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Virtually all human societies were once organized tribally, yet over time most developed new political institutions which included a central state that could keep the peace and uniform laws that applied to all citizens. Some went on to create governments that were accountable to their constituents. We take these institutions for granted, but they are absent or are unable t Virtually all human societies were once organized tribally, yet over time most developed new political institutions which included a central state that could keep the peace and uniform laws that applied to all citizens. Some went on to create governments that were accountable to their constituents. We take these institutions for granted, but they are absent or are unable to perform in many of today’s developing countries—with often disastrous consequences for the rest of the world. Francis Fukuyama, author of the bestselling The End of History and the Last Man and one of our most important political thinkers, provides a sweeping account of how today’s basic political institutions developed. The first of a major two-volume work, The Origins of Political Order begins with politics among our primate ancestors and follows the story through the emergence of tribal societies, the growth of the first modern state in China, the beginning of the rule of law in India and the Middle East, and the development of political accountability in Europe up until the eve of the French Revolution. Drawing on a vast body of knowledge—history, evolutionary biology, archaeology, and economics—Fukuyama has produced a brilliant, provocative work that offers fresh insights on the origins of democratic societies and raises essential questions about the nature of politics and its discontents.


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Virtually all human societies were once organized tribally, yet over time most developed new political institutions which included a central state that could keep the peace and uniform laws that applied to all citizens. Some went on to create governments that were accountable to their constituents. We take these institutions for granted, but they are absent or are unable t Virtually all human societies were once organized tribally, yet over time most developed new political institutions which included a central state that could keep the peace and uniform laws that applied to all citizens. Some went on to create governments that were accountable to their constituents. We take these institutions for granted, but they are absent or are unable to perform in many of today’s developing countries—with often disastrous consequences for the rest of the world. Francis Fukuyama, author of the bestselling The End of History and the Last Man and one of our most important political thinkers, provides a sweeping account of how today’s basic political institutions developed. The first of a major two-volume work, The Origins of Political Order begins with politics among our primate ancestors and follows the story through the emergence of tribal societies, the growth of the first modern state in China, the beginning of the rule of law in India and the Middle East, and the development of political accountability in Europe up until the eve of the French Revolution. Drawing on a vast body of knowledge—history, evolutionary biology, archaeology, and economics—Fukuyama has produced a brilliant, provocative work that offers fresh insights on the origins of democratic societies and raises essential questions about the nature of politics and its discontents.

30 review for The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ajj

    The best Civilization V based fan fiction ever! No seriously. I can't read a chapter in this book without thinking of Civ. games I have played. If you love Civ. you will love this book. On a more serious note, I am very pleased with this book so far. While the general idea that the political situation of different areas is dependent on the cultural/political history of those areas seems pretty obvious, Fukuyama provides a wealth of information about different cultures that clearly illustrate his The best Civilization V based fan fiction ever! No seriously. I can't read a chapter in this book without thinking of Civ. games I have played. If you love Civ. you will love this book. On a more serious note, I am very pleased with this book so far. While the general idea that the political situation of different areas is dependent on the cultural/political history of those areas seems pretty obvious, Fukuyama provides a wealth of information about different cultures that clearly illustrate his points. I find the style to be "easy academic". It is not as easy to read as a David McCullough book but is not like reading true theory or a complex political science monograph. He even has some sarcastic comments. (Like all serious Libertarians should move to sub-Saharan Africa to truly experience what it is like to live in a place with a weak state.) What I find to be the most valuable are the histories of the different peoples (China, India, Islamic etc.). I really enjoy the broad sweep he provides working from the first bands of migrants up through the late middle ages with some extensions into later periods. It is always impressive that even the earliest events have impact on much later parts of political development. (Such as the development of strong religion before statehood in India v. the development of a strong state before religion in China.) *** After finishing the book all I said before is true. The latter part of the book focuses more on European states from the middle ages to the French Revolution. Fukuyama provides the same sweeping review of their histories as he did for the earlier examples and they are just as compelling. If I had one take away thought it would be "Thank God for England". I am excited about the next volume of this work which will focus on state development after the French Revolution. I am eager to read his thoughts on "state building" projects and anticipate a discussion of how autocratic states like China have a leg up in the modern world and to learn what he believes modern democracies can do to catch up.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Early on in this book, Prof. Fukuyama explains that he isn’t a fan of the “One damn thing after another” style of history. He is all about investigating causality and connections. This book is definitely in the category of BIG history. The most difficult aspect of writing this review is how to convey even the haziest notion of the author’s complex arguments. He sees 3 main components to the development of “political order”. These are a strong and capable state, the state’s subordination to a rule Early on in this book, Prof. Fukuyama explains that he isn’t a fan of the “One damn thing after another” style of history. He is all about investigating causality and connections. This book is definitely in the category of BIG history. The most difficult aspect of writing this review is how to convey even the haziest notion of the author’s complex arguments. He sees 3 main components to the development of “political order”. These are a strong and capable state, the state’s subordination to a rule of law, and government accountability to its citizens. During the period studied, governments were not accountable to the whole population, but in most cases were accountable to certain elites. The rule of law was something which arose out of religious belief. The societies studied are wide ranging but the author concentrates on China, India, the Mamluk and Ottoman Sultanates, and at 5 European societies - France, Spain, Hungary, Russia and England (in the context of the time period covered, it is appropriate to talk about England rather than Britain). Prof. Fukuyama argues that all of the societies featured succeeded in establishing one or more of the 3 factors set out, but that most struggled to achieve a balance between them. For example, China was the first society to develop a strong and capable state, but it failed to develop either the rule of law or political accountability. In contrast, Hungary, formerly a much larger country than it is today, had an over-mighty nobility which was dominant over the monarch. The weakness of the Hungarian state eventually cost the country its independence. He argues that England was the first large country in the world that managed to get the three factors in balance, and that this produced an irresistible combination of military power, wealth and legitimacy. I found the author’s arguments fascinating, particularly his discussions about the ways China and India developed. The early histories of these civilisations were not previously known to me. He does acknowledge that causality is something that is difficult to establish. Every time a historian identifies a causal factor for something, he will find another sitting below it. This book is immensely ambitious. and I’m sure plenty of it will have been challenged by other academics. It was really worthwhile for me though. It’s focused my thinking both on the nature of political order and of the different ways it developed across the world. I always enjoy a book that gives me a lot to think about.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Szplug

    Well-written, expertly-researched, and thoroughly establishing an evidentiary framework for the analysis Fukuyama brings to his politico-historical game: the permutations of state-building and infrastructure, rule of law, and governmental accountability that have accompanied the evolutionary pathway—fraught with periodic episodes of regression and decay—towards the modern era of various democratic state structures in the face of an inherent familialism—the latter the tendency, via segmentary lin Well-written, expertly-researched, and thoroughly establishing an evidentiary framework for the analysis Fukuyama brings to his politico-historical game: the permutations of state-building and infrastructure, rule of law, and governmental accountability that have accompanied the evolutionary pathway—fraught with periodic episodes of regression and decay—towards the modern era of various democratic state structures in the face of an inherent familialism—the latter the tendency, via segmentary lineages, for a Patrimonial constitutive political character which treats of the state as part of one's extended family, and all of the nepotistic and kin-aggrandizing actions that accompany it. Reaching back to man's innate sociability in that long mused-upon State of Nature through to the French Revolution that changed everything, the author's decision to pursue the early tribalistic-unto-statehood factors in operation outside of the Greco-Roman world—China, India, and the Muslim Middle East primarily—proves an unusual, but defensible, decision; and the results provide a bevy of details in support of the conclusion presented, quite lucidly and extendedly, in the totality of the five-part tome. For all of that, though, I rarely encountered anything that I was not previously aware of; and perhaps it was because of that fact—notwithstanding the quality package with which Fukuyama has wrapped his impressive accumulation of state-formative information—that I proceeded through its lengthy pages appreciative of the effort while yet unenthusiastic about the process itself. I've a bad case of the blahs at the moment, and doubtless, once they've passed, the excellence of Fukuyama's latest will make itself more readily apparent (and earn a better review than this bit of pissy rain-induced quibble); for this is, in the end, one exceedingly excellent book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hadrian

    Francis Fukuyama first rose to prominence after the publication of a 1988 essay, titled "The End of History", which was developed into a book, "The End of History and the Last Man". Fukuyama's idea was not sui generis, its roots can be found in Alexander Kojeve's interpretations of Hegelianism, and the 1960 book "The End of Ideology", written by the sociologist Daniel Bell. Fukuyama argued at the decline and disintegration of the Soviet Union that liberal democracy had been the endpoint of ideol Francis Fukuyama first rose to prominence after the publication of a 1988 essay, titled "The End of History", which was developed into a book, "The End of History and the Last Man". Fukuyama's idea was not sui generis, its roots can be found in Alexander Kojeve's interpretations of Hegelianism, and the 1960 book "The End of Ideology", written by the sociologist Daniel Bell. Fukuyama argued at the decline and disintegration of the Soviet Union that liberal democracy had been the endpoint of ideological evolution; though "events" would still occur, given humankind's inability to control technological development and the possibility of emotional loss and violence arising from a lack of meaning in one's life. The Origins of Political Order - the first in a set of two volumes, is one that still provides food for thought - it experienced a bump in sales in China after a COVID patient was photographed reading it in his hospital bed. In short, Fukuyama asks about modern societies, and the elements necessary to form the modern political order. He finds three - first, an efficient state apparatus; second, the rule of law, which constrains the rulers and allows freedom for the ruled; and third, a government being accountable to the people. Fukuyama does not come across here as a small-l liberal; he does not refer to natural rights or the liberty of small-governments. He refers extensively to sociobiology and the development of human beings in prehistory largely to cast aside these earlier beliefs. He comes across not as a political scientist, but as more of a sociologist like Max Weber or Emile Durkheim - and he cites them frequently. A market economy is not "natural", but it develops in a favorable environment with beneficial social structures. Nor does Fukuyama overly rely on Greece and Rome; in his broad tour of world history he refers extensively to the Islamic World (the Mamelukes and Ottomans especially); India before the British era with an extensive tour of the pan-Indian Maurya Empire; and an extensive history of China. While all of these areas developed, in part, some of those three characteristics that Fukuyama views as essential to a modern political order, it was England in the 19th century that came across all three - and it was not inevitable for England to have been the first. Fukuyama is no Whig historian, where he sees progress as linear, inevitable, and easy. Throughout, he emphasizes how history could very easily have gone the other way - if such and such state had reformed to disempower its ruling aristocracy; or some revolt went another way, the results for premodern history could have been vastly different. Development is complicated and it depends on what you start with. To his credit, he also takes belief and ideology differently; beliefs on caste, imperialism, or an organized church also shape the organization of societies. Even so, he warns against the kind of "economic determinism" where technology or economic organization alone determines the organization of the rest of society. In his broad historical outlook, he relies on a handful of specialists; while I obviously cannot comment on those for much of Eastern Europe, the Islamic world, etc., he at least cites reliable scholarship on imperial China. Is it possible he's picking them based on how well they'd fit into his argument? Possibly. But given the breadth of his citations, and the number of factors that he integrates into his broader narrative, this is an investigation and a historical approach to take seriously.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Roslyn

    I appreciate how clear Fukuyama is that government is the organized use of force/violence/coercion. I enjoyed the history he presented. That is why this book gets two stars instead of one. It doesn't get more stars than that because I have read a lot about hunter-gatherers and vikings and his accounts of both of these groups do not match with the other things I have read about them. This makes me wonder how accurate the rest of the history he presents is. The thing I dislike about this book the mo I appreciate how clear Fukuyama is that government is the organized use of force/violence/coercion. I enjoyed the history he presented. That is why this book gets two stars instead of one. It doesn't get more stars than that because I have read a lot about hunter-gatherers and vikings and his accounts of both of these groups do not match with the other things I have read about them. This makes me wonder how accurate the rest of the history he presents is. The thing I dislike about this book the most is the misleading title. What I am really curious about is how egalitarian hunter-gatherers first came into agreement that rulers were a good idea. I am interested in that process, however it happened and however long it took, of the invention of hierarchy. That is, I am interested in the actual ORIGINS of political order, of status. This book contributed very little to my ability to answer that question. In the final chapters Fukuyama discusses the human nature of "reciprocal altruism" and "kin selection," but I have read articles on hunter-gatherer anthropology in which these ideas are hotly debated. I am more convinced that neither exist, that they are shoddy attempts of Westerners to understand hunter-gatherers, than that they are a reflection of the real "rules of human nature." Soooo... this book should be titled The DEVELOPMENT of Political Orders Around the World. Note: Later I did find the book I had been looking for about the actual origins of organized coercion and, for those who are interested, Lifeways of Hunter Gatherers: The Foraging Spectrum. Totally recommend!

  6. 5 out of 5

    May 舞

    Easy to read, informative, and well-structured. Enjoyed reading it very much and will be taking many new ideas and insights with me into the new year, 2019 <3

  7. 4 out of 5

    Murtaza

    After reading Francis Fukuyama’s excellent Political Order and Political Decay a few years ago, I made a note at some point to go back and read the first volume of his work on the subject. The Origins of Political Order is a very ambitious attempt at explaining how modern state-centric societies arose in human history. Generally speaking, I think that any attempt to articulate a sweeping thesis covering every civilization in the world is doomed, at the very least, to suffer some major flaws. To After reading Francis Fukuyama’s excellent Political Order and Political Decay a few years ago, I made a note at some point to go back and read the first volume of his work on the subject. The Origins of Political Order is a very ambitious attempt at explaining how modern state-centric societies arose in human history. Generally speaking, I think that any attempt to articulate a sweeping thesis covering every civilization in the world is doomed, at the very least, to suffer some major flaws. To his credit Fukuyama acknowledges in the introduction that he is likely to make errors on the details of each subject, but he still feels that his broad arguments are valid. For the most part I agree. The book starts at the beginning of human history, explaining how segmentary lineage-based groups first started to coalesce after human beings grew out of small bands. These lineages were effectively lines of kinship tied to a common ancestor. Such lineages later became the basis of tribal units - a still larger and more complex form of organization similar to a massive extended family that continues to exist in much of the world. So how then did these tribal units based on family ties turn into impersonal states? Fukuyama offers a range of possible explanations, but the decisive one still seems to be that tribes sacrificed their relative freedom out of the necessity of self-defense during wartime. “War made the state and the state made war,” as Charles Tilly famously argued, and it was under the pressures of war that tribal groups in many cases were compelled to break apart and integrate themselves into state systems. Fukuyama rejects the idea that human beings were primarily “individuals” in the pre-modern state of nature. This is an idea famously put forward by Rousseau among others, suggesting that before they were forcibly civilized human beings had lived in a form of individualistic reverie. In fact humans have always primarily been communal creatures and for most of their history they have prioritized the collective over themselves. Not just ones immediate and extended family are to be cared for, but also ones ancestors must be honored as well as ones future descendants. Continuing the family lineage is important above any other concern. The line “stretches from Infinity to Infinity, passing over a razor which is the Present...His existence is necessary but insignificant beside his existence as the representative of the whole.” In this view, an individual human being is simply a tiny thread connecting two great poles of the past and the future of the lineage. Such an idea is difficult for modern people to understand and it goes against the normative liberalism of our time. But it is important to acknowledge in order to appreciate the views of people in the pre-modern West as well as the many parts of the world that have not become liberal. The book delves into the origins of the Chinese, Indian and Islamic political systems. I found the analyses to be be a bit superficial by necessity but there are many interesting points made nonetheless. The Chinese were the first people to ever develop a modern, bureaucratic state and incredibly enough they did this thousands of years ago. They did so under the pressures of constant war and the consolidation of tribes and local kingdoms, though lineages do continue to exist in modern China. Because they never developed a jurisprudential religion, however, China never developed a strong tradition of rule of law and its governance has always tended towards the despotic up the present day. The two major ideological trends in Chinese political history have been Confucianism and Legalism. The Confucian is the more “moralistic” of the two and includes the idea that Chinese rulers have a duty to care for the wellbeing of those they rule. Legalism is is more strictly about power and seems to be congruent with the Communist regime of modern China. As Fukuyama writes: “The Legalists proposed to treat subjects not as moral beings to be cultivated through education and learning but as Homo economicus, self-interested individuals who would respond to positive and negative incentives—particularly punishments. The Legalist state therefore sought to undermine tradition, break the bonds of family moral obligations, and rebind citizens to the state on a new basis.” As such it may be a bit unfair to say that Chinese Communism is something completely alien to Chinese culture. Despite some modifications, it seems like it has a long and venerable going back to the 4th century BC Legalistic philosopher Shang Yang. India and the Islamic world both had strong religious traditions which impacted their later development. Until they were destroyed during the colonial period, Muslims were very strongly bound by their traditional laws, which acted as a check on the tyranny of their rulers. Muslim states also used the institution of elite slavery to govern themselves and avoid the pitfalls patrimonialism. Mamluks, Jannisaries and other effectively enslaved subjects of Muslim empires were made into generals and top officials to run the state. With their loyalty to any family broken, they were totally bound to the sultan and the polity. Fukuyama argues that patrimonialism was and is a fatal impediment to any functioning state. As such, this strange form of elite slavery actually worked for a long time in helping creating an impersonal form of elite bureaucratic governance. I think he overstates the case with his reference to Ibn Khaldun’s claim that the Mamluk slaves saved Islam as a whole, but the idea that an effective and impersonal bureaucracy could be created in such a bizarre way is fascinating. In India, the Hindu religion and its universe of social forms prevented any central state from ever really coalescing. It was not until the British Raj that an Indian national identity came into being, and even then it has largely been tenuous. On the upside this has prevented any tyranny from ever ruling India, in the way that China has been periodically tyrannized by its powerful central state. India also naturally has a vibrant democracy, borne out of the diversity and chaos of its social structure, where the power of caste tends to trump all else. But this diversity also means that it has been almost impossible to organize Indian society in an effective manner towards some common purpose. This may change as India modernizes and potentially leaves behind its complicated systems of caste and personal classification, but this cannot be taken for granted. India has a strong society and a weak state, just as Islamic polities did. China on the other hand has a strong state that has been hegemonic throughout its history, rendering any other form of organization in Chinese society subordinate. Fukuyama makes a surprising argument that the birth of individualism and the breakdown of kinship structures in Europe can actually be tied to Christianity and the institution of the Church. The corporate structure of the Church (really the model for the modern “corporation”) was an alternative power structure to kinship lines and its rules encouraging donations of property - for instance by widows who were considered to be independent property holders from their departed husbands family - helped break down those networks over time. To be honest he didn’t provide enough analysis to convince me of his thesis on this point, but he makes a plausible argument that the total absence of kinship, lineage and tribal structures in the modern West, as opposed to most of the rest of the planet, does have something to do with the unique institution of the Church. Probably the most distinctive feature of modern political system is its impersonality. As Fukuyama notes, pre-modern systems of organization were naturally based on favoring friends and family, or favoring those who have done good things for you in the past. These behaviors are known as kin selection and reciprocal altruism respectively. It takes a lot of pressure and violence to change human nature enough to make people abandon such practices that are very intrinsic to human nature, but which in a modern state we’d refer to as nepotism and corruption. In much of the world such patrimonialism continues to exist and it’s not clear whether maintaining a dishonest pretense of a modern state in such places is even helpful. As they degrade, modern states can also be “repatrimonialized.” Signs of this are visible today in the United States in the form of so-called “legacy students” at elite universities, as well as people attempting to pass political powers to their children. When a state becomes increasingly repatrimonialized, at some point it ceases to be a state any longer and more closely resembles pre-modern forms of political organization. Interestingly, even the Catholic Church laws mandating celibacy were intended to prevent the rise of patrimonial tendencies within its organizational body, by preventing priests from having children and passing down their influence to them instead of to someone more deserving based on merit. Polygamy and concubinage in pre-modern China and the Islamic world on the other hand were intended for a rather different reason of making sure that agnatic (patrilineal) lineages survived by birthing more and more children, ideally males, during a time when most children died quite young. Fukuyama gets a bad rap for his post-Cold War triumphalism and the neoconservative phase that he went through. This book is not perfect, but like Political Order and Political Decay it is clearly a work of great genius. In many respects the second volume is more relevant since it deals with the contemporary challenge of managing existing modern states. But this book nonetheless does an admirable job of laying out the arguments that he has been building in various works throughout his career. He covers a lot of ground and I’m not confident that he did so without errors and omissions, but there are many gems of insight contained here nonetheless.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jayesh

    It deserves all the praise it gets. As the subtitle suggests, Fukuyama focuses on the vast historic scale, starting from prehuman times, until the French revolution. Given the breadth, you would think that one will be constantly lost, possibly missing the forest for the trees. Fortunately, Fukuyama is a fantastic writer and manages to be sensible and clearly understandable (daresay, practical?). By "political order", Fukuyama refers to the trifecta of a strong state institutions - the rule of law It deserves all the praise it gets. As the subtitle suggests, Fukuyama focuses on the vast historic scale, starting from prehuman times, until the French revolution. Given the breadth, you would think that one will be constantly lost, possibly missing the forest for the trees. Fortunately, Fukuyama is a fantastic writer and manages to be sensible and clearly understandable (daresay, practical?). By "political order", Fukuyama refers to the trifecta of a strong state institutions - the rule of law, political accountability and administrative capability. It is sometimes hard to figure out whether he means it in a normative sense, because almost none of the cases fulfill all the requirements, most of the time. Moreover, as someone who has read their James C. Scott, would question whether the modern state is even a desirable thing. Overall, even though Fukuyama does have an ideal in mind he's mostly interested in developing a toolbox to think about the nature of political power and its historical development across the world. Most history you read in school often feels like "one damn thing after another". Fukuyama avoids this and instead takes a comparative approach - juxtaposing political development in China, India, Middle-East and Europe against each other while grounding it in ideas of variance and selection from biological evolution. He carefully points out that human nature can't be ignored: Human beings never existed in a presocial state. The idea that human beings at one time existed as isolated individuals, who interacted either through anarchic violence (Hobbes) or in pacific ignorance of one another (Rousseau), is not correct. Human beings as well as their primate ancestors always lived in kin-based social groups of varying sizes. Indeed, they lived in these social units for a sufficiently long period of time that the cognitive and emotional faculties needed to promote social cooperation evolved and became hardwired in their genetic endowments. This means that a rational-choice model of collective action, in which individuals calculate that they will be better off by cooperating with one another, vastly understates the degree of social cooperation that exists in human societies and misunderstands the motives that underlie it. and It is important to resist the temptation to reduce human motivation to an economic desire for resources. Violence in human history has often been perpetrated by people seeking not material wealth but recognition. Conflicts are carried on long beyond the point when they make economic sense. Recognition is sometimes related to material wealth, but at other times it comes at the expense of material wealth, and it is an unhelpful oversimplification to regard it as just another type of “utility.” It's definitely not overclaiming that this book is major milestone in modern political thought and honestly worth reading by anyone interested in the modern world.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Fukuyama joins Max Weber, Emil Durkheim and Karl Marx as one of the Great Ones of Sociology and Political Theory with the first volume of this two volume work. I am in excited anticipation of the second volume, which has just recently been released. In the context of modern writers, Fukuyama is connecting the dots between Jared Diamond's works on prehistoric social development and Neil Furgusan's work on the ascendance of western society post middle ages. Fukuyama provides a comprehensive accoun Fukuyama joins Max Weber, Emil Durkheim and Karl Marx as one of the Great Ones of Sociology and Political Theory with the first volume of this two volume work. I am in excited anticipation of the second volume, which has just recently been released. In the context of modern writers, Fukuyama is connecting the dots between Jared Diamond's works on prehistoric social development and Neil Furgusan's work on the ascendance of western society post middle ages. Fukuyama provides a comprehensive account of the emergence of social order, beginning with our ape relatives, moving through prehistoric man proceeding to the emergence of more comtemporary forms of social order, up until the eve of French Revolution and the industrial age. Fukuyama gives the most complete account of the emergence of tribal organization from clan organization, including the critical importance of early religious ideas (i.e. ancestor worship) in this process. He details the importance of biological factors underlying social relatedness, debunking Hobbes AND Rousseau and he concludes with strong evidence based arguments that social order preexists the evolution of man entirely. Fukuyama goes on to posit the basic underpinnings of modern social institutions. He surveys the three pillars of a stable state: 1) a strong centralized state that overcomes tribal patrimonialism, 2) the rule of law, often beginning with a religious class that constrains the actions of state leaders and 3) political accountability that involves a cohesive civil society that demands accountability from it's leaders. Fukuyama takes us through a fascinating account of the emergence of the state in China, India, the Muslim World and Europe using these as examples that illustrate the commonalities and differences in state formation from tribal level society. I found Fukuyama's account of each of these instances to be deeply insightful and illuminating. From the Chin dynasty's invention of the state burocracy in the face of chronic war and widespread early literacy and Confucian philosophy to the Indian Caste and Jati system to the Muslim world's military slavery system of Mamelukes and Janissaries and finally to the European Catholic invention of celibate religious castes and cannon law, it seems that amazing cultural ingenuity was necessary to overcome the constraints of tribalism in moving to the modern state. Often this ingenuity came at a breathtaking cost of coercion and lost liberty, but this is the legacy we have inherited with the amazing power and potential of our modern state. The modern world, in all its diversity, suddenly makes so much more sense after reading volume one of this two volume tour de force. I can hardly wait to start on volume 2. It is loaded and ready to go on my ipod as I type this!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sebastien

    I'll be honest, this was a dense book for me, covering a lot of material from areas of history I'm woefully uneducated and ignorant of. But that was part of the fun, this book got me outside my comfort zone (namely US and European history) and gave me a feel for cultures and histories that I haven't been exposed to. I enjoyed the historical surveys of cultures like China and the Arab world. I felt I learned a lot. But I also feel this is a book I will need to reread. There is just so much materi I'll be honest, this was a dense book for me, covering a lot of material from areas of history I'm woefully uneducated and ignorant of. But that was part of the fun, this book got me outside my comfort zone (namely US and European history) and gave me a feel for cultures and histories that I haven't been exposed to. I enjoyed the historical surveys of cultures like China and the Arab world. I felt I learned a lot. But I also feel this is a book I will need to reread. There is just so much material to unpack, so many concepts and political developments with which I'm unfamiliar. And I was so focused on trying to follow and absorb the background history of these cultures that I sometimes got lost and missed out on the overarching themes and concepts Fukuyama was trying to hammer home. But overall just a great book imo, I learned a lot in regards to political development, comparative political science concepts, and was exposed and learned about multiple histories of different cultures. And as far as I can tell most of Fukuyama's arguments and points seemed reasonable and well-argued. But my grasp of the material is still tenuous and I think I'll greatly benefit from a reread.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    How Not to Write a History Book: The art of making a pile of mostly-derivations-from-primary-sources unengaging and lifeless (again). The third star is for the general education value. The likely winner of the most boring book of the year. Can't believe I got myself into reading the second (and even longer) one too. How Not to Write a History Book: The art of making a pile of mostly-derivations-from-primary-sources unengaging and lifeless (again). The third star is for the general education value. The likely winner of the most boring book of the year. Can't believe I got myself into reading the second (and even longer) one too.

  12. 5 out of 5

    John Farebrother

    A phenomenal book. I came across it by pure chance at a second-hand bookshop on the South Bank, and bought it because I was intrigued by the title "...from prehuman times". The sheer scholarship behind this book is incredible in itself. The author traces the evolution of human societies through three principle stages, bands - tribes - states. For his analysis of the earliest stage, he refers to studies of chimpanzees, and concludes that when people lived in groups of around 40 individuals, and ev A phenomenal book. I came across it by pure chance at a second-hand bookshop on the South Bank, and bought it because I was intrigued by the title "...from prehuman times". The sheer scholarship behind this book is incredible in itself. The author traces the evolution of human societies through three principle stages, bands - tribes - states. For his analysis of the earliest stage, he refers to studies of chimpanzees, and concludes that when people lived in groups of around 40 individuals, and everyone new each other, society could function without formal institutions. Rather, leaders were selected by consensus, based not so much on physical strength as on trust, and the ability to manage conflict within the group. For his analysis of the later stages of societal evolution, the author makes extensive and exhaustive reference to historical events. In order to progress from band to a larger, impersonal tribe, a new identity is required to which all can subscribe - based on a common religion. His study of the development of states debunks the notion that western civilisation is the gold standard. Rather he analyses in great detail a number of civilisations (China, India, the Middle East, Western and Eastern Europe) and explores how the common factors of society fared differently in different cultural and geographical conditions. In particular, how to ensure the loyalty of subjects to the artificial but inevitable superstructure, and prevent them reverting to the extended family as the state's natural rival. The book concludes on the eve of the French and American revolutions - and the industrial revolution. It certainly answers a lot of questions that have occurred to me over the years. Not the first great read I've bought at that bookshop - I hope they survive the pandemic!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    Really fantastic first volume that basically explains world political history. Read together with volume 2. It will be worth your while. It is along the lines of Sapiens and Debt by David Graeber and Fields of Blood by Armstrong--all of them a long view of history focused on one thread

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gwern

    Moved to gwern.net. Moved to gwern.net.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Charles Haywood

    Like Daniel Burnham, Francis Fukuyama makes no small plans. “The Origins of Political Order” aspires to be nothing less than an all-encompassing explanation of how human beings created political order. This book carries Fukuyama’s analysis up to the French Revolution; a second volume carries the story to the modern day. This volume is mostly taken up with creating and discussing a coherent framework that explains political order before the modern era. Much of what Fukuyama discusses here is non- Like Daniel Burnham, Francis Fukuyama makes no small plans. “The Origins of Political Order” aspires to be nothing less than an all-encompassing explanation of how human beings created political order. This book carries Fukuyama’s analysis up to the French Revolution; a second volume carries the story to the modern day. This volume is mostly taken up with creating and discussing a coherent framework that explains political order before the modern era. Much of what Fukuyama discusses here is non-Western societies, which makes it particularly interesting. The reason for the time break at the French Revolution is basically the Malthusian Trap. Before the West created societies in which productivity gains were so great that actual per capita income consistently rose, most of the world’s political orders were based on zero-sum games, where dividing the pie in your favor was the only road to wealth. This obviously has important implications for any political order (including that property rights create different incentives in a Malthusian world) and creates what appears to be a natural division (though, given that most of the non-Western world has not escaped the Malthusian Trap, it may not be a sensible division—I’ll have to see what the second volume says). In any case, Fukuyama divides this book into four main sections: Before The State; State Building; The Rule Of Law; and Accountable Government. This is in keeping with Fukuyama’s core thesis, which is that a modern optimal state, by which he means a liberal democracy, must contain three key characteristics. These are (a) a state, by which he means an effective central government; (b) the rule of law; and (c) accountability of the state to all its constituents. Most of this book is a detailed exploration of each of these characteristics and how they developed, or failed to develop, in the context of different historical global political orders. Counterpoised to all three characteristics is the strong human tendency towards patrimonialism—having as one’s main goal rewarding family and friends. Fukuyama’s explicit exemplar of a “modern optimal state” is Denmark; he repeatedly refers to the goal being “getting to Denmark,” “known to have good political and economic institutions: it is stable, democratic, peaceful, prosperous, inclusive, and has extremely low levels of political corruption.” Fukuyama begins his section “Before The State” with a review of how there are a lot of defective political orders today, even though towards the end of the 20th Century it seemed that liberal democracy was sweeping the world. He notes, as he does throughout the book, that there is no iron law of forward progress. Moreover, he makes clear up front that he is not a fan of the Nozickian state—as a core premise, he posits as essential a “strong, hierarchical government” resting on “a hidden institutional foundation of property rights, rule of law, and basic political order.” Fukuyama therefore rejects the Nozickian libertarian state. A Nozickian would claim that the Nozickian state is actually the essence of things Fukuyama cites as essential, and any more extensive state is unnecessary to accomplish those things. Fukuyama would respond (and does, as discussed below) that the state must itself have a certain degree of strength beyond securing those essential things, primarily in order to prevent erosion of central power and the creation thereby of weakness attractive to outside enemies. More generally, though, Fukuyama does not fear Leviathan as long as it is bound by the rule of law and accountable; he apparently sees no inherent virtue in smaller and less intrusive government. In this first section, occasionally Fukuyama stumbles, as when he quotes Amartya Sen to the effect that democracy is the “default political condition” and nowadays “taken to be generally right,” and then noting that “very few people around the world openly profess to admire Vladimir Putin’s petronationalism, or Hugo Chavez’s ‘twenty-first-century socialism,” or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Islamic republic.” This was not true even when the book was written in 2011. Mainstream left-wingers around the world, including the entire American left, openly and effusively praised Chavez during his entire career, writing glowing articles about his supposed success (yet another tedious example of the search for a supposed Third Way). Even now, as Venezuela collapses completely into ruin, most liberals, as usual, do not ascribe the gruesome failure to Chavez or to authoritarian socialism generally And since 2011, the number of people around the world openly admiring Putin has grown by leaps and bounds, and even Iran has been embraced by the community of nations, though neither nation has moved any closer to democracy. This, and most of Fukuyama’s few other analytical stumbles, seem to relate to a combination of his optimism and belief that, despite the many bad people out there, that most people are good and ultimately striving to “get to Denmark.” That’s probably not a safe assumption. Maybe they’re instead striving to get to Denmark’s valuables, like the migrants who flooded into Europe beginning in the summer of 2015. Anyway, Fukuyama notes that the idea that humans voluntarily formed political orders out of some pre-social existence, whether according to the system of Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau or Paine, is silly. There was never some pre-social state of nature. Chimpanzees have a political order, and we adopted it. Band-level human organization is essentially the same as chimpanzee organization; it revolves around being tied to and favoring family and friends—patrimonialism.. Humans made such organization more complex and found ways to increase social cohesion, but it’s basically the same ways chimps act. Here Fukuyama also introduces another major theme of his book, which is that humans are driven by much more than economics—like chimps, they are driven as much, or more, by other drives, such as the desire to benefit kin, and the desire for status and recognition independent of economic benefits. Fukuyama explains how all primitive societies have characteristics in common, one major one being the “tyranny of cousins”—family obligations are everything, and band-level societies are largely egalitarian, reducing the incentives for any one person to create additional value. At the same time, in primitive societies having large amounts of property held in common actually does not lead to the “tragedy of the commons,” and in fact works fairly well. Western-style property rights are not critical to functioning at this level. (Fukuyama also notes in passing that there is zero evidence any matriarchal society has ever existed, myths to the contrary notwithstanding.) He explains how “segmentary” band-level societies may fight with each other, but combine to fight outsiders. (To use an example Fukuyama does not use, the Hatfields and McCoys fought each other, but would likely have fought together against outsiders, or Yankees.) Humans then created tribal-level societies—essentially bands forming together on the basis of descent from an (often fictive) common ancestor, usually with a chief having very limited powers at their head. Such tribes were capable of greater organization, greater warfare, and greater productivity. But the need to reward relatives, followers and clients was still the key—until the early Roman Empire, in fact, tribalism was in many ways the basic organizing principle of Rome, and is still very important in most of the world, including modern India and China. In such societies, there was neither a state, nor rule of law, nor accountability. Next came state-level societies (chiefdoms, followed later by true states), distinguished from tribes by having centralized authority with a monopoly on legitimate coercion, and by being based on territory, not kinship status. Fukuyama rejects various theories of how this happened, from it being a voluntary compact to being necessary to create irrigation to merely having a dense enough population. His favored explanation is that once there is adequate wealth, population density and status differentiation, thereafter when there is organized violence arising from other people, particularly states, those not organized as states have a strong incentive to so organize, because it makes warfare much more effective. This effect is increased when geography makes movement away from conflict difficult or impossible, and by religious beliefs that also tend to legitimize central authority (e.g., Islam). He also notes that even so, in most modern states, tribalism lies just under the surface, and “complex kinship structures remain the primary locus of social life.” And so the human desire to reward kin and friends, patrimonialism, is always pulling in the opposite direction, very strongly in all societies, except in Europe, where Christianity early “undermined kinship as a basis for social cohesion.” Fukuyama says that we don’t have to guess whether this is all true. We can prove it, using China as the exemplar. China was the first modern state, and much of its history is extremely well documented. So China is what Fukuyama turns to when starting his next major section, “State Building.” Fukuyama defines a state as “an organization deploying a legitimate monopoly of violence over a defined territory”, which is “subject to a rational division of labor, based on technical specialization and expertise, and impersonal both with regard to recruitment and their authority over citizens.” Here, Fukuyama begins with discussing Chinese tribalism and the importance of family and kinship to all past and present Chinese social institutions, including agnatic (male-line) descent and its implications for inheritance and other social structures. (In several places in the book Fukuyama notes that traditionally a Chinese person’s obligations to his parents are greater than those to his children, a highly alien concept in the West.) China’s first proto-state was the Zhou “feudalism” around 1200 B.C., which was still largely a grouping not of lords under a ruler, but of lords and their kinship groups under a weak central state. But Fukuyama’s thesis is that what drove China to a true state structure, first under the Qin, was incessant warfare, leading to vastly greater mobilization of men for war than in ancient Rome or Greece. States were able to organize an efficient military; tax to fund that military; maintain a bureaucracy to organize that military; and administer that military over time and space. Fukuyama emphasizes that while China created the first modern state, it totally lacked, at all times and places, both the rule of law and accountability, and thus was and is far from the “optimal state.” One particularly interesting (and lengthy) discussion here is the conflict in China between the ideas of Legalism and Confucianism. We think of Chinese moral thought, which is the only brake on the state given the Chinese lack of rule of law, as essentially equivalent to Confucianism, with its emphasis on a perfect past that must be emulated and resulting moral (but only moral) limits on societies and especially rulers. But during earlier periods, including the Qin, Legalism held sway, which was basically a positivist theory not dissimilar to modern leftist thought (and, as Fukuyama points out, to Chinese Communist thought). “The Legalists proposed to treat subjects not as moral beings to be cultivated through education and learning but as Homo economicus, self-interested individuals who would respond to positive and negative incentives—particularly punishments. The Legalist state therefore sought to undermine tradition, break the bonds of family moral obligations, and rebind citizens to the state on a new basis.” This means not even a moral brake on the power of the state. But ultimately Confucianism was restored to primacy, until Communism, such that at least a moral brake existed on the power of the state. In the many hundreds of years of various Chinese states, the pendulum swung back and forth between central states, of varying strengths, and reversions to tribal-type patrimonialism. The reversions weren’t to true tribal-type patrimonialism, though. All actors aspired to re-create a central state—but many merely wanted that as a device to extend patrimonialism. They didn’t want to build up local power groups based on kin but rather to insert their kin into a reconstituted central government, which would act as a front for patrimonialist distribution of goods and power. Needless to say, this is not what Fukuyama considers an optimal political order. Fukuyama then spends a great deal of time on comparative Indian history. All of it is fascinating. His ultimate conclusion is that India ended up the opposite of China—it never had a strong central state, nor aspired to it, largely because India always had very strong social groups, largely originating in and reinforced by the religious norms of Hinduism. Strong non-state social bonds and rules prevented strong state formation. In fact, India initially started down the same path of China of state formation, but detoured when Hinduism became the dominant religion. (In many ways, Fukuyama’s analysis of strong social connections preventing strong state control is reminiscent of Robert Nisbet’s theses in “The Quest For Community.”) In the context of state development, as well as more generally, Fukuyama is highly critical of those who see religion as merely a screen for other motivations, such as economic drivers, noting that “such explanations fail to penetrate the subjectively experienced coherence of the society and reflect nothing more than the secular biases of the observers themselves.” Fukuyama sees religion as both a key motivator of human actions, and very often a key component of most of the steps in the creation of states. The third group analyzed for its state-like characteristics is the Islamic caliphate and its offshoots, including the Mamluk sultanate. Here Fukuyama emphasizes the well-known role of Islamic military slavery, whether Mamluk or Ottoman, in preventing backsliding into patrimonialism and therefore supporting a strong central state. And, of course, as those slave systems eroded, patrimonialism (a key component of human nature) returned, and the states lost power. Finally, Fukuyama discusses how Europe was able to form states more effectively than anywhere else in the world, because the medieval Roman church undermined kinship groups, by providing both a separate power source and by encouraging legal structures that permitted property donation to the Church, thus reducing family legacy power. (He notes how, again contrary to myth, in England from an early time women could hold and sell property outside the family, as well as sue and be sued, and make wills and contracts without the permission of a male guardian.) Fukuyama posits that European feudalism, which was uniquely not kin-based and allowed smooth power and economic relations among non-related individuals, was an alternative to kinship-based systems. European feudalism was necessary to organize defenses to warfare when kinship systems had been eroded, but its creation smoothed the way to the formation of modern states, since it prevented patrimonialism. The third major section of the book is “Rule Of Law.” Fukuyama defines this, commonly enough, as where “the preexisting body of law is sovereign over legislation,” whatever the source of that preexisting body of law. Here, most of the discussion centers around Europe, where the rule of law emerged early and which is the only set of societies that has consistently maintained the rule of law. (Fukuyama never makes it explicit, at least in this volume, but really only European societies have ever met his definition of optimal societies.) But rule of law is not, for Fukuyama, basically the same as property rights, as many libertarians would have it. He points out that, as in China, you can have “good enough” property rights and contract enforcement to permit economic growth, while still totally lacking the rule of law. In Fukuyama’s vision, the rule of law permeates all relations between the state and members of its constituent groups. The start of Fukuyama’s analysis centers around England. He locates the origin of European rule of law in relatively strong central government in England, which led to the Common Law being centrally administered, eroding the ability of local elites to avoid the rule of law to benefit themselves. The king’s willingness to enforce the law against the such elites (combined with other features of England, like less separation between local elites and local non-elites than found elsewhere) allowed the law to be seen, countrywide, as impartial and beneficial to all. This reinforced the legitimacy of the English state, creating first in England the two legs of the tripod Fukuyama views as the essence of modern optimal government. Outside England, though, it was the role of Catholic Church in promulgating a reinvigorated civil law based on Roman law that created a broader rule of law (although the Church also contributed to the English rule of law). After the investiture controversy between Gregory VII and Henry IV, the Church was firmly established as an independent player in European law, and was itself in many ways a modern state, a “modern, hierarchical, bureaucratic, and law-governed institution,” that had eliminated patrimonialism by mandating clerical celibacy. The Church used its authority to promulgate canon law, based on Roman law and made coherent by Gratian, thus “accustom[ing] rulers to the idea that they were not the ultimate source of the law.” And the separation of church and state also allowed room for the modern secular state, as opposed to a caeasaropapist state like Byzantium or Islam, to emerge. Fukuyama repeatedly rejects the Marxist and Weberian view of the Reformation as the key element in the creation of modern Europe as ahistorical. Instead, he points to the early exit out of kinship patrimonialism and the creation of a modern legal order, both caused solely by the Catholic Church in the early Middle Ages. Outside Europe, Islam and India also had a form of the rule of law, though not to the degree of Europe. China never did, and does not to this day. Fukuyama emphasizes that contrary to common belief, medieval Islam was not theocratic, where religious leaders rule the state. Instead, it was caeasaropapist, where secular rulers dominate religion. This meant that in theory at least Muslim secular rulers recognized separate divine authority, which resulted in a species of the rule of law. However, the lack of any organized central religious authority in practice allowed secular rulers to never have to actually do anything they didn’t want to do. In an interesting aside, Fukuyama cites Noah Feldman to the effect that a significant driver of modern Islamism is the desire to leave the “lawless authoritarianism of contemporary regimes.” In this analysis, the demand for sharia law is not a theocratic reaction, but a demand for a more balanced regime featuring the rule of law. In other words, more religion, less tyranny. I find this compelling, though by no means the entire explanation, since there have been plenty of demands for pure theocracy in Muslim history, such as the Kharijites. [There's more, but Goodreads won't let me post a review longer than this--so if you care, and you're still reading, you can go see the rest at my Amazon review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    stormin

    I'm writing this review 6 months after finishing the book for a pretty simple reason: I had precisely 100 notes to transcribe into Evernote before I was ready to write my review. That should tell you how much I got out of the book, by the way. There are a only a few books--probably the The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, maybe The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates--that netted me more fascinating notes and quotes than this one I'm writing this review 6 months after finishing the book for a pretty simple reason: I had precisely 100 notes to transcribe into Evernote before I was ready to write my review. That should tell you how much I got out of the book, by the way. There are a only a few books--probably the The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, maybe The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates--that netted me more fascinating notes and quotes than this one did. I loved it. I guess it's a work of political theory, but for the most part it reads as history with a dash of evolutionary psychology. In exploring the origins of political order, Fukuyama starts by going way, way back before pre-history to make his first essential point: biology matters. In this regard, he's echoing Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, but the relationship here is fairly specific. According to Fukuyama, the primary problem with thinkers like Rousseau or Hobbes isn't that they got the particulars of pre-social humanity right, it's that the concept of "pre-social humanity" is an oxymoron. Humans, as the expression goes, are social animals. And that means we're political animals. Politics didn't come later--after the invention of writing or agriculture --but have been there from the beginning, inextricably intertwined with our development of speech. So, from this "biological foundation of politics", Fukuuama draws the following propositions: * human beings never existed in a presocial state * natural human sociability is built around two principles, kin selection and reciprocal altruism * human beings have an innate propensity for creating and following norms or rules * human beings have a natural propensity for violence * human beings by nature desire not just material resources but also recognition After laying this groundwork, Fukuyama than goes on to describe in broad strokes the evolution of human societies from bands to tribes to states. He invokes principles from biological evolution explicitly here, arguing that societies compete against each other in ways that are sometimes (but not always) analogous to competition between animals. This analogy shouldn't be taken too far: there are treacherous debates about whether organisms or genes compete, for example, and about the viability of group selection, but Fukuyama's primary concern is actually with the differences between biological and political evolution, and so those nuances are forgiveably overlooked. As for the bands -> tribes -> states progression, the basic notion is that bands (groups of no more than 100 or so at the most) are held together by actual blood relation. Tribalism is a social innovation that allows bands to come together by claiming (real or fictitious) common descent. Two bands might have the same patriarch or matriarch, however, and so in the face of a common enemy they can rapidly coalesce into a single unit. This capacity means that it's fairly easy for tribal societies to defeat band societies, and as a result almost no band societies are left in existence. (Those that do remain are in remote locations where the benefits of tribalism do not apply.) But tribal segments are intrinsically unstable. Fukuyama cites an Arab expression: "Me against my brother, me and my brother against my cousin, me and my cousin against the stranger." When there is no stranger to confront, the cousins go to war. When there is no cousin on the horizon, the siblings feud. And so states are yet another progression--as superior to tribes as tribes are to bands--because of their ability to support not only temporary, contingent cooperation but permanent, universal cooperation. (Not that states are Utopias, of course, but simply that in a functioning state predation--murder, theft, and rape--are dangers the state opposes instead of relying on individuals to provide their own deterrence and defense.) Another argument he makes--and this one seems just a little tangential--can be summarized as "ideas matter." [I had to cut this section because I hit Goodreads' character limit. See my blog for the full version of this review if you're interested in this section.] But the primary concern of the book is this question: how do political order arise? For Fukuyama, political order has three components: 1. State building 2. Rule of law 3. Accountable government His account is contrarian basically from start to finish, but never (to my mind) gratuitously so. He argues, for example, that instead of starting with the rise of liberal democracy in the West, the key starting position is ancient China, the first society to develop a state in the modern sense. On the other hand, China never developed a robust rule of law. It was rather rule by law, a situation in which the emperor was not constrained by the idea of transcendent laws (either religious or, later, constitutional) and therefore China's precocious, early state became as much a curse as a blessing: [P]recocious state building in the absence of rule of law and accountability simply means that states can tyrannize their populations more effectively. Every advance in material well-being and technology implies, in the hands of an unchecked state, a greater ability to control society and to use it for the state's own purposes. Fukuyama's historical analysis is far-reaching. He spends quite a lot of time on India and the Middle East as well. At last he turns his analysis on Europe where--quite apart from the conventional East / West dichotomy--he goes country-by-country to show how the basic problems confronted by states in China, India, and the Middle East also sabotaged the development of most European states. France and Spain became weak absolutist governments with state building and rule of law, but no accountability. Russia became a strongly absolutist government. The difference? The central rules of Spain and France managed to subvert their political rivals (the aristocracy), but only just barely. In Russia, the czars completely dominated their political rivals, ruling with more or less unchecked power. Fukuyama spends a lot of this time on England, specifically, which he holds up as a kind of lottery winner where all sorts of factors that went awry everywhere else managed to line up correctly. And the story he tells is a fascinating one, because he inverts basically everything you've been taught in school. Here's a characteristic passage where he summarizes a few arguments that he makes at length in the book: [T]he exit out of kinship-based social organization had started already during the Dark Ages with the conversion of Germanic barbarians to Christianity. The right of individuals including women to freely buy and sell property was already well established in England in the 13th century. The modern legal order had its roots in the fight waged by the Catholic church against the emperor in the late 11th century, and the first European bureaucratic organizations were created by the church to manage its own internal affairs. The Catholic church, long vilified as an obstacle to modernization, was in this longer-term perspective at least as important as the Reformation as the driving force behind key aspects of modernity. Thus the European path to modernization was not a spasmodic burst of change across all dimensions of development, but rather a series of piecemeal shifts over a period of nearly 1,500 years. In this peculiar sequence, individualism on the social level could precede capitalism. Rule of law could precede the formation of a modern state. And feudalism, in the form of strong pockets of local resistance to central authority, could be the foundation of modern democracy. It's a fascinating argument--just because it's original and well-argued--but I also found it convincing. I think Fukuyama is basically correct. So a couple more notes. First, there are basically two problems that Fukuyama sees consistently eroding political order, and both of them go back to the biological foundations of politics. The first is what he calls repatrimonialization. To keep things simple, let's just say "nepotism" instead. The idea is that the band-level origins of human nature never go away, and the temptation to use the state's authority to enrich one's own kin is omnipresent. His discussion of the Catholic church's invention of the doctrine of celibacy to successfully stave off this threat (bishops kept trying to pass on their callings to their children before that doctrine was created) and the unsuccessful attempts of the Mamluk Sultanate to use slave soldiers to stave off this threat (eventually the slave soldiers grew so politically powerful that they "reformed" the prohibitions against passing on property) are some of the most historically illuminating in the book. The second problem is human conservatism. Fukuyama doesn't mean in the partisan sense. He's referring to our tendency--a universal aspect of human nature--to invent and then follow norms and laws. The problem here is that once we invent our laws, we stick to them. And when circumstances change, the norms/laws (and institutions) should change too, but humans don't like to do that. So one of the #1 causes of the downfall of political order is a historically successful state proving incapable of reforming institutions to meet a changing environment due to sheer inertia. The classic example is pre-revolution France, and here Fukuyama finds a convention with which he has no quarrel: We have seen numerous examples of rent-seeking coalitions that have prevented necessary institutional change and therefore provoked political decay. The classic one from which the very term rent derives was ancient regime France, where the monarchy had grown strong over two centuries by co-opting much of the French elite. This co-option took the form of the actual pruchase of small pieces of the state, which could then be handed down to descendants. When reformist ministers like Maupeou and Turgot sought to change the system by abolishing venal office altogether, the existing stakeholders were strong enough to block any action. The problem of venal officeholding was solved only through violence in the course of the revolution. That was the first note (what are the threats that political order must overcome), and we get into those in a lot more detail in his second volume: Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy. I also read that back in May, it's also going to get 5-stars, but I've got another 100 or so notes to transcribe first! The second note I wanted to make was about partisanship. First, it's important to note that although Fukuyama celebrates the rise of modern liberalism in England, he's not promoting English exceptionalism. He spends a lot of time talking about what he calls "getting to Denmark." His point there is that Denmark is also a widely-respected stable, modern, prosperous democracy and it didn't follow the trajectory of England. The point is that he's not saying: everyone, copy the English. Although he traces the origins of liberalism the farthest back in time in England, he specifically notes that if Denmark could find its own way into liberalism without retracing that path: so can other nations. This is an important point, because Fukuyama is dealing in comparative politics, and he has no problem drawing rather sweeping (albeit justified, in my mind) generalizations between, for example, India and China. This is the kind of thing that anyone in my generation or younger (young Gen-X / Millenials) has been trained to reflexively reject. If you compare societies, it's because you're a racist. Given that Fukuyama is comparing societies--and that he arguably has the most praise for the English in terms of the philosophical origins of modern liberalism--there is no doubt in my mind that he's going to be (has been) attacked as a kind of apologist for white supremacy, etc. And that's not true. First, because as I said he's adamant about the fact that other nations can (and have) found their way to liberalism without imitating all aspects of English (let alone European) culture, society, or politics. Second, because he has plenty of non-European success stories. (Unfortunately, those are mostly from his second volume, since this one only goes up to the French Revolution and so doesn't cover the explosion of democracy world-wide since that time.) Third, and finally, because he's more than willing to look at pros and cons of differing systems. For example, going back to China and their problem with despotism, here's a comment he makes towards the end of the book: An authoritarian system can periodically run rings around a liberal democratic one under good leadership, since it is able to make quick decisions unencumbered by legal challenges or legislative secondguessing. On the other hand, such a system depends on a constant supply of good leaders. Under a bad emperor, the unchecked powers vested in the government can lead to disaster. This problem remains key in contemporary China, where accountability flows only upward and not downward. This is the kind of clear-eyed, open-minded analysis that I think we need more of, not less of. It's hard to argue, for example, with the success of S. Korea in leap-frogging from despotism to liberal democracy. There's no reason--in principle--that China could not do something similar. (Other than problems of scale, that is.) So here's my final thoughts. First: this is a fascinating book and it's a lot of fun to read. It's full of interesting history along with interesting theorizing. Second: I am convinced by Fukuyama's arguments. And lastly, I have a lot of respect for his approach. He's a centrist, and so he's going to tick some people off for praising the kinds of things that radicals like to attack. If you think liberal democracy is the devil, Fukuyama is an apologist for Satan. On the other hand, it would be entirely wrong to dismiss him as a partisan hack. He interacts with Hayek a lot, for example, but this includes a mixture of praise on some points and also staunch criticism on others. He's willing to laud capitalism (as the evidence warrants, I might add) but also to tip some of the rights sacred cows. "Free markets are necessary to promote long-term growth," he says, but finishes the sentence with, "but they are not self-regulating." He also savages the small-government obsession of the right, arguing that if you like small government, maybe you should move to Somalia. He's not just ridiculing the right in that case, however, but pointing out that: Political institutions are necessary and cannot be taken for granted. A market economy and high levels of wealth don't magically appear when you "get government out of the way"; they rest on a hidden institutional foundation of property rights, rule of law, and basic political order. A free market, a vigorous civil society, the spontaneous "wisdom of crowds" are all important components of a working democracy, but none can ultimately replace the functions of a strong, hierarchical government. There has been a broad recognition among economist in recent years that "institutions matter": poor countries are poor not because they lack resources but because they lack effective political institutions. We need therefore to better understand where those institutions come from. In other words--and he returns to this point in the second volume--Fukuyama is dismissive of arguments about the quantity of government in favor of arguments about the quality of government. His ideas are interesting, they are relevant, and they are compelling. I highly, highly recommend this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Umair Khan

    Francis Fukuyama will always be best known, and mostly misunderstood, for his prophetic work The End of History and The Last Man celebrating the prevalence of democratic values and institutions over communism. This writing was influenced by the conservative Chicago philosopher, Allan Bloom who has despised the intellectual relativism growing in the American politics since then. Fukuyama feared, quite rightfully, that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, American politics will only be focused Francis Fukuyama will always be best known, and mostly misunderstood, for his prophetic work The End of History and The Last Man celebrating the prevalence of democratic values and institutions over communism. This writing was influenced by the conservative Chicago philosopher, Allan Bloom who has despised the intellectual relativism growing in the American politics since then. Fukuyama feared, quite rightfully, that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, American politics will only be focused on the mundane issues of administration rather than following larger-than-life ideological battles. Fukuyama worked with Rand Corporation, the military focused think tank, during the 1980s. His assignment was to devise a strategy to counter the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It started Fukuyama’s brief interlude with the ISI that culminated in devising the policy for fighting Soviet army in Afghanistan with American dollars and Pakistani strategic help to Afghan Mujahideen. He has also had political associations with the neoconservative movement. He signed a letter after the September 11 attacks urging President Bush to overthrow Saddam Hussein. But by 2006, he accepted his miscalculation and has been criticising the neoconservatives and invasion of Iraq since then. “All of the Kissinger-era realists have gone away. Today, the party is just a wasteland”, he says about present day Republicans. The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution is a dedication to Samuel Huntington, the man best known for his Clash of Civilizations thesis. Fukuyama states in the preface that his new book is inspired from Huntington’s Political Order in Changing Societies and that he seeks to find how the political order originated in the first place, factors contributing to it and why some societies still have not been able to achieve it. Those who have some interest in political theory dealing with the questions of the origin and development of political institutions might think that so much has been contemplated and put to writing by classical and modern political philosophers on the subject that there is really no need to ramble on these speculative questions anymore. We find varying and sometimes contradictory stances in the views of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and so many others. However Fukuyama, living in the 21st century, has one advantage over these classical theorists and that is the vast knowledge base produced by anthropology, archeology, etcetera, to which he has access. This book is based on certain assumptions; there is a universal human nature exhibiting certain behaviours like favouring relatives, reciprocal altruism, establishing rules, and competing for self-interest. These behaviours, according to Fukuyama, have given rise to certain political practices that can be seen throughout history. During nomadic times of hunter-gatherer societies, people formed kinship groups and their lives were tightly knit along kinship lines. This was the first kind of social, political and economic association. In Fukuyama’s words, kinship association generated “tyranny of cousins”. The only way out of it was the next step along political evolution, the creation of states. But, even the formation of state could not completely solve the problem of kinship and the kind of favouritism it breeds. It only shifted it up the chain. Now there were powerful rulers extending favors to their relatives. This phenomenon is present in today’s world, more visibly in the Middle East monarchies. To address this intrinsic problem of human nature, the concepts of accountability and rule of law were introduced. Fukuyama is of the opinion that history of political developments juggles between power grabbing centralising forces and rights disseminating decentralising forces. Every society needs a balance between these two forces to establish political order otherwise anarchy and chaos prevails. A strong centralised state was established in ancient China which prevailed over tribalism by the Qin Dynasty by developing an official class loyal to the state rather than to family. But this society lacked accountability and became too centrally strong which proved to be fatal for its further development. Walking forward through the millennia Fukuyama investigates the political evolution of the Islamic caliphate: “There is no clearer illustration of the importance of ideas to politics than the emergence of an Arab state under the Prophet Muhammad”. Muslim emperors devised the institutions of slave-armies which had no family ties; their sole purpose was to serve the state. Then Fukuyama gives an example of 13th century Hungary arriving at its own Magna Carta (“the golden bull”) and transferring powers to nobles from the monarch. But Hungary could not evolve a stable constitutional government like Britain because the king was extremely weakened and there was no force to unify the rebellious nobles exploiting their peasants. Nobles were also too powerful in France which resulted in disenchantment of masses with the existing political structure and their discontent was expressed through the French Revolution. Fukuyama also analyses why the poorer societies cannot easily develop effective states. Just as institutions are too complicated to be changed easily, so too they are hard to develop, he professes. “Poor countries are poor not because they lack resources,” he writes, “but because they lack effective political institutions.” Where there is no rule of law, there cannot be effective political and economic development. This line of thought, however, puts Fukuyama at odds with the Marxist theorists who base all social and political development on economic resources. Fukuyama is mainly interested in civilizations and how societies achieve political order. As opposed to Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, which focuses largely on material and geographical causes, Fukuyama analyses behavioural and cultural values in order to answer the question of political evolution. The Origins of Political Order is volume one of a two-volume work, and Fukuyama intends to take the discussion up to the contemporary times (this one ends with the French revolution) with the second volume. Notably, in recent talks, Fukuyama stays loyal to his earlier thesis and stresses that the modern liberal state is still in his view the end of history. Published: http://beta.dawn.com/news/708856/non-...

  18. 5 out of 5

    M Jahangir kz

    An excellent book, it has proved to be such a thought provoking and knowledgeable book, it covers absolutely everything in the subject of political order from pre humans up to the eve of American and French Revolution, that too very vividly and meticulously. The main theme of the book is the building blocks of modern political order, these are State, Rule of Law, and Accountable Government, it covers how these institutions came into being in the first place, in what order and what sequence, and An excellent book, it has proved to be such a thought provoking and knowledgeable book, it covers absolutely everything in the subject of political order from pre humans up to the eve of American and French Revolution, that too very vividly and meticulously. The main theme of the book is the building blocks of modern political order, these are State, Rule of Law, and Accountable Government, it covers how these institutions came into being in the first place, in what order and what sequence, and how these differs from place to place, or civilization to civilization. This book is the first volume work of the two volumes, the second volume book is “Political order and Political Decay”, the first volume work covers the world of Pre Malthusian world, that is how the political order evolves in pre industrial world, the second volume will continue this theory of political order but with the advent of industrial revolution in 1800, the factors have changed significantly, so it would take on the questions of how contemporary political order differs from the agrarian societies. This volume traces the emergence of political order, how the state, rule of law, and accountable government first appeared, and what were the origins and causes that triggers the development of these complex and complicated institutions First of all, the attributes we associate with modern states are, a centralized, uniform, cohesive state which has a monopoly of power over specific territory that is capable of enforcing laws over its people. This type of state first emerged in china, in 321B.C, the Qin Dynasty uniformed china well before any other country in the world, Chinese state emerged some two thousand year before any state that emerged in Europe, there are several factors that facilitate in state building, one of the factor is the constant threat of war, tribal people used to invade Chinese territory. Beside this Chinese build an administrative system on impersonal bases, that is the state recruited individuals on the grounds of merits rather than employing on kin based or patrimonial bases, the modern recruitment in bureaucracy in all the countries today is the system that Chinese developed before the Christ, impersonal recruitment were based on Mandarin exam. However, in the case of Arab, the state emerged due to two basic reasons, first the Charismatic leadership of Prophet Muhammad and then the social contract that of universal Umma, which proved to significant for Arabs to give up their tribal associations and unite on the words of God under one umbrella, through this the tribal culture in Arab transcended and gave way to the making of state. Moving on to the second building block, Rule of law. In Arab, Indian, and European world law used to be considered as divine, that is law is from the God, this is because of the religion that evolved in these regions, whereas in China Buddhism or Confucianism never became the core of the society, therefore Chinese leaders have always considered themselves sovereign, they are free to do anything, they have no any obligations of any law whatsoever, it was true of ancient and it is true of modern china as well, The communist party in china is sovereign, so it has always been the case in china that if there is a good leader then without any check and balances Chinese system can do wonders but what is the mechanism of producing good leaders all the time, one bad leader, just like the evil empress Wu, then the Chinese system is very vulnerable. There is a an inverse relation between state and society, the powerful the state, the weaker the society, weaker the state, powerful the society, Indian society because of the Brahminic religion has always been very mobilized therefore the whole of the India has never been ruled by a single empire, later on the institutions in Indian world were brought on by the foreign invaders, first the Muslims then the British Raj, even now India is an independent country but the state is weak, it is unable to build rapid hydroelectric dams, infrastructures and other modernization projects because of the hindrance in the way of the state, the vibrant civil society, the ancient religious norms, if a leader want to build a project in china, it would be built without any fuss, whereas in India, the protesters would be on the way if one wants to bulldoze preexisting buildings for grand project buildings. No matter how beneficial it is, the project would go out of the picture. As Hayek said, just as the biological evolution, law has also evolved through an evolutionary process of its own, it didn’t come into being instantly, when thousands of people interact with each other, the choices they make, on the empirical ground, those that are useful are accepted and taken on whereas others being disregarded. Coming on to the last building block of political order, the Accountable Government. The accountable government came in to being in England and Denmark, and through British offshoots America, it spread all over the world. The state generates and exercise power whereas rule of law, and accountable government restrict the power of state, these two are the checks on state. Most formal checks in accountable government are of the democratic elections, if you do not like the performance of any party you have the choice of not choosing that party again for that role. Beside this there are also moral checks on the authority of any leader or state. Accountable government emerges where two main players, the state, and the society, are equally strong enough that both are able to balance off each other, if the society is weak and the state strong then it will be Absolutist government, just like Russia, if state is weak but centralized and aristocratic elites of the society are strong then the state would e weak Absolutist, like the ancient regime of France, prior to French revolution the regime was so entrenched in the debts that it use to sell public offices to elites and which in turn became heritable property, patrimonialism was at its peak, state was unable to enforce taxes on the rich therefore all the burden was transferred to the peasants, this system was so tightly knocked that even after its leader realized that they need to change it, they couldn’t and in the French revolution the masses torn that system apart. This was an excellent book, it has unfolded many events that I was unaware of, a great book if one is interested in the subject but also for those who are thirsty of knowledge, it will teach you more than 10 15 books combined. With this book my ignorance has reduced to many folds, it will take the start from the earliest humans, then it would unfold upon us how we became what we are today, from communicating to discovering religion to language, Rituals and so on. Then it will talk about the livings of earliest societies, how human used to live in bands, tribes, how they spread from Africa to whole of the planet. How we build state level societies, how the institutions in Christian world, Indian world, Muslims world and Chinese world differs from each other, what is the causes of these changes in the societies, what are the factors that each society has evolved differently. Not just this but it will meticulously talk about the Mamluks and ottoman empire in Muslims world, it will discuss the ancient French and Spanish regime, it will talk about all the important Chinese dynasty, from Qin, Han, Tang, and Ming to others. It will discuss the English society, how church became independent, how the barons in 1215 conceded from the king john that he is not above the law, the magna carta that is, the investiture conflict, the common law, the Justinian code, the English civil wars of monarch with parliamentarian, which ended up in the victory of the latter with the sitting monarch getting beheaded. It would talk about the glorious revolution of 1688-89. So, there is a struggle, if we talk about England, and Denmark, they didn’t become great nations overnight. This volume cover events up to the French revolution, and from French revolutions onwards to present day we will have to read the second volume of this work.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Ambitious, incomplete (even for a first-of-two books), closed-minded, and interesting. Tries to pass off a lot of fairly unremarkable stuff as profound, and I'm not convinced that he knows all that much about the political philosophy that he spends a decent amount of time talking about. In any event, his summaries of how various modern states came into being are really cool, and he dissects a lot of the current thinking on development issues in an accessible way. Just take him with a grain of sa Ambitious, incomplete (even for a first-of-two books), closed-minded, and interesting. Tries to pass off a lot of fairly unremarkable stuff as profound, and I'm not convinced that he knows all that much about the political philosophy that he spends a decent amount of time talking about. In any event, his summaries of how various modern states came into being are really cool, and he dissects a lot of the current thinking on development issues in an accessible way. Just take him with a grain of salt when he puts on his analyzing hat and remember that, even though admitted that neocons were full of it, he still thinks that "history" ended in 1806.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Helio

    The sections on hunter gatherers and early agriculture were five star reads providing insights and perspectives beyond what I learned in anthropology and archaeology courses, although I didn't agrree with everything. I was making notes just about every page. Then the following chapters became a slog, having to read sentences, paragraphs and whole pages over again. I only found about one thing per chapter noteworthy. His claim on page 469 "One of the reasons why there is so much corruption in poor The sections on hunter gatherers and early agriculture were five star reads providing insights and perspectives beyond what I learned in anthropology and archaeology courses, although I didn't agrree with everything. I was making notes just about every page. Then the following chapters became a slog, having to read sentences, paragraphs and whole pages over again. I only found about one thing per chapter noteworthy. His claim on page 469 "One of the reasons why there is so much corruption in poor countries is that they cannot afford to pay their civil servants adequate salaries..." could have used some comparisons to well-off officials being corrupt (say Russia, China or even Canada). I think it is more a matter of greed and opportunity. The book didn't spark enough interest to read the sequel.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Manu

    Once upon a time, humans moved around in bands. Then there were tribes, and then there were states. States and the societies that make up its population have developed a bunch of institutions (defined as "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behaviour"), some of which are uniformly present across the globe, and some not. How did this variation happen? Why is every country not a democracy, which is largely accepted as the best trade-off for all concerned? How did different countries reach their Once upon a time, humans moved around in bands. Then there were tribes, and then there were states. States and the societies that make up its population have developed a bunch of institutions (defined as "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behaviour"), some of which are uniformly present across the globe, and some not. How did this variation happen? Why is every country not a democracy, which is largely accepted as the best trade-off for all concerned? How did different countries reach their current form? That's what this book is all about - how did different countries develop institutions that currently make up their current society and state? The author categories institutions into 3 types - the state, the rule of law, and accountable government. The current successful model of democracy has all three in a stable balance. How did it get here? He begins right from the biological foundations of human behaviour, which dictated man's predisposition to kin-based groups, the formation of norms and rules, the desire for not just resources, but recognition too, and how social institutions of some sort existed to channel the violence that the last point led to. He then moves to the shared mental models (ideas) - from spirits and nature to gravity and religion (moral codes of behaviour) - that facilitated large-scale collective action. Language being the key one at a species level. Religion too had a large role in shaping political outcomes - even if they played out differently. In terms of impact, the Brahmanic religion (and social classes) in India differs from what the Catholic Church achieved in Europe. And both are different from what Islam did in the Middle East and Mediterranean. And then there's China, where its impact was limited. The subsequent development across geographies is fascinating. China's default condition is a strong, centralised government, while neighbouring India is the exact opposite. China was the first to become a state, but didn't move at pace on the other two institutions. India became a state much later (the British did that), but did well on the rule of law and accountable government. South East Asia has many cases of successful authoritarian governments, but Middle East doesn't. Russia, which shares climatic and geographical conditions with Scandinavia has repeatedly shown unconstrained absolutism. In Europe, the rise of the Church weakened kinships and successively led to more individual rights. Women's right to own property was also an unintentional side-effect of the church trying to get more land! The Church also laid the groundwork for the rule of law. Despite feudalism taking root in France, Spain and Britain, the progression from then on was massively different. Spain's path also influenced Latin America's evolution and political institutions. Britain was the first state to have all three institutions in place. Its interactions with the Middle East (and its modernisation) also had an effect on the Muslim World, which had separated religion and politics after the early days of Islam. Again, the post colonial development of India vs many Middle Eastern societies also went in different directions after both attained freedom from the British. An interesting assertion by Alexander Kojève is worth a mention - he stated that history ended when Napoleon defeated Prussia in 1806. Everything after that was just backfilling. That is, the modern principles of government were established, and it was now just a matter of all states implementing them! The development of political systems has much in common with Darwin's theory of evolution, though there are differences too. One major point of divergence is that selected characteristics are spread culturally instead of genetically, and can be imitated. What does this mean for a state like China, which despite being authoritarian is showing tremendous growth? Or for that matter, for democracies - whether it is developing nations like India or the developed West, where there are problems that don't have easy solutions. The development of the political world from the Industrial Revolution, and perspectives of what lies ahead is the second volume of the book. One that I will most definitely pick up!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Betawolf

    It might sound odd to say that I enjoyed a nigh-500 page book on political theory, but it's true. Fukuyama has managed in this volume to write something which is both sensible and clearly understandable, despite being about the entirety of political history up to the French Revolution. He is punctilious about abandoning the traditional narrative approaches to theory of political development -- Greece and Rome, up through medieval and modern Europe -- to talk about India, the Middle East and, esp It might sound odd to say that I enjoyed a nigh-500 page book on political theory, but it's true. Fukuyama has managed in this volume to write something which is both sensible and clearly understandable, despite being about the entirety of political history up to the French Revolution. He is punctilious about abandoning the traditional narrative approaches to theory of political development -- Greece and Rome, up through medieval and modern Europe -- to talk about India, the Middle East and, especially, China. It retroactively seems crazy, when presented with a well-documented cultural legacy of centralised states dating back thousands of years, to dismiss this area to a side-note of political theory. Fukuyama approaches political history as a topic which must be understood through and about "China First", and this is a very welcome perspective shift. Some parts of Fukuyama's thesis confuse me a bit. When he talks about 'political order' he seems for the most part to refer to the modern state: an institution he marks by the strong institution of the administrative arm, the rule of law, and political accountability. He goes on to derive how this state is formed, pointing out historical examples of states which developed one or the other of these qualities, and how this happened. But he never makes a strong case for why the modern state is particularly desirable. To be sure, he points out that certain forms of statehood are better at using their resources than others, and that the pseudo-evolutionary laws that govern a state's survival suggest maximisation, but he does not argue that the modern state is in any way the ideal institution. Which is fine, but it makes me question why we focus so much on the creation of such states, and not on the sometimes extraordinarily stable and long-lived examples of less-than-modern states. I found it particularly jarring when Fukuyama casually passed over the history of the Polish Commonwealth as an example of a weak monarchy which collapsed 'after two centuries', a lifespan as long as many modern states. Sometimes it is hard to tell the normative from the descriptive. Does Fukuyama think that accountability is necessary for a strong state? Much of his discussion of China seems to indicate this is not the case, and yet it remains in his model. Does he model something he finds desirable, or something evidently necessary? It is also hard to make sense of some of the fine distinctions he draws between examples. In the case of France and Spain, Fukuyama describes a 'weakly autocratic' state, in which the monarch amasses power but essentially sells off portions of the nation to the elite to enable this, foisting the burden of the national upkeep on the other classes, most notably the peasantry and third estate. In the 'strongly autocratic' example of Russia, the monarch sides with the elite, foisting national upkeep on a serf class. In the 'strong elite' example of Hungary, the monarchy is unable to stop the aristocracy from preying on the other classes. All these sound like basically the same thing, but Fukuyama uses the first to explain a lack of accountability, the second to explain a lack of law, and the third to explain the lack of a strong central institution of the state. I find that, rather than being necessarily a predictive model, Fukuyama's discussion is a set of useful tools for thinking about the distribution of power within a society. This book is engaging, and exciting. Very few authors would dare to tackle history on this scale, and fewer would manage to write something so clear, readable and fundamentally practical. The covered period is the one I am most interested in, but Fukuyama tempts me to read the second volume, to be sure of completing one of the great modern achievements in political thought, as this will no doubt be acclaimed.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Boudewijn

    What makes a state stable? How is it that some states developed a stable political system while others still are governed by weak states, which barely can survive? The book is the first of two books on the development of political order. This book goes from its origins to the French Revolution while part II starts with the French Revolution and goes to the present day. This book mainly focusses on China, India and Europe where we saw the emergence of the first states. According to Fukuyama, a (sta What makes a state stable? How is it that some states developed a stable political system while others still are governed by weak states, which barely can survive? The book is the first of two books on the development of political order. This book goes from its origins to the French Revolution while part II starts with the French Revolution and goes to the present day. This book mainly focusses on China, India and Europe where we saw the emergence of the first states. According to Fukuyama, a (stable) state is accountable, follows the rule of law and is strong and modern. China is described as having the first modern state but had a weak rule of law and the emperor had no accountability to anyone. In India there was never a strong state, due to the traditional power of the brahmin priestly caste. In Europe, and then especially England and (later) Denmark and Sweden a balance was finally struck between the three components of political order. This extensive book (more than a 24 hours audiobook) was an interesting, though sometimes slow read, which helped me to understand the complex balance between the three pillars of a stable state. It also helped me to understand why some states were succesfull and others will fail in eternity. Recommended to anyone with a interest in (political) history.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bob Nichols

    The book, the first volume of Fukuyama’s study of political order and decay, covers the period from our hunter-gathering beginnings to the industrial revolution. These volumes follow up on Huntington’s 1968 classic, “Political Order in Changing Societies” (Huntington was Fukuyama’s mentor). This is the same review I wrote for his second volume. Fukuyama is impressively multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural in his approach. He sees a more or less linear development in political organization that, The book, the first volume of Fukuyama’s study of political order and decay, covers the period from our hunter-gathering beginnings to the industrial revolution. These volumes follow up on Huntington’s 1968 classic, “Political Order in Changing Societies” (Huntington was Fukuyama’s mentor). This is the same review I wrote for his second volume. Fukuyama is impressively multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural in his approach. He sees a more or less linear development in political organization that, in responding to emergent conditions, moves from our biological-primate nature to bands, to tribes, to patrimonial states, and then to fully functioning nation-states. This is a progression from subjective rule where kinship and rules of reciprocity predominate to large-scale political organizations, “the state,” that has the power to contain self-interest and the ruler, though he draws extensively from case studies to illustrate why some states arrive at this point and why others do not. (1) We are social animals from the start, Fukuyama argues. There are no isolated individuals and there is no agreement among them whereby, per the contract theorists, they agree to limit themselves in deference to a government that can preserve order and protect benefits for the collectivity. Social interactions are based on kin selection (helping direct and extended genetic relations) and reciprocal altruism as those terms have been endorsed by some biologists. (2) Emotion, not rational contracts, govern. With the emergence of new conditions, (agriculture, the advent of industry-technology, increases in population, various environmental challenges, and ever-present war), new forms of political organization developed that are, in effect, stages of political development. The subjectivity seen so prominently early on is replaced, in time, by the impersonal rule of law, by a state that can provide a societal benefit, and by accountable rulers. Such well-ordered, well-run states, though, invariably decay. Societies are inherently conservative and tend to resist changes that have worked for political order in the past. And political and economic elites increasingly use the power of the state to benefit the few. Political institutions then revert, by default, Fukuyama argues, to their earlier days where kin and reciprocal relationships and subjectivity prevail. In reading Fukuyama, the question pops out: Is this political development, which implies a progression to something better, or is this a variation on a theme (3) — the operation of underlying, biological universals that are in essence the Hobbesian “three sources of quarrel” (competition results from free-seeking beings going after scarce resources, including status and power; fear is about losing our power vis-à-vis others in zero-sum situations; and “glory” is the need to win vis-à-vis other), and the need to contain them. The political mechanisms to control these vary by culture and circumstance, and there are certainly ebbs and flows regarding the effectiveness of control, but sources of disorder and the functions to control them, it could be argued, remain the same throughout. These have always been there, and they are with us now. Certainly, small group society had to deal with these same issues, and it’s likely that some were more successful than others. Egos had to be kept in check. Group (band or tribe) leaders had to tend to the concerns of group members. Isn’t there a certain “rule of law” and “democratic say” to create and foster political order in all of this? While it’s accurate to say that civilization aggravated inequality, it still begs a deeper question of whether such tendencies were there from the beginning and it is reasonable to speculate that each hunter-gatherer collectivity had to face the problem of group cohesion (order) in its own way. Some chose the path of equality (best hunter ate last and that sort of thing) whereas others may have been heavily hierarchical or patrimonial. We certainly see patrimony in everyday life, today, and it seems problematic to suggest that such hierarchies did not exist in the pre-agricultural days. (4) Or, even as a darker speculation, if alpha-hierarchies and demonic behavior existed among our primate ancestors, on what basis can we argue that such tendencies did not and do not exist among ourselves? Fukuyama refers to de Waal’s studies on captive apes, but de Waal always struck me as though he wanted our line of primate descent to come from the peace and lovemaking bonobos because the alternative, chimps in the wild — the chimps that Goodall and others have written about — can be bad-assed primates. It has been 5-6 million years since our primate line split from the bonobos or chimps, and it could very well be that we are neither de Waal’s bonobos nor Goodall’s chimps, but worse. In the same vein, it could be argued — though this is a matter of emphasis — that the vaunted values of Western liberal democracy are just a thin veneer that mask the continued presence of the same biological universals (sources of disorder): advancing group interest at the expense of others (e.g., slaves, Indians, Mexico); rule by elites who advance and protect their interests and leave the less talented behind (the downside to meritocracy); group-based fear of the other (domestic-foreign) that create and drive some distinctly illiberal public policies; demagogic leaders who promote themselves and their allies, and thrive on fear and lies. Is this political development or self- and group-centric interest that operates by loyalty and networks of utilitarian back scratching, just like the old days, albeit, magnified in terms of territory and group size? Maybe we do not revert to decay. Though this varies by era and culture, we live with it. What has been is with us still today. Despite all of the theoretical assertions about liberal democratic values, Gingrich knew what he was doing when he gave his Republican Party colleagues de Waal’s book, Chimpanzee Politics in 1994, and we seem to be firmly rooted in our pre-band heritage. Reasonably, Fukuyama wants a balance between the rule of law, a strong state, and accountability. The problem with the U.S. he believes is that the extensive checks and balance system has come at the expense of a state that is able to function in the sense of providing basic societal benefits. Fukuyama wants less veto power and more power for the executive branch. Though checks and balances are a problem, the wisdom of the Founders could not be more clearly evident than now where a Trump presidency challenges democratic norms in ways that have not happened before. Rather than go where Fukuyama suggests, the corrective might better be directed at the class divisions between the merit-based elites, governed by networks of “reciprocal altruism,” reaping the benefits and the non-elites who are left behind. The latter, wanting their own sense of worth, arguably give Trump his power, in large part because he constantly sticks it to the elites. Addressing this sense of worth issue — a part of human nature too — is another avenue to draw the poles together to reinvigorate the state. Fukuyama highlights emergent phenomena that necessitate new adaptative, political institutions. With the incredible population densities we now face, and the exponential increases in problematic assertions of narrowly-construed self-interest, a dynamic is set up where mutual respect and order, the hallmarks of Fukuyama’s “Western liberal democracies,” are no longer possible. Self-restraint is either foolish when everyone is out for themselves, or self-restraint just becomes too much for free-seeking beings. Obstacles to movement bring out the worst in people. Self-interest then compels one to not restrict oneself but to compete and prevail. It’s Hobbes’ state of nature. It’s self- and group-centric anarchy, and a reversion to a permanent, Leviathan-like authoritarian state. It’s order, but it’s void of hope for the democratic values that Fukuyama highlights as an ideal. (1) Though it does not contain Fukuyama’s reversion to a default state, Fukuyama’s notion of progressive development has a touch of Hegel. In responding to new challenges, each stage of political organization builds on the layer before, and political order and decline proceed dialectically to ever higher forms, ending with free, law-making individuals. Fukuyama’s endpoint for political development, Western liberal democracy with its autonomous (self-rule) and (universal) law-making capacities, also has the feel of Kant. The endpoints of Hegel, Kant and Fukuyama are, in theory, not dissimilar in the sense that they are aspirations of what humans could be – free individuals making universal laws that transcend self-interest. Whether Western liberal democracies embody that aspiration to the degree that Fukuyama believes is a question. (2) Fukuyama accepts kin selection without question (there’s nepotism he says, and “even squirrels do it”) when it’s possible that the benefits provided to extended kin (not in the direct line) can be explained by reciprocal altruism alone, though there is a problem with that concept as it has been used. Picking up from Darwin’s observation, the individual and its group are merged. Alone, the individual dies. With the group, the individual survives, so it’s in the individual’s self-interest to merge with the group and support its viability. The earliest group, likely extended as well as direct kin, may have survived by following reciprocity principles as well as by operating through broader social sympathies. This provides the biological underpinnings for Aristotle’s observation that we are social-political by nature. The merger with the group comes through the vast repertoire of social emotions which, surprisingly, Fukuyama does not cover. A sense of fairness (reciprocity) is but one of the social emotions at work, though it is clearly important and becomes the basis for the impartial rule of law that Fukuyama sees in his last stage of political development. Also, the term “reciprocal altruism” is misleading. There’s nothing altruistic about reciprocity. It’s in the individual’s evolutionarily-derived interest to tend to the interests of others and vice versa. This is what makes for solidarity in band-tribal relationships. It’s an “all for one, one for all” type of “contract” that is supplemented substantially by the social sympathies (the compassion factor referenced by some political theorists). (3) I’ve seen references to Fukuyama’s essay, “The End of History,” which argues, apparently, that “Western liberal democracy” is the final form of human government in the sense that it is the best system for organizing society. But here too, an argument can be made that in kinship, reciprocal altruistic, hunter-gatherer, “egalitarian” societies, the same democratic values were reflected: impartial rule of law (“fairness”), democratic voice (equality), and organization for the good of the tribe (all benefit). (4) Fukuyama argues that hunter-gatherer societies were egalitarian and that inequality originated — I believe this is his argument — when early societies moved beyond the levelling effect of kin selection and reciprocal altruism. Based on what is known from multiple disciplines, Fukuyama concludes that Rousseau “was brilliantly correct in certain of his observations, such as his view that human inequality had its origins in the development of metallurgy, agriculture, and, above all, private property.” But how do we really know what life was like among our hunter-gatherer ancestors and isn’t it a problem to generalize about how all hunter-gatherer societies must have been back then? (See Henry Gee’s argument in "In Search of Deep Time" about science using limited evidence to create narratives that tell stories we want to tell, an argument also made by Lawrence Keeley in "War Before Civilization" who discusses the pacification myth of our prehistoric past, an argument that Fukuyama endorses).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gary Beauregard Bottomley

    The author does a definitive survey of political development through out the world while avoiding the ODTAA ("one dang thing after another") trap survey books of this kind can often fall into. This kind of information often pops up in many of the books I read, but is never covered as a primary topic nor as definitively as this author covers this topic. Usually, it's hard to get a good description of the political history of Islam, India and China, and most authors force the story into their comi The author does a definitive survey of political development through out the world while avoiding the ODTAA ("one dang thing after another") trap survey books of this kind can often fall into. This kind of information often pops up in many of the books I read, but is never covered as a primary topic nor as definitively as this author covers this topic. Usually, it's hard to get a good description of the political history of Islam, India and China, and most authors force the story into their comic book characterization narrative of those societies so that it will fit into their narrative so that they can show the supposed superiority of the West. This book doesn't do that whatsoever and gives each region it's full due respect. The author not only looks at each major civilization and parts thereof as an end in itself but will contrast it with the familiar when needed. Political systems need three things in order to prosper fully: accountability, transparency, and "rule of law". All three aren't necessary, but each sure do help. The earliest systems start with a "kin and friend" system and develops from there. The author steps the reader through the process and how it differs depending on the civilization. The author shows that Rousseau (man is perfect until government corrupts him) is wrong about everything, Hobbes (government is only to protect against violent acts) only gives a barely adequate government, and Locke (live, liberty and pursuit of property) gives the most responsive government, and the author shows how these stages can develop or never existed in this first place as in the worldview of Rousseau for the different societies studied in this book. The author speaks with authority on the topic and this book filled in a lot of holes on the topic that I got from reading other books which never fully developed the topic.

  26. 5 out of 5

    James Giammona

    One of the top ten books I've ever read. An amazing introduction to world history and the development of civilization. Learned a ton about Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and medieval European history! Fukuyama's framework and thesis is compelling. The hallmarks of a modern state are an impersonal bureaucratic government, a strong separate rule of law and accountable government. These do not arise simultaneously from economic growth, but have arisen in at different times and orders (or not at al One of the top ten books I've ever read. An amazing introduction to world history and the development of civilization. Learned a ton about Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and medieval European history! Fukuyama's framework and thesis is compelling. The hallmarks of a modern state are an impersonal bureaucratic government, a strong separate rule of law and accountable government. These do not arise simultaneously from economic growth, but have arisen in at different times and orders (or not at all) in various parts of the world. Also, a universal common form of association is kin based. States often degenerate to "patrimonialism". The challenge of the state is to resist this decay. States are driven into being by warfare and violence. Finally, lots of interesting historical contingencies (like Church property for widows) had unforeseen large scale consequences centuries later. A truly fascinating book! Gave me a new framework to understand the world!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Professor Fukuyama's magisterial work on the origins and evolution of political structures is probably the most important political science text published in this century, and this, the first volume, covers how nation-states evolved from tribal groups, and how they developed strong governing institutions, the rule of law and (eventually) accountable government. There are still powerful states that lack the latter and even the rule of law (like China) but Fukuyama convincingly demonstrates that t Professor Fukuyama's magisterial work on the origins and evolution of political structures is probably the most important political science text published in this century, and this, the first volume, covers how nation-states evolved from tribal groups, and how they developed strong governing institutions, the rule of law and (eventually) accountable government. There are still powerful states that lack the latter and even the rule of law (like China) but Fukuyama convincingly demonstrates that those aspects will probably come about sooner or later. I am looking forward to the next volume. First rate stuff.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dana Aldee

    Dope.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    http://www.bookwormblues.net/2020/05/... So, you look at the title of this book and I think you’ll either fall into one of two camps: This is really interesting, or “I’m already bored.” If you fall into the second camp, hang on, because I’m going to tell you why this book is amazing. I’ve never read anything by Francis Fukuyama before, nor had I ever heard of him. However, Fukuyama is apparently pretty well known for his research, and his adept way of presenting complex topics to the average nonf http://www.bookwormblues.net/2020/05/... So, you look at the title of this book and I think you’ll either fall into one of two camps: This is really interesting, or “I’m already bored.” If you fall into the second camp, hang on, because I’m going to tell you why this book is amazing. I’ve never read anything by Francis Fukuyama before, nor had I ever heard of him. However, Fukuyama is apparently pretty well known for his research, and his adept way of presenting complex topics to the average nonfiction reader. I’d read a few reviews of this book, and I got pretty excited. This is just the kind of thing that interests me. How politics began. How that particular wheel started forming, and how it evolved in different societies across the world. It takes a certain kind of scholar to capably take not only this sprawling timeline and make it digestible to the average reader, but to take concepts such as political evolution and social fluxes in various pockets of the world, and make them interesting. Fukuyama, thankfully, is that person. Now, it’s not a particularly light topic, but it certainly is an interesting one. The history of humanity is full of kinds, power, evolving societies and so much more. In this book, Fukuyama follows the trail of various political movements, starting with tribal organizations and then moving into more complex forms of social organization and it’s CAPTIVATING. The story of humanity is told in this book. Fukuyama is a superb researcher. He really gets into the meaty parts of various political movements, and what I really like is this never really felt like an overview, though that is exactly what it was. This book is 585 pages long. There really isn’t much room for it to be anything more than an overview. However, Fukuyama does an incredible job at knowing exactly how to tell a story without making the reader feel like they are just getting bullet points. Furthermore, I really enjoyed how he showed the evolution of this stuff, and how one thing often impacted others and moved political systems down the road to development and change. Perhaps, if you are well-versed in these topics, you’ll find that you know a lot of this information, but for me, I found a whole lot of new details here that I wasn’t previously aware of. It’s fascinating to trace the evolution of human thought, and how societies changed to suit their times. How the rule of law became a thing, and how different social groups dealt with certain issues in different ways. “Most people living in rich, stable developed countries have no idea how Denmark itself got to be Denmark—something that is true for many Danes as well. The struggle to create modern political institutions was so long and so painful that people living in industrialized countries now suffer from a historical amnesia regarding how their societies came to that point in the first place.” The political order Fukuyama discusses in this book are cantered on what makes strong state institutions. Namely, the rule of law, political accountability, and administrative capabilities. He avoids the trap of making this book feel like he’s just listing off a bunch of political landscapes throughout time by juxtaposing developments in China, India, the Middle East, and Europe, showing how these broad landscapes of humanity figured things out, and developed political systems in their own ways, and sometimes how these systems impacted each other. Not every system is strong, and he goes into the pitfalls people ran into as well. And perhaps this was what interested me most, not just looking at the political successes throughout time, but the author’s ability to study the weaknesses in a fair, and even-handed way. More, these political weaknesses are not unique to history. A lot of what made one system rise or fall is still very much seen in the wider world around us right now. I always enjoy how history is a mirror for our modern times, but I was really surprised by just how clear that mirror was, as I read this book. “Human beings are rule-following animals by nature; they are born to conform to the social norms they see around them, and they entrench those rules with often transcendent meaning and value. When the surrounding environment changes and new challenges arise, there is often a disjunction between existing institutions and present needs. Those institutions are supported by legions of entrenched stakeholders who oppose any fundamental change.” The Origins of Political Order covers politics from the dawn of time to the French Revolution. That’s a whole lot covered in just under 600 pages. The second book in this series, called Political Order and Political Decay covers from industrialization to the globalization of democracy. I haven’t read that one yet, but it’s absolutely on my list. I listened to this book on Audible, and I also had a copy of it from the library and I found that having a book in both mediums was helpful. Some of the topics covered in this book are chunky, and it helped me to be able to read and re-read certain portions as I went. However, the audiobook narration was fantastic. It was really easy for me to just sit back and listen. Fukuyama wrote an incredible book here, and I think it’s a necessary read for anyone who wants to understand modern politics. Smooth writing, and in-depth research serve to make The Origins of Political Order a fascinating, transformative read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aleksandar Todorovski

    After his delusional perception about liberal democracy being the last chapter of political evolution globally, Francis Fukuyama embarks on a Odyssey of genuine historical analysis of the worlds major authentic political systems with an emphasis on China, India and the west. Establishing the premises that the successful building of political order us compromised of state building, the rule of law and a both way ( upward and downward) government accountability, Fukuyama explains how different his After his delusional perception about liberal democracy being the last chapter of political evolution globally, Francis Fukuyama embarks on a Odyssey of genuine historical analysis of the worlds major authentic political systems with an emphasis on China, India and the west. Establishing the premises that the successful building of political order us compromised of state building, the rule of law and a both way ( upward and downward) government accountability, Fukuyama explains how different historical conditions enabled certain countries to complete all of the mentioned state building processes cumulatively ( England) but others succeed in only one or two with variations ( China, India, the ottoman empire, Russia). The highlight of the book is the acceent on Chinese institutions and their History. It really made me more curious on the subject and thanks to this book I definitely will be reading more on the subject. I dislike the fact that he chose Denmark ( the road to denmark) as an ideal point towards which every developing country should strive. Culture as a sui generis category is a very important factor in political development. An amazing read for anyone interested in political theory, sociology, anthropology and history.

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