very different ways of achieving a modern government. He only touches briefly on recent developments. This he is reserving for the second book. But he has built a great foundation for further discussion.
In general I agree with Dr. Fukuyama and look forward to reading the second book.
The first volume ends with the American and French revolutions. The second volume, which I have not yet read, promises to describe political development subsequent to the Industrial Revolution. “The Origins of Political Order” is suitable for a general reader who has a solid grasp of Western history, but I do stress that one must already know their history. For me, it was a pleasure to read and I found it very insightful. I enjoyed the multidisciplinary approach and the quality of the writing. The book is very helpful in thinking critically about how and why the political institutions of the West developed as they did.
There is a whole lot that I liked about the book, I learned a lot from it, and I would recommend it strongly to non-specialist readers, which includes me. As an economist who has always loved history, I've spent lots more time thinking about the economic and social influences on history (and of history) than about the political process per se. Reading this book was like taking the kaleidoscope of history, giving it a good shake, and seeing multiple unexpected patterns emerge. Fukuyama begins even before humanity emerged, with primate social ordering; a key step in that it underlines the biological "hard wired" impact on some of the determinants of political behavior. He proceeds to look at political development in some but not all of the world's great cultures -- China, India, the Muslim world (some of it, anyway) and Europe. The cross cultural approach is very enlightening: I'm old enough to have learned history as "Whig History", and looking across cultures teaches much, much more.
One thing that was particularly valuable to me is Fukuyama's convincing demonstration that it is not always the economy, stupid: indeed, the economy often doesn't have much to do with it. In the field of economics, much progress has been made in challenging the assumption of "homo economicus" -- the rational individual who always proceeds on the basis of rational self interest. This needs to be done in history as well, and Fukuyama brings out the importance of totally non- economic motivations, including family feeling, religion, and the desire for respect. In the end of the book, the author presents some conclusions; one hopes that these will be more fully fleshed out in a Volume 2. When and if it appears, I will read it immediately.
Some readers may not be nearly so impressed. First, there is the question of style -- the arguments and information in this book are gripping, but the prose is less than thrilling. That doesn't have to be the case in non-fiction (consider Margaret McMillan's "The War That Ended Peace", which I am currently reading).
Second, and more important, there is the issue of political point of view. Before I read this book I thought of Fukuyama mainly as the neo-conservative who argued that political development had reached its end point in American democracy, which did seem rather Whiggish (or tendentious) to me. This book very much improved my opinion of Fukuyama, but there is still some tendency to regard American democracy as the end state. We shall see. Will Fukuyama produce another book, on developments since the French Revolution? And will American democracy survive the NSA?