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Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy Paperback – October 13, 2015
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“Straightforward and sensible . . . Fukuyama is nothing if not ambitious.” ―Sheri Berman, The New York Times Book Review
“It is not often that a 600-page work of political science ends with a cliffhanger. But the first volume of Francis Fukuyama's epic two-part account of what makes political societies work, published three years ago, left the big question unanswered . . . Political Order and Political Decay is his answer . . . Fukuyama's wealth of insights [are] worthy of the greatest writers about democracy.” ―David Runciman, Financial Times
“Political Order and Political Decay is a courageous book by an author at the peak of his analytical and literary powers. This project started as an attempt to rewrite and update Samuel Huntington's classic Political Order in Changing Societies, published in 1968. Yet Fukuyama has what Huntington sorely lacked, namely the ability to communicate complex ideas through engaging prose. He's both a perceptive political analyst and a wonderful storyteller. Clearly, something has indeed gone haywire in our world: Serious political science is not supposed to be so enjoyable.” ―Gerard de Groot, The Washington Post
“[A] monumental study [that] rest[s] on an astonishing body of learning.” ―The Economist
“Fukuyama has been both a policy maker and adviser . . . His latest opus [seeks] to clarify the fundamental problems of political order.” ―David Polansky, Wall Street Journal
“Fukuyama's brilliant work on political orders [is] cogent, clear, and often intellectually thrilling account of the development of the state . . . There is simply no way to do full justice in a review.” ―Zach Dorfman, The Los Angeles Review of Books
“This and the earlier volume, viewed as a single work, will remain vital contributions to the literature on democracy and government for some time to come.” ―Earl Pike, Plain Dealer
“Fukuyama has succeeded in proving, with a formidable display of erudition, that anyone who wants to reform American democracy had better start by reading his latest book.” ―Michael Ignatieff, The Atlantic
“Learned and lucid, Political Order and Political Decay is jam-packed with insights about political development.” ―Glenn C. Altschuler, San Francisco Chronicle
“This bold political scientist limns the transformation of societies politically galvanized by eighteenth-century revolutions and financially enriched by nineteenth-century industry . . . Strikingly ambitious and provocative.” ―Booklist (starred review)
“[Fukuyama's] superb synthesis of political science and history will be useful to experts as well as students and laypeople.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Th[is] deeply engaged political scientist offers a compelling historical overview . . . Systematic, thorough and even hopeful fodder for reform-minded political observers.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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 the Johns Hopkins University and at the George Mason University School of Public Policy. Fukuyama was a researcher at the RAND Corporation and served on the State Department's Policy Planning Staff. He is the author of The Origins of Political Order, The End of History and the Last Man, Trust, and America at the Crossroads, among other books. He lives with his wife in California.
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Top customer reviews
Parts I and II discuss the "State" and "Foreign Influence." In an excellent historical overview he demonstrates that what would appear to be similar circumstances lead to disparate outcomes. Much less than in previous works Dr. Fukuyama treats us to current unanswered questions; how none of the current theoretical constructs adequately explain what has transpired and as such can not give clear guidance on how to proceed.
"The State made War and War made the State." In Part III the discussion turns to Democracy. Although revered on an intellectual basis we find that historically democracy is not the panacea one hopes. Periods of semi-benevolent autocracy have many times been fundamental to the development of the modern state. The extension of suffrage has in many cases resulted in clientism - the political elites purchasing votes from the newly empowered reinforcing rather than reducing the elites' political control.
In Part IV we get to political decay. Fundamental to human nature is the acquisition of power and the desire once obtained to hold on to it. In a constantly changing world this usually leads to a disparity between the needs and desires of the "in group" and the needs and desires of the "out groups." As the balance between state, law, and accountability becomes more and more out of sync and the "out groups" gain power political upheaval, frequently in the form of armed conflict, is the result. But in Part IV we are once again reminded that there are many paths to and outcomes from political upheaval.
I found this book to be both enlightening and frustrating. As an American who in Dr. Fukuyama's words "has a reverence to the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution" his thoughtful analysis of how our political system has contributed to the current state of American governance: political scandal, incompetent bureaucracy, overt and inappropriate power by special interest groups, approval of Congress in the single digits, was hard to accept - but accept it I did. Frustrating is that there does not appear to be a clear path to resolution.
As the book gets closer to modern times I am reminded of Dr. Fukuyama's question in "The End of History." He said (I paraphrase) are we evolving over time to a better form of political governance? Inherent in evolution are two facts: it takes a long time and many evolutionary paths result in dead ends. This suggests that the "mess" the world is in today may be a perturbation in the long term trend of political evolution.
On a personal note I found this a enjoyable book. As can be inferred from the time between its publication and my review I spent a couple of long nights engrossed in reading rather than sleeping. The book is more descriptive than prescriptive. If you are looking to justify your political outlook you will not find it here. Likewise if you are looking for the elegant solution to the world's problems it is not here either. But if you want to be educated into just how complex an undertaking of providing a balance between state, law and accountability this is your book.
With an erudite overview of the evolution of the political state, especially of "liberal democracy," upon which the tenets of accountable government (trust), equality of the citizenry, and the rule of law are paramount in the development of democracy. Democracy is not necessarily an engine for these three themes, rather, these three tenets come together to build a robust democracy. The result is the emergence of the political state.
This first tenet, accountable government, or trust, was an entire book in of itself, Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity (1995). The notion of accountability is not necessarily, again, tied to democracy in-of-itself, but is an important feature that has historically spurred greater democratic reform. Therefore, trust in government, and ultimately trust within a society and amongst peoples of that society, is an important feature of the liberal democratic state. Fukuyama deals with this tenet in the first part of his book. He sheds important insight how trust in government has allowed bureaucracy to flourish and politicians and statesmen to build the modern state. At the same time, he looks at various countries and analyzes this aspect of accountability. For instance, one of the great positives of Denmark is that it has, not only a very accountable government, but a very open and trusting society that spurs this positive view of the Danish government. However, the opposite is true in Italy, which has long wrestled with low trust, deceit, and corruption and is a major issue for the Italians to confront, and, in part, helps explains why Italy, along with Greece (the "historic birthplace of democracy") have become a drain on the European Union and the Eurozone. Fukuyama also looks at the United States' effort to achieve accountability, through the origins of the Federalist Papers, to the emergence of political parties, but the true birth of accountability happens during the Progressive Era when reforms attempted to curb the influence of big business and political machines in the political process -- the end to the spoils system (Ch. 10). This drive for accountability led to new political reforms and a greater democratization of American politics, paving the way for the trust in New Dealers come 1933 and beyond. The high degree of trust and accountability gives legitimacy to the state to build itself up, order and structure things both to the benefit of its citizens.
These developments in the political state also demands an active and equal citizenry, which often spurs such political and economic reforms and demands trust in the government-citizenry dichotomy which serves as the second tenet to democracy. Equality is therefore established by the rule of law, to which the government also says it will be accountable to, the third tenet, completing the triune legs upon which modern liberal democracy is built. You get the picture. Thus, accountability/trust is the most important aspect of modern political society, because everything else can fall in place, so to speak. However, this has dangers as Fukuyama illustrates in the latter part of his book.
Part III ultimately deals with the paradox that war is healthy to the state (if you're not a cynic that is). Emerging as a new force, the state undertakes war since it has the power and ability to do so in many cases, and also brings forth legitimacy for its institutions and a unity among the populace that supports national institutions in times of war. However, these political reforms crucial to opening the door for greater democracy also opened the door for a return of corruption through interest groups that the state will be accountable to, rather than being accountable to its citizenry.
Decay, in Part IV, is the most troubling of the new trends in political development. As governments have lost their accountability, the most important theme for a robust democracy. The return of clientelism (seeking out clients or interest groups), corruption, and government offices and personnel being more accountable to outside parties and groups has eroded trust between the citizenry and the state. Although these democratic states remain promotive of, to a certain degree, the rule of law and equality of the citizenry, even though reforms continue this struggle for greater degrees of equality among the citizenry itself (let's not forget it took a long time for universal suffrage to emerge in the poster-child liberal democracies).
Here, Fukuyama is most devastating but also quietly hopeful come the end of his work. While trust has certainly eroded in the great western liberal democracies, most notably the United States, there is still a global appeal for liberal democratic society and states. People, primarily from low trust nations where equality and the rule of law is lacking, tend to flock to the liberal states where there is found, at least on paper, accountability, equality of the citizenry, and the rule of law. This is, hopefully, going to give the fuel for democracies going forward, yet, Fukuyama doesn't offer a definitive path on how to get out of political decay, by which he mostly means the erosion of accountability/trust in the relationship between the state and its citizenry. Yet, his ending is very close to his misunderstood book "The End of History." Although democracies are having internal problems, by and large, liberal democracy remains the unchallenged political model at a global level. One-party autocratic states and the rise of Islamism is largely isolated and contained to a few parts of the world, and unlike with Fascism or Communism, which did seriously challenge liberal democracy in the twentieth century, no new model has come to challenge the liberal democratic model upon which accountability, equality of the citizenry, and the rule of law still, at least theoretically, reign supreme. The very serious question remains however, will the crucial tenet of accountability ever be regained?
His thesis is that successful governance requires a coherent state, laws that are equally enforced and system of accountability, usually, but necessarily through elections. Weak governance gets one or all three of these factors wrong, Fukuyama although in many ways quite conservative, is political progressive in the early 20th Century sense in that a successful state needs a highly trained impartial bureaucracy. Examples of such are the U.S. between 1900- 1950, Germany and England in the 19th century. To be sure bureaucracies that become too independent can go out of control. His example of this is the German military on the eve of World War 1.
On the other hand there can be too much accountability. In this instance he highlights the role of interest groups in the U.S. who in total possess veto power over what the state can do, a "vetocracy" if you will.
Fukuyama's book should be read in conjunction with Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson's "Why Nations Fail." Simply put both argue that the success of rent seeking clienteles have the power corrupt government for their own ends.
Although "Political Order..." is a great text, it is a tough read for the lay reader, hence four stars.
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Fukuyama focuses on three features that influence national success:...Read more