Origins of Political Order, The: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution Hardcover – Apr 12 2011
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"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
"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
"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 Review of Books
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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Top Customer Reviews
So why only four stars? Well, there's a few problems with the book. First, in places, the review of history is frankly boring. Fuyukama makes both broad generalizations (in this 300-year period there was calm) as well as rather pointless specifics (in the years 179, 184, and 185 A.D. there was war). Either make a detailed case of give me the summarized version. Switching back and forth seems odd at best, cherry-picking at worst. Second, despite proclaiming trying to find a theory of political origins, when it comes to the origins of government he claims, "in the end, there are too many interacting factors to be able to develop one strong, predictive theory of how and when states formed". Um, isn't that sort of the point of this book? Limited evidence (e.g., about early Indian governments) doesn't stop the author in other places. This smacks of cowardice and/or laziness. Finally, on a related note, the author suggests that a lot of historical writing is just "one [darn] thing after another" without any attempt at broad generalizations. Well, the author has at his disposal an excellent tool that he points out- human evolutionary biology/psychology.Read more ›
Eventually, the hope is, we will know how to go about "institution building."
This is a very well written and pedagogical book. As for the theoretical principles that seem to emerge from it, brilliantly argued, as they are, their greatest asset lies in setting the stage for Volume 2. We eagerly await this second part, as this is a work that deserves to be gauged in its entirety.
Interestingly, Mr. Fukuyama puts religion in the context of combiner and not divider. He argues that, without religion, we have no reason to form groups larger than extended families with whom, he argues, we have an instinctual trust. That, plus the threat of attack by outsiders force humans to combine in larger and larger groups following the introduction of agriculture. Once the state is created, he goes further to argue that the modern democracies require a state, rule of law and accountable government. He applies his theories to China, India, the Muslim States and Europe and reasons for their success, or not, of forming a modern state. History summarized in the context of his theories proves fascinating. It’s a whole new way of looking at the world.
Professor Fukuyama looks first at the development of leadership in tribal arrangements, and then the early civilizations of China, India, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Spain and Latin America and finally Britain and the nations which started life as colonies, principally the US. He draws succinctly the collapse of the Ancien Regime in France. While Dr. Fukuyama carefully examines the variables, he eschews the development of pat theories; this is obviously appropriate when the countless variables of each situation are enumerated.
Having been exposed to a professional education in Public Administration as well as some years of experience, I can confidently promise that the student will benefit from the study of this work.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Une grande synthèse qui mérite d'être lue. Sans doute que l'auteur tourne les coins ronds, mais cela est inévitable.Published 20 months ago by R. Blanchette
The Origins of Political Order deserves to be a new classic at the intersection of history, political science and human studies. Read morePublished on Nov. 19 2012 by Hektor Konomi
After six thousand years of civilization we are as the human race still trying to figure out what good government as opposed to bad really looks like. Read morePublished on Nov. 8 2011 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
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